Thursday, December 31, 2009

CB's Book Reviews in Brief #4: Andy Greenwald's "Miss Misery"

Miss Misery: A Novel by Andy Greenwald (2006, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 386 pp.)

Andy Greenwald is a pop music writer. If you didn't know this before you started Miss Misery, you sure as hell would by the end of the book. A senior contributing writer at Paste, Greenwald's references are hip but not über so. His prose is filled with name-drops of bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and Death Cab for Cutie (the leader singer of the latter, Ben Gibbard, giving the book a cover blurb); that is, bands you've heard of before but probably won't be found on commercial radio. In other words, the kinds of bands that large-scale music publications write about.

In a way, I think the music aspect is supposed to be secondary to the plot, but in another, more disappointing way, the music is the plot. The book revolves around three major characters - protagonist David, antagonist David (his quasi-alive but really imaginary doppelgänger), love interest Cath (aka Miss Misery) - and one minor character (teenage virtual friend Ashleigh), whose lives weave together around one central concept: that in this age of internet anonymity, nobody is quite who they say they are. None of these characters are developed in any terribly deep way (especially considering the almost 400 page length of the book), and instead are really just stereotypical stand-ins for certain types or, better yet, music business niche consumers (in this case, youthful female emo, Gen Y female hipster, and Gen X male hipster, with all the corresponding music preferences you'd expect them to have).

There are a pair of cinematic/literary influences clearly (very very very clearly) at work here: Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming and Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. Those of you familiar with both are likely thinking something along the lines of "What?" Yeah, that's about right. Basically, you have a guy whose girlfriend goes abroad for professional self-betterment (although this time it is The Hague to work on a war crimes trial, as if someone can just opt in to an opportunity like that, rather than Prague as in
Kicking and Screaming), and he spends the entire stretch of the narrative flailing around until he finally decides to get on the plane and go see her. In the 15 or so chapters between girlfriend leaving and boyfriend following, you get the Fight Club part, where a self-repressed advantaged white dude creates an alternate reality that becomes all too self-destructively real (only in this case, rather than a frequent flier white collar drone having an alter ego who creates underground violence leagues, you have a freelance writer commissioned to write a quick and dirty book about social networks and online journaling that dodges his writer's block by creating a fictional alter ego who suddenly and inexplicably comes to life). Speaking of Fight Club, the film will be shown in Cleveland on the big screen this month (Saturday, January 16th, to be precise) at the Capitol Theatre (at W. 65th & Detroit Ave) as the inaugural selection for their new monthly (every 3rd Saturday) Late Shift midnight movie feature.

Unlike in the film version of Fight Club, where a viewer unaware of the plot going in can really be surprised by the fact that Brad Pitt's character is actually imaginary (you know, the "oh yeah, we never did see them in the same scene" reveal, etc.), we know upfront that the fictional David - who is an utterly ridiculous cokehead douchebag - is fictional, which makes every other aspect of the plot impossible to believe. For example, if the love interest (Cath/Miss Misery) knows that Good David and Bad David are actually the same Emotionally Disturbed David, why would she continue communicating in any way with either "David"? And beyond that, how on earth could anyone fall in love with Bad David period and, further, how could the kind of person who would be attracted to Bad David also be attracted to, quite literally, his polar opposite. If you love someone, isn't it somewhat impossible to love something that is absolutely different in every way? I mean, if your love interest is funny, charming, and zany - qualities which draw you to him or her - wouldn't it be kinda tough to simultaneously be smitten with someone who was humorless, oafish, and dull?

The only person who seems remotely realistic is the minor character, Ashleigh, who though created a bit over-the-top, is still like every smart, curious, stifled, misunderstood kid who navigates the horrors of high school and obnoxious parents with a combination of cutting, journaling, and dramatic rhetoric. When she finally grows up and breaks free, she might be interesting (if damaged). I mean, hey, at least she isn't home-schooled. She has some chance at social normalcy.

If the other characters in Miss Misery were more like Ashleigh and if Greenwald had taken a less ambitious yet more original approach (rather than using indie music references as the thread to stitch together a Baumback meets Palahniuk narrative, this might've been a good book. As it stands, though, it was a wash.

Celluloid Bachelor #32: Fredrik "Vinterbarn"

Those of you who know me well know that I have a very special place in my heart for Swedish pop. I just love the stuff. And the further I dig in, the more I realize that there is some really wild, smart, and crazy stuff out there.

Today's treat from Sweden comes from Fredrik, the self-described "forest dwelling folk visionaries" from Malmö, an urban area near the southern tip of the country that is almost the size of Cleveland. "Vinterbarn" ("vinter" means winter, "barn" means children) is the first single/video off the band's forthcoming second full-length album, Trilogi. The film is beautiful, as is the song (I'd also add descriptors like swirling and entrancing) and the record itself promises to be brilliant. A compilation of three EPs only previously released in their home country in origami packaging, Trilogi will be available stateside on January 26th. You can pre-order the record her, as well.

Fredrik - Vinterbarn from The Kora Records on Vimeo.

Sisters! Snapshot of the Week

Goodbye to the best year of my life

I very rarely find myself exiting a year with this conclusion, so it makes me doubly pleased to announce that 2009 was a great year for me and I only hope 2010 proves to be as kind.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this year has been the best of my life.

The funny thing is, when thinking about why I'd venture such a bold statement, I can't point to any one spectacularly important development. I mean, I didn't get engaged or a big new job or win the lottery or anything like that. Instead, it was consistent minor and medium-level awesomeness all year long, especially the first half of the year.

I rang the new year in at a crappy dive bar in Bloomington, IL, where they gave all the patrons complimentary pucker shots to toast with at midnight. Several hours later, after an impromptu college reunion party at my friend's apartment that involved non-shapely men with their shirts off dancing like the drugged chick on Blue Velvet, I went to sleep for the first time of the year.

Since then, there have been highlights like memorable trips to New Orleans in January, Austin in March, and Chicago in April, as well as some tolerable paid gigs in places like Toronto and DC (twice).

Back here in Cleveland, things were even richer. I met and became friends with several wonderful people and solidified new friendships from 2008. Moving here in 2007 literally not knowing a soul, I was worried about what things would be like and whether I'd be able to make new friends. I've been overwhelmingly and pleasantly surprised to learn that such a worry was total nonsense. Cleveland has been the best place I've lived so far and the fact that I can say that is due to the dozens of great, kind, talented, and sometimes slightly nuts people I've gotten to know here. Speaking of slightly nuts, I also got a new dog, Hurricane Olivia, who has become fast friends with my beloved Smelly Ellie Mae. Olivia joined Smells and I in our new apartment in Collinwood, where I've felt like the member of a community in a way not previously experienced.

The cultural richness of the city is the other reason I love it so much here. I saw a few dozen rock shows, easily as many independent and foreign films (thanks especially to the film festival in March and the Cinematheque all year long), and was able to indulge my occasional affection for gallery openings, avant garde theater, poetry readings, and academic talks throughout the year.

And that's it, really. That's the secret to the best year of my life. Doing stuff. And in the process, meeting good people.

And, well, there is one other dimension to the best year of my life. That New Orleans trip I referred to previously. During it, I went to the official voodoo museum and spent near two hours listening to the man working there tell my friends and I about the history of voodoo and all the ways it is still practiced in the forgotten parts of Louisiana. It was wonderfully interesting and insightful, and I was so impressed by the calm and confident serenity of this guy (and by the fact he was nuzzling an albino python) that I bought a small gris-gris pouch that the man (who was also a high priest in the religion) had personally blessed it with a ritual designed to bring success and good fortune to the bearer's life. Since then, I've had it in my pocket almost every day this year. And, first thing next week, I'm gonna call that man and ask him to send me another one. Very nicely and politely and appreciatively.

Between the new gris-gris and a positive attitude, I'm gonna do my best to replicate the personal success of 2009 in 2010. So far, the year is already shaping up to a promising start. I'm booked for quick visit to Brooklyn at the end of January, a couple Texas jaunts in March (including one to SXSW), Chicago in April with my best friend, and then another long and lovely summer here on Waterloo. And between all that, there are shows and films and friends to hang out with and, one hopes, yet to be made.

And, of course, this blog. Thank you for reading it in 2009 and please keep doing so in 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cleveland Bachelor's Top 25 Albums of 2009

A few days ago I posted a small but select survey of the top 10 indie rock albums of 2009 by folks in the know about such things in Cleveland. There was a lot of diversity, but some amount of overlap. The one thing missing, of course, was my own list. I wasn't dodging the bullet or sloughing the critical weight onto the shoulders of others. Rather, I was biding my time, waiting to drop my favorite TWENTY-FIVE albums of 2009 on you at the right time.

The time has come.

What you'll find below, beginning with my favorite album of 2009 (Ramona Falls - Intuit), is a listing with a small amount of commentary about each track and links, where they exist, to reviews and/or other posts I've written about each band, either here or on Citizen Dick. I hope you enjoy and, more than that, I hope you get turned on to something new. And I really hope you have your own top 10s (or, why not, 25s) that you'll share with us in the comments section.

With that, onward!

1. Ramona Falls - Intuit (Barsuk) The best album of the year belongs to that prince of indie rock, Brent Knopf. His non-Menomena debut, Intuit is intricate and dense and lush. You can certainly hear a bit of Menomena in the band, but there is something new and different about it that makes it easy to classify as something altogether unique. Add to that the fact that Knopf is a really cool and decent guy and you have a best album of the year by the kind of person you want winning such a thing. In many ways, this could be the year of Knopf, at least for Cleveland, from coming to play a solo in-store at the Music Saves birthday party (his first ever Ramona Falls performance, by the way) to a killer show with a band behind him at the Beachland in September. Add to that the wonderful interview he gave me and this video for "Fever" and you have an artist we should all be eager to follow closely from here on out.

2. Sholi - Sholi (Quarterstick) This band makes me think of The Pixies. Now, anyone familiar with Sholi is like "Wha?..." I guess what I'm getting at is the whole "loud quiet loud" aspect of The Pixies, since Sholi is way more technically proficient than Black Francis and company. This record, Sholi's full-length debut, is alternately gentle and vicious, with an ever-present tension bursting at the seams. When I finally get around to my 2009 mix, it'll be a difficult decision between including either "Tourniquet" or "November through June" - both songs are killer. However that decision ends up, I hope they continue to get more buzz - it'd be nice to see the San Francisco group make it to the Rust Belt for a tour.

3. The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Nonesuch) This year, NPR's All Songs Considered became one of my most valued sources for information on new indie rock. I loved the way host Bob Boilen talked about music, warm and affectionate yet critically evaluative at the same time, and his taste overlaps pretty well with my own. However, sometimes I disagree, and his early championing of the opening track on this album didn't agree with me at all. In fact, a good stretch of time went by before I gave the rest of the album a try. Once I did, I was in forehead-smacking mode for a while, as it proves to be one of the most beautiful old world bar-room rock I've ever heard. The show they put on in August only made me dig the band even more (the tear-inducing live version of "To Ohio" was an incredibly memorable moment), and this awesome video put the icing on the cake. The Low Anthem is a new favorite band of mine and I can't wait till they play the House of Blues with The Avett Brothers in February.

4. The Modern Electric - The Modern Electric (self-released)
Let me put it like this - if I have a big birthday party next year, The Modern Electric is the band I'd ask to play it. Fun, raucous, and stunningly talented, this band (and especially frontman Garrett Komyati) is here for the long haul and I, for one, am stoked about it. In the very best way, this is a Gen Y band, making the most of its ADD and turning it into a fluid multi-media approach that entices audiences from all sensory corners. I expect very big things from this group and look forward to bragging about how I was there when ...

5. Floating Action - Floating Action (Park the Van) This is a band I totally can't brag about discovering in any organic way. A friend of mine burned me a CD, and then when I fell in love, I mentioned them to another friend of mine, who turned out to be the one who burned the same CD for the friend who gave it to me in the first place! The album is wonderful, a one-man band who sounds like the best Caribbean-influenced indie pop quintet you've ever heard or ever will. (Think Dent May but way less gimmicky.) I cannot wait for the day this act makes its way to Clevelandland. Until then, I'll continue to assuage my free cd guilt by telling anyone and everyone about the record.

6. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below (Vagrant) I first heard mumblings about these guys when I was at SXSW in March. Later, when I was listening to the NPR All Songs Considered SXSW wrap-up podcast, they confirmed what I'd heard. I eventually ordered the album through Music Saves, got it in a short time later, and immediately fell in love. "Home" has gotta be in the running for the best song of 2009, and the rest of the band is spectacle, brilliance, and killer hooks. Some (including occasionally myself) get hung up on the sincerity of the effort (particularly the hard pivot frontman Alex Ebert made from LA coke-rock band Ima Robot to this neo-hippie-ster outfit), but once you reconcile that question in your mind, you gotta believe they are wonderful. Of course, seeing them live (as I did in November) helps tremendously.

7. Iji - In Celebration (Self-Released) Oh, Iji. I love this band. I first saw them at bela dubby when I was there to see Afternoon Naps play and fell in love with the band's quirky yet full vibe. (Here's the show review.) I picked up the record and could barely take it out of my cd player in the car for a month. That good, for real. Since then I've been telling everyone about it and have probably burned more copies for friends than karma will indulge. But whatever - the word about these folks has to get out!

8. The High Strung - Ode to the Inverse of the Dude (Park the Van Records)
This is the record I find myself turning to when I'm being a shit and I don't want to be. Lithe and peppy and genius, this album is exactly what I need to hear when I need to get up and/or stay up. Stuffed to the gills with killer tunes, some of the particularly noteworthy tracks include album opener "Standing at the Door of Self Discovery," "Out of Character," "Rope," and album closer "House Party." That being said, this isn't a record you are gonna want to be choosey with on itunes. Buy the whole mother trucker. You'll thank me.

9. Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Pains of Being Pure At Heart (Slumberland) Oddly, I get a lot of static from folks when I mention this album is in my top 10. Maybe because it is so obvious. Who knows? But I stand by it - a perfect pairing of JAMC, My Bloody Valentine, and bubblegum pop. And who could hate on that? For those of you still uncertain, I encourage you to see them live. They freaking ruled when they played the Beachland Tavern this past April and totally changed the way I listened to them.

10. Abe Vigoda - Reviver (PPM) The only true EP on this list, this album has stuck with me all through the year. The blistering set they put on in the middle of an Austin park during SXSW helped, of course, but the five tracks on Reviver stand alone. Desperate and sad yet jagged, this is a band to be reckoned with. After this one and 2008's Skeleton LP, I can't wait to see what comes next.

11. Monogold - We Animals (Self-released) One of my proudest finds of the year, all I can really lay claim to is the fact that I checked my email when one of the dudes in this band sent along an EP and asked I take a listen. This happens all the freaking time, but rarely (very very very rarely) is the music I receive on the level of this album. I originally described it as "vintage post-college Liberal Arts major/music minor indie pop" - a description that is very complimentary in my world. Along with Suckers, a band whose 2009 release I didn't include on this list because it was only 4 tracks, and The Modern Electric, this band is one of the new favorites I have thanks to discoveries this calendar year. I still find myself checking the band's myspace page to see if they have NYC gigs that my calendar could accommodate a quick trip over to catch. Some day soon, I hope.

12. Cotton Jones - Paranoid Cocoon (Suicide Squeeze) As much as I try to remember great albums and key details about them, my brain really works better when it events cement memories. For Cotton Jones, it was the killer in-store they put on at Music Saves last March (sponsored by my Citizen Dick brethren before they invited me to join the team). Seeing the concentrated grimace of Michael Nau and the shy yet effortless grace of Whitney McGraw turned this band and definitely this album into something new for me, and I've not been able to listen to the record in an indifferent way since. Instead, this is an album I put on when I'm sitting at my desk and my new pup insists on climbing into my lap for a nap. I order it up on my computer, lean back, and relax to the beautiful sounds and my dog's deep dream breaths.

13. Jason Lytle - Yours Truly, the Commuter (Anti) He's baaack. Thank god. Ex-Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle returned from a self-imposed mountain exile this year with gusto and it was about time. His solo record is imbued with a sense of reflection and integrity, and also leaves me with a sense (though perhaps it is wishful thinking) that homeboy is itching to get back in the rock game. Does this mean a Grandaddy reunion (oh please let it be so) or just another solo tour (I'll take it!). Whatever it is, I'm just happy I have this one AND the new free instrumental piano album (download here for free, thanks to Jason) to listen to while it all works itself out.

14. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career (4AD) Have you heard my long, convoluted, and most likely incorrect conspiracy theory about how the lyrics to one of the songs on this album proves that lead siren Tracyanne Campbell is actually in love with me? No? Well, remind me next time I see you and I'll fill you in. Just promise not to call the mental ward folks on me. In the meantime, this is the most coo-worthy pop album you could've possibly heard in 2009, and I think this band is poised for bigger things to come in the next decade. Much bigger.

15. Art Brut - Art Brut vs Satan (Downtown) I think I'm a moderately funny guy, sometimes anyway. I mean, I can make people laugh. I'm not good at telling regular jokes, but give me a little bit of space and the right kind of mood and I'll get some chuckles. (It helps if the person listening is drunk and the subject of the joke is myself, of course.) Anyway, I know that I'm only kinda funny and the man who was the level of hilarity that I deeply envy and resent is Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos. This goofy tall clown of a dude is the funniest person in indie rock today, with timing that any pro comic would kill for. The fact that he has a rocking band behind him and a penchant for spectacular live performances makes him a can't-miss artist and live act. The band's most recent record continues where the others left off, and while some songs (especially "Alcoholics Unanimous," "What A Rush," and "Mysterious Bruises") work better than others, the whole thing rules. Interested parties can check out my interview with Argos here and my review of their BRILLIANT live show at Oberlin this fall (with the also impressive Surfer Blood) here.

16. Lake - Let's Build A Roof (K Records) I am happy to admit that every ounce of appreciation I have for this band is due to Tom DeChristofaro, Afternoon Naps vocalist and guitarist and, dare I say, my pal. One Sunday afternoon at the Beachland Brunch, Tom mentions that he's sticking around the neighborhood to see "a couple K Records bands" and, if I'm not doing anything, I ought to consider checking them out. Casual like that. Later on, I'm antsy at home, and decide to walk down, with no clue what awaited me. I didn't download any tracks, didn't stream anything on myspace, just walked on down. When the band went on and snapped into this completely fucking brilliant 70s pop guise, I couldn't believe it. It was one of those dream moments, when you realize in an instant that you just found one of your favorite new bands. I got home, listened to the record, and continued to fall deeper in love. So, with that, thanks Tom.

17. Hush Arbors - Yankee Reality (Ecstatic Peace) When I tell people about this record, I describe it as something J Mascis would make if he was in a puppy dog stage of love. Full and fuzzy like the best kind of Dinosaur Jr ballad, this record has a gentleness and peace about it that can only be explained by some sort internal jubilation. Album closer "Devil Made You High" is particularly brilliant.

18. Telekinesis! - Telekinesis! (Merge) An album that is simply full of wonderful songs, there are a few here that should be classics. I'm particularly thinking here of tunes like "Coast of Carolina," "Look East," and "Awkward Kisser." They all combine a nice grungy guitar with a chill tenor vocalist and a nice hook-oriented set of songwriting. I love it.

19. Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem (P.W. Elverum & Sun) Oh my goodness, this is beautiful. I remember getting this album in the mail, wrapped in Phil Elverum's homemade packing and tape, thinking that if the mailing materials were that artistic, what the album must be like. The album is Elverum's interpretation of black metal, and while it first appears to be to gorgeous and delicate to be tagged with that label, once you confront the orchestral offerings that can be found on the outskirts of the genre, you see it fits.

20. Vetiver - Tight Knit (Sub Pop) Patient and subtle, this is an album easy to dismiss if you don't pay it the kind of attention it needs and deserves. I was nearly guilty of this, before seeing the band play a couple times down at SXSW this past March. Those performances, especially frontman Andy Cabic, sold me, now and forever.

21. Peekers - Life in the Air (Park the Van Records) This is an album that I never spent much concentrated time with at any point in the year. I never listened closely like I do when I write a review, it never was one of the 3-4 albums I bring with me on a long driving trip, I never got to know it in any kind of intimate way. Yet ... it is one of my favorite of the year, one of the handful of records I turn to when I need something smart and enjoyable to put on while I write. In fact, I'm listening to it right now, even as I write nutshell descriptions of all these other bands. Sweet and slow pop with a rural feel, a little more energetic and light-hearted Cotton Jones, if you will, this is a keeper. Ha. Peekers are a keeper. That wasn't even on purpose!

22. Bishop Allen - Grrr... (Dead Oceans) Though I've long had a casual smittance with this New York cute-pop band, seeing Justin Rice in Joe Swanberg's Alexander the Last at the Cleveland Film Festival in March reunited my appreciation of the band and charged my embrace of the band in the springtime. Though it gradually slipped in the rankings as the year went on, mostly because I found myself gravitating to music that was more dense and complex, Grrr... still stands as a pretty cool and fun album, perfect to put on to ignore raindrops falling on the windowpane or as a soundtrack for a summertime picnic. Check out this link for a fun video from the album.

23. Crocodiles - Summer of Hate (Fat Possum) Along with records by Wavves and Japandroids, this was the lo-fi masterpiece of the summer. Of the three, I picked the Crocodiles release for this list, if only for the opening track (which I refer to in my original review as "Abe Vigoda playing a church organ tithing processional"). The rest of the record is just as good, but I think the band still has a way to go before it is firing on all cylinders. They strike a peculiar blend of prima donna and crowing stoner, making it clear in the interview I did with them how much they like to party and how much sound guys suck. This seems to be a theme with them, as the only thing more noteworthy about their live performances (check out my review of one of their two Cleveland shows in 2009 here) than the surprising brevity of their set lengths is the frequency of their catfights with sound guys. Still, they got some chops, so I'll be picking up their next release for sure.

24. Califone - All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (Dead Oceans) An amazingly smart and challenging record that goes with an even more ambitious film, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is the most accessible Califone record yet. I chatted with frontman Tim Rutilli about that and other things in an interview you can find here.

25. I Was A King - I Was A King (Control Group) A great fuzz-pop rocker out of Norway, this record didn't seem terribly complete to me - more like the album was a first draft and the songs on it mere sketches. After seeing them live at the Beachland Tavern in late May, I was convinced. For my review of the show, check out this link. And if you like your indie rock commentary a little creepy, here's a blurb celebrating one of the IWAK stalwart's (Anne Lise Frøkedal) ascension to my then-indie crush.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #31: The Besnard Lakes "For Agent 13"

Is there a more beautiful song than this? I don't know. Maybe. But if there is, this one is close to it. And regardless of the ranking, I think we can all agree this band is wonderful. If this is your first exposure, go out and get the Dark Horse album quick. Because ... the Montreal band has a new one coming out in March 2010 that you'll want to be ready for.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #30: The Swimmers "A Hundred Hearts"

The folks in Philly's The Swimmers really did a lot with a little in this video. Seriously, every band that has a friend with moderate computer skills ought to be able to make this video, yet very few hook it up to the level that these guys have. The visuals makes me think of Devo a bit, though maybe that's just because NEO is finally seeping into my blood, but even if it didn't, I'd still dig the rhythmic groove. The track is so catchy - especially the chorus - that it almost makes me want to wade back into the dating pool, just so I can have my heart broken.

Settle down, single Cleveland ladies. I said almost. Almost.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #29: Foreign Born "Early Warnings"

Foreign Born's 2009 album Person to Person is one of many that I didn't spend as much time with as I should have this year, and the new video from one of its tracks ("Early Warnings") is really making me regret it. There are so many things I love about this video, apart from the brilliant song it complements, including the vintage-looking and too-fast film clips, the fact that the airplane and speedboat match, the wild names for the creatures they "discover," and the fact that the dog accompanies the three brave explorers everywhere. All in all, it is a music video a somewhat more grown up Wes Anderson could make. It gets a hearty CB endorsement, as does the show the band will be playing at the Beachland on March 8th. But more on that later.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #28: Animal Kingdom "Bright Lights"

I don't really like churches or anything about them, but the fact that Animal Kingdom filmed this video in an old church crypt somehow excuses all that. The spooky yet simple shadow play of the film works perfectly with the music on "Bright Lights," a track off the band's 2009 release, Signs and Wonders.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #27: Run DMC "Christmas on Hollis"

Merry Christmas! Another year in the bag. You been naughty or nice?

Doesn't matter, either way CB's gift to you today is the video for the world's greatest Christmas carol, Run DMC's "Christmas on Hollis" - enjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Show Review: It's A Beachland Christmas, 12/23 (CB Show of the Month Recap)

Last night's 7-band spectacular at the Beachland was awesome. I haven't had that much fun at a show in a while. Every single band in the Ballroom sounded great and, thanks to Cleveland's own Renaissance Man Lawrence Daniel Caswell, every band in the Tavern sounded LOUD. (It is no small feat to have a band sound loud AND good, so give Mr. Caswell props next time you see him for hooking that mixture up.)

Even with all the fun I had and good music I heard, I have considerably mixed feelings about the show. Those mixed feelings come down to one major reason: it was likely the last time Unsparing Sea will ever perform. I've loved that band since first hearing them and have done my best to champion their work ever since (though, in fairness, the awesomeness they bring to the table in both their live performances and their recorded work makes such championing pretty damn easy), and it truly sucks to think that they won't be around anymore. But, you all know how this god damn economy is, and sometimes folks gotta make a move to stay afloat. So as frontman J.R. Bennett and his wife relocate to Tennessee, I wish them the very best of luck and send them a whole lot of appreciation for the art they've shared with us these past few years.

Even in the clouds of such a departure, there was still quite a lot of light last night to celebrate. I hinted at this last night in a semi-serious facebook status update about that terrible Live song, "Lightning Crashes." You know, the video where the old dude dies and, at the same moment, a baby is born, symbolizing the constant flow of life on Earth blah blah blah. Right? Remember that one? Anyway, the show for me was somewhat like that. Even as I saw one of my favorite bands play their last set, maybe an hour later I saw another band for the first time that blew my socks off. They've been around a bit, and if you already know of these guys, pardon my late discovery, but next time you are halfway thinking about attending a show and you see that Tastycakes is opening, get your ass there pronto. These guys put on a show that pulled every single person, including the most curmudgeonly indie rock aesthetes, in and got them dancing. Including yours truly. I simply cannot wait to see them again live.

Beyond the loss of one band and the discovery of another, I am pleased to report that, as expected, The Modern Electric ruled, even as they were breaking in a new guitar player, and Bears played a set so smooth and fun that you'd hardly believe it was a reunion show. (Incidentally, if you are a Bears fan, check out this link for a great little Christmas tune they put out recently on a new holiday 7 inch. There's an Afternoon Naps one here, too.) I didn't get to hear much of the music in the Tavern, but I can say this - Terminal Lovers are loud and heavy and awesome and Mystery of Two is gonna be a 216 band that continues to get a lot of love from bigger and bigger swathes of the US.

Celluloid Bachelor #26: Christopher Smith "Christmas Day"

I came across Christopher Smith and this video while doing a little background research to help write this post about fellow Boompa label mate Woodpigeon as a part of my 12 Days of Holiday Dick series of holiday tunes on Citizen Dick. The song is beautiful, reminds me of a more Canadian, less plaintive Phosphorescent with a secular "Away In A Manger" vibe. I can dig it. You probably can, too.

Christopher Smith - Christmas Day from Boompa Records on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tonight in Cleveland: Wednesday, December 23rd

It is here. I've posted about this enough. Be there or be square.

Consider this legally binding.

So I just talked to a friend who, on the way home to spending the holidays with family, stopped off at a funeral/memorial service for someone. In talking about funerals in general as she got back on the road, I realized that I probably have some pretty specific preferences for how I'd like my own memorial get-down to go. So, should I expire and one of you, hearing the news, remembers this note, please get in touch with whatever person is in charge of the party planning and forward them these guidelines.

- Cremation, no burial.
- Nothing in a church, whatsoever.
- I'd like my guests to receive party favors. Preferably mini-busts of me. I'm 100% serious about that.
- If possible, I'd like each of the busts to have a tiny amount of my ashes in them, though, if that doesn't work out, give each guest a little bit wrapped in cellophane or something, with the instructions to spread them somewhere they feel appropriate and, above all, no prayers are to be said whilst the ashes are being spread.
- Buffalo wings (and only buffalo wings) are to be served at the party.
- Booze should flow, but I'd like the first bit of each person's first drink to be spilled out on the floor in memory of me, "Fallen soldier Dr. J"
- I'd like the event to be DJ'd, but at least 75% of the songs have to be by Teddy Pendergrass, Meat Loaf, and Daniel Johnston.

Finally, I am quite serious about all of this. I wish I could say you'd have my life insurance money to pay for all this, but odds are, the feds are gonna take it to pay off my student loans. That's true whether I go down in 2010 or 2050. Sorry.

CB's Book Reviews In Brief #3: Cheryl Wagner's "Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around"

Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around: A Memoir of Floods, Fires, Parades, and Plywood by Cheryl Wagner (2009, Citadel Press, 242 pp.)

Oddly enough, I finished this book on the exact same day I finished the previous book I reviewed (Benjamin Nugent's American Nerd). However, while I had been reading Nugent's collection of essays for months, a chapter or two here and there, I devoured Wagner's memoir of putting her life back together following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the post-Katrina flooding of New Orleans in only a couple sittings over a few days.

Part of this difference is due, of course, to the fact that Wagner's book was sitting on my shelf at home, while Nugent's book was always languishing on Cookbook's end table, but another part of it was due to the difference in narrative voices. Nugent poked and prodded his abstract central theme from a distance, only sometimes internalizing the discussion, while Wagner's book did the opposite, the vast majority centered on what was happening in her mind or inside her home or within her family and only sometimes commenting on the broader social forces at work. The immediacy and intimacy of Wagner's approach grabbed my attention and didn't let it go until the last page was turned.

Even with the differences in voice and topic, these two books are more similar than different. Both are written by educated, artistic, and somewhat culturally bohemian writers that also happen to be in the first half of their lives rather than the second. While memoirs authored by relatively young writers are becoming increasingly common, they are still far from the norm, and the intellectual impetus that provokes writers in their twenties and thirties to commence such projects are, I think, pretty universal. As a result, despite the fact that I never played role-playing games or studied martial arts, I could empathize with Nugent's sense of purpose in his book, and similarly while I've never been confronted by a disaster even remotely close to the order of what Wagner recounts in Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around, I could still imagine myself in their situation, simply because the folks in her life seemed so much like the folks in mine. Throughout her book, Wagner talks about the kind of people I find myself talking about, the kind of folks that if they lived in Cleveland, they'd probably be one of my Proper Noun subjects. Her boyfriend plays in indie rock bands, her neighbors are established artists in the local gallery scene and scholars early in their careers. You get the picture. And if you read this book (which you should), you'll probably find yourself doing the same thing as I did, imagining people I know who live in parts of Cleveland similar distances away from the geographical locations discussed in Wagner's book. What would my friends in Tremont (or Lakewood or Cleveland Heights or Beulah Park) be up to? Which of my friends would stay if Cleveland flooded and which would relocate? Who would be "useful" friends and who would be just as lost with the reconstruction tasks needing to be accomplished as I would be? Because the kinds of folks Wagner writes about are just like me and my social network, her memoir makes the tragic events following Katrina not something some other folks in some other place suffered, but rather something I can understand and feel, at least as much as one can understand and feel something of such magnitude that you are only reading about.

The book isn't prefect, of course. There are several moments where it seems like Wagner thought she'd already told you about the subject she's writing about and is cutting out key details she wouldn't have otherwise. And there are times when you see clear contradictions, like when she gets angry about neighbors she doesn't know having a renovation party in one chapter but then goes on about how rebuilding isn't a race in the next. Still, it feels like super-sour grapes to criticize this kind of memoir for those kinds of flaws.

Should you wind up checking this book out, also be sure to spend a minute on iTunes downloading the tracks from this annotated soundtrack compiled by the author and posted originally on Largehearted Boy.

Celluloid Bachelor #25: Paleface "You Are The Girl"

There aren't a lot of bands I saw twice this year. Fewer still are the bands that left me hungering for a third show. In fact, Paleface and Mo might be the only act that could lay claim to that mantle, such that it is.

Today's video is a performance they put on in an absolutely beautiful yet devastated abandoned building. Simply Paleface sitting and playing guitar and, occasionally, harmonica, and Mo standing and playing the tambourine, the wonder in this video is in both the simple motion of the camerawork and the decrepit destruction surrounding them. This is a video that could have been made anywhere in Cleveland.

PALEFACE "You Are The Girl" from Captain Crazy Productions on Vimeo.

Proper Noun of the Week #25: Garrett Komyati of The Modern Electric

There aren't many bands I've talked about as much this year as I have The Modern Electric. Along with probably Ramona Falls, Afternoon Naps, Evangelicals, and The Low Anthem, these guys have been a recurring topic on this here blog and for good reason. Frontman Garrett Komyati (aka today's featured proper noun) has as much talent as any young blood in the indie rock game.

Last night, for example, an impromptu bull session with a couple of my fellow Citizen Dick writers took place at Lincoln Park Pub and along with Megafaun and AA Bondy, Komyati's band was the recipient of the most praise and critical love. All of us agreed that there are incredible things to come from this band, but even if they prove to be a one and done act (god let's hope not), they've already left us with a completely brilliant album in the form of this year's self-release. (For those interested, here is my review and here is a review Brian, one of the Citizen Dicks not in last night's convo, wrote up well before I wrote mine).

All that as prelude to this: I'm very happy that a guy who has such a bright artistic future ahead of him and such a clear commitment to keeping it real in Cleveland (see below) agreed to be a part of my Proper Noun series. Read onward to see what this young indie rock jedi has to say.

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

I was born and raised in Cleveland. Well the east side suburbs at least. I don't really plan on living anywhere else either. She has given so much to raise me, like a single mother, I would be an ungrateful bastard to abandon her... especially now... when she needs me the most.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

My favorite Cleveland memory is going to see the legendary Glenn Schwartz play for the first time at his weekly Major Hoopples gig. I was too young to get into the bar, so my friends and I sat freezing outside the door under a bridge. Glenn's sound was giant echoing under that bridge. I doubt the patrons inside heard as good of a show as I did.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

If anything, Cleveland drives me to succeed with the work that I produce. I hope that my name can become synonymous with the Cleveland scene, much like Lou Reed was linked to New York. When I put my name on something I take a second to ask if the work is worthy of being a representative for the city. Am I comfortable with this work being identified as a product of Cleveland?

4) If it was your birthday and you decided to have a Cleveland-centric blow-out bash, how would you celebrate? That is, what would you do, where would you do it, etc.?

If I had no budget for this birthday bash, I would rent out The Goodtime III for the night and take a tour of our waterways. I would also beg some of my favorite local bands to play on the ship for the night: Marie Corbo, The Helper T-Cells, Afternoon Naps, Expecting Rain, among others...

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

I would take a friend down to Waterloo Rd. This is my favorite place on Earth. We'd go see a show down at the Beachland, pick up a few vinyl at Music Saves or Blue Arrow, and admire the art at Low Life or Waterloo 7. I think it would be important for my friend to meet each the guys who run these establishments. Melanie and Kevin over at Music Saves, Pete at Blue Arrow, Dave P at this way out, and Jerry over at Waterloo 7.. These guys really make the experience of Cleveland. They know what its like to take a gamble in a Dark Age, but contribute to the beginnings of a Renaissance.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

I would import the pride that others have for their cities. So many people are in love with New York, Portland and LA, but its rare to find a Clevelander with such devotion. Most have plans to leave or wish they had plans to leave. Artists, musicians, they all think that their ticket to fame is exporting their much needed talents to cities that will chew them up and spit them out. I love They are making Cleveland cool again. What a simple but effective way to show your support, wear a T-shirt.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

This may be obvious, but the lakefront is underdeveloped and borderline pathetic.

To meet Garrett and the rest of the fellas in The Modern Electric, hit up the Beachland TONIGHT for the December Cleveland Bachelor Show of the Month. For a mere $7 you'll be treated to The Modern Electric's set as well as sets by Unsparing Sea, Bears, Mystery of Two, Terminal Lovers, All Dinosaurs, and Shit Slicer. Two rooms, one ticket. Can't be that. Not with a bat. See you there!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #24: Finneyerkes "Elsie"

Wouldn't you know it - I finally discover this new band and the most recent post on their myspace page (dated 11 days ago) informs me that they've just broken up. I knew it was too good to be true to find indie awesomeness in Millbrook Alabama. They should've stayed together just for that reason - holding the line against commercial country and hyper-Christian cultural domination.

Oh well. We still get to enjoy the video they left us with. "Elsie" has this wonderfully simple animation that moves and circles around a few central images. The track is almost entirely instrumental, with this really chill and repitive delicate refrain as the core of the sound, with a ruggedness entering in near the end and sparse moments of poetry recited over the top. Overall a pretty cool artifact - and a shame Finneyerkes won't be around to bring us more.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #23: Robyn Hitchcock's "The Day Before Boxing Day"

The publicity email that brought this video to my attention merely introduced it as "the nativity according to Robyn Hitchcock." That was enough for me. So, I guess, I'll leave it at that.

OK, I'll add one more thing: veggies.

Proper Noun of the Week #24: Ryan Weitzel of Exit Stencil Recordings and Mystery of Two

You know how when you move somewhere new and as you meet and get to know new people, the same names keep coming up? That's how it was for me before I ever met Ryan Weitzel (which, I confess, hasn't happened all that many times). When talking about indie rock and Cleveland, his band (Mystery of Two) and recording studio (Exit Stencil) would come up. When talking about art and Cleveland, his former gallery (Miller Weitzel) would come up. When talking about cool institutions in Cleveland, Parish Hall (another venue he had a strong hand in) would always be mentioned. When I finally did meet Weitzel, one day at a show at the Beachland, I felt like I'd known him for years.

That's one of the cool things about doing this blog, too. It makes it possible for me to not only meet interesting new folks, but do these interviews with them and do my tiny little part to draw attention to things that longtime Clevelanders should have known about for years (and, admittedly already do, often enough). Today, Weitzel is the guy I'm able to subject to my Clevo-centric survey and I couldn't be more pleased about it.

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

I was born in Kentucky but my family moved back to Northeast Ohio, specifically Westlake, when I was 2. So I've been around since then save for a few years in Athens, Ohio and a few months out west. I started hanging out in Cleveland proper when I was about 16, and moved here in 2003.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

Wow, thats a tough one, I have so many, this will be more of a montage I guess ... cue montage music ...

When I was really young I saw my first concert at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium, that was the Beach Boys playing after an Indians game. My dad would take me there quite often as well so I have fond memories of the stadium as a youth; the size of the place and all the people was exhilarating.

During my late teens, it would have to be the Euclid Tavern and the various shows I saw there.

More recently, it's tied to the different buildings, organizations, and bands I've been a part of. Moving into the Miller Weitzel Gallery, then Parish Hall, and now the Exit Stencil Studio space on Waterloo. Having one of the original meetings with Brandon and Paul about the label is a highlight. Then there's the band memories, all of the record release shows, getting to play with some of the guys there were in Ubu, the Mystery of Two release shows, making a video on a boat and getting stuck!

The list just goes on and on... Sometimes I get caught up in being down on things but taking a moment to reflect on all the great people, places, and events I've been a part of in Cleveland makes me feel very lucky and grateful for the opportunities that I've been presented with here.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

Yes, most definitely. Cleveland is a great place but it also provides a wellspring of frustrations and obstacles to overcome, so those experiences and strivings all get stirred into the mix. It's probably most blatant in songs like Strange Town. For the last record I did a lot of driving back and forth between Collinwood and the near west side during the winter, so that area by the Power Plant where all the Sea Gulls hang out became a focal point of inspiration and contemplation. It's a strange scenario to see everyday. Cleveland is full of things like that. I think it helps contribute to that unusual tendency toward the absurd that seems to find its way into some people and art from the area.

4) If it was your birthday and you decided to have a Cleveland-centric blow-out bash, how would you celebrate? That is, what would you do, where would you do it, etc.?

Well, it is my birthday! Not today, but I turn 30 on Dec 31st. It's official. I'm old. And in the spirit of being old I think I've had my share of Cleveland Centric events through the years, er, wait ... what I meant to say is that Mystery of Two would play on Dec 23rd with Bears, Unsparing Sea, Terminal Lovers, The Modern Electric, and All Dinosaurs at the Beachland and then I'd have a month long residency at Arts Collinwood with Mystery of Two and friends Filmstrip, Buried Wires, Freedom, and Founding Fathers. The Arts Collinwood residency is every Saturday in February and also features our individual visual work.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

I've played tour guide for years. The rotation usually involves the Exit Stencil Studio and Waterloo area, Great Lakes, the Lake, and the West Side Market.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

More affordable healthy food that's available late, and people.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

I get one? One thing!?! OK, fine. Can we time the traffic lights?
To meet Ryan and hear his band, Mystery of Two, play, check out the December Cleveland Bachelor Show of the Month at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern on WEDNESDAY. The get-down gets down at 9, with action in both rooms costing only $7 ... TOTAL! See you there!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

CB's Book Reviews In Brief #2: Benjamin Nugent's "American Nerd"

American Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent (2008, Scribner, 224 pp. plus afterword and short story)

Because I read so much non-fiction for work, I rarely find myself going the non-fiction route for pleasure. When I do, the topics are often oddball and one-offs (with an exception being made for my penchant for Soviet history and New Orleans sociology). Such was the case when I picked up Benjamin Nugent's linked collection of sorta memoirish essays, American Nerd. My pal Cookbook is actually the proud owner of this book, and over the last few months, it has sat on a sofa end table, sometimes for weeks at a time, awaiting my next visit over when I would pick it up and read a chapter or two. I always enjoyed what I read, frequently forcing Cookbook to listen to whatever pithy observation or well-written passage Nugent had included in whatever chapter it was I had been reading, but I never brought it home with me to finish.

Finally, when visiting some time last week, I realized I was only a couple chapters from the end, so I ask permission to bring the book home. I finally finished the sucker this morning, over hash browns dipped in chipotle sauce at the Beachland. Shortly after I finished the book and set it aside, a friend wandered up and asked me about it, whether I'd recommend it or not. My answer was probably a lot longer and more meandering than I'm sure they wanted - particularly since the question was likely motivated more by a desire for pleasant chit chat than a sincere query about over the merits of dusting off one's library card or Amazon wish list. Still, I take such considerations seriously, and gave my answer pretty much thusly.

The author takes on the idea of nerddom in a humorous yet serious way, and frames his investigation into his own experiences as a nerd in a semi-scholarly manner. He identifies the central idea and then explores several derivations of it, from the notion of nerd as hyper-tech oriented to topics that include role-playing games, autism, hipsters, and nerd friendship. There are moments of clarity and moments that are less so, just like there are some chapters that are brilliant and others that seem like a stretch. The strongest chapters, in the sense that they are the ones that stay with you long after the fact, are the two case studies, both of which make me want to befriend the subjects and offer them hugs.

In all, the book is very well-written (unsurprising from an author associated with the terrific literary journal n+1), though seems to be incomplete and somewhat insubstantial. Perhaps this is because the book is, deep down, a memoir about coming of age, written by a still young man who has only just come of age. Perhaps it is also because Nugent's conceptualization of nerdhood largely only encompasses his own experience, leaving to the mostly marginal sidelines notions of class and especially gender and, to a lesser extent, race. Still, for anyone in the creative class, I'd say, sure, pick up a copy and read it. It beats the vast majority of what you'll find in a supermarket and you'll see a lot of yourself in the book, too. Perhaps that's ultimately the reason behind my reluctance to totally embrace the book, because I see so much of myself in the subject, and thus am hyper-sensitive about the topics Nugent didn't write about or wrote about in a way that was different that how I'd have done it.

If you need a little more info before wading in, Salon has a nice Q&A with the author here.

Celluloid Bachelor #22: Yeasayer "Ambling Alp"

Yeasayer's All Hour Cymbals is one of, I think, the best albums of this decade. I won't tell you why - do yourself a favor and get a copy and listen to it, over and over, for a few weeks. And do it before their new album, Odd Blood, comes out in February 2010.

The video for today is the first single off that forthcoming album, "Ambling Alp." The sounds are a little less sprawling and global and a bit more peppy, but the visual weirdness is a direct extension from All Hour Cymbals. The film that accompanies the song is wild, but delightfully so.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Proper Noun of the Week #23: Amanda Montague of Lilly's Chocolates

Do you love fancy chocolate, fancy beer, or fancy pink hair? If the answer to any of the three is yes, you gotta check out a happening little chocolate and beer joint in Tremont called Lilly's. If the answer to all three is yes, you need to get there like now.

I'm not really a gourmand, so while I'm sure folks working for institutions like Sauveur, Gastronomica, or the James Beard Foundation could use much more sophisticated descriptors, let me just say that her handmade chocolates are a-freaking-mazing. Everything you'll see at the counter in the back of the storefront on Starkweather in Tremont is made in house, which is really impressive, considering not only the deliciousness but also the aesthetic factor. Some of her creations are so visually precious you don't want to eat them, but when you do, you want to get a second job (preferably at Lilly's) so you can eat them all the time. Also, the lady does things with lavender that make my heart melt.

At this point, I figure it is appropriate, if not belated, for me to announce that I'm happy to receive from my loyal readers a giftbox or two from Lilly's as a gift. Forget about wasting that cash on Great Aunt Agnes, send some high quality Cleveland confections to CB!

While you are pondering the level of your generosity this year, chew on the following answers the woman behind the amazing chocolates at Lilly's, Amanda 'Lilly' Montague, has provided to my usual Cleveland-centric questionnaire.
1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

Born and raised here in Cleveland. Parma, actually. White socks, sandals, perogis, Rock n Roll! I currently reside in Tremont with my fabulous husband Joshua and my super cute corgi, Lucy.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

Hmm...That's a tough one. Playing on the rocks at Edgewater, going to polka parties with my Grandma and going to the Playhouse every year at Christmas for a play! Don't even get me started on the food....

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

We're very much a meat-n-potatoes, hard working, beer drinkin', industrial town, but we're super creative and we have lots of art and culture too! I'd like to think my work reflects that attitude. My flavors are big and bold, we've got over 150 different craft beers and most of our space is decked out in industrial reclaimed steel work done by Jason Radcliffe. It just happens to be painted ina healthy dose of pink too. :P

4) If it was your birthday and you decided to have a Cleveland-centric blow-out bash, how would you celebrate? That is, what would you do, where would you do it, etc.?

The best Cleveland birthday bash would be shopping all day in the Gordon Square District & Tremont, going out to the lake and having a tasty picnic with my hubby & doggie with local treats like Riedel's sausage, Baricelli cheese and whatnot and going out to dinner at Momocho and enjoying blood orange margaritas and taquitos!

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

I would definitely take them to the West Side Market, who doesn't love that? We'd have to have lunch at Gourmand's Deli in Valley View (best sandwiches-EVER.), get frozen custard from East Coast Frozen Custard (it was my first job ever! love that place!), and cocktails at The Velvet Tango Room (the Dark & Stormy is my favorite). Dinner would be an adventure. Appetizers at Parallax, dinner at The Flying Fig and dessert at Bruno's Ristorante! Can you tell I like food? HA!

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream & The Book Loft from Columbus and TeaLuxe & Crazy Burger from Rhode Island.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

We have a COASTLINE. Why is there nothing there but the Browns Stadium, The Science Center, the Rock Hall & an Airport?! Where's the cool condos, houses, shopping, the fun stuff? The city has so much potential to be awesome and support so much cool cultural and artistic it off, tell people, promote Cleveland and it's awesomeness!

To meet Amanda and check out her delicious luscious amazing chocolate (and her laudable beer selection), visit her at Lilly's at 761 Starkweather Ave in Tremont. (Incidentally, the store is in the same location as the grocery store where Meryl Streep worked in The Deer Hunter.) For those of you thinking Christmas presents - which, by the way, is an excellent idea - you still have some good opportunities. Check out her hours between now and Christmas below.

Sunday: 10-5
Monday: 10-9
Tuesday: 10-9
Wednesday: 10-7
Thursday (aka Christmas Eve aka Last Chance!): 10-7

Celluloid Bachelor #21: Neil Diamond "The Chanukah Record"

In honor of the eighth and final day of Hanukkah (or Chanukah or חנוכה, depending on your preference), I bring to you a video version of the very best Hanukkah song ever, at least from the perspective of a gentile who knows little else about the holiday or the ethno-religious dimensions of it.

Today's Celluloid Bachelor contribution further spices up the festival of lights, taking Adam Sandler's satirical song to new levels of irony by having Neil Diamond cover it. Now I love Neil, and Diamond does a good job, especially with the seriously jamming guitarist that accompanies him, but even I have to admit that it is the animation that makes a song we've all heard a billion times come back to life. Much like Zombie Jesus, allegedly, though that's a whole different pagan holiday that Christianity has appropriated.

The week ahead: 12/20-12/26 (The Christmas Goodness edition)

As I write this post, the first real snowfall of the winter is beginning. Sure, we aren't getting destroyed like the mid-Atlantic region is (though something similar will surely visit us sooner or later over the course of the next 100 days), but we do have a good couple of days of on and off fluffy flake droppage to look forward to (or, in my case, not).

The rest of the week is mostly supposed to continue apace, with temps in the thirties and a fluffy flake here and there. And then, of course, there is Christmas, where depending on your family, your likelihood of having to tolerate a fluffy flake or two dramatically increases.

Between now and that Christian appropriation of the holiday in honor of Roman Sun God Sol Invictus and after that day that comes before Boxing Day, however, there are plenty of opportunities to have some fluffy flake-free fun, especially if you like your fun to come with a dose of the rock.

Sunday, 12/20
- One thing has been on my calendar for this day all month long and one thing only: the CIA Cinematheque's screening of Bronson, a Clockwork Orange-esque interpretation of the life of one of Britain's most notorious (and notoriously violent) prisoners, Michael Peterson aka "Charles Bronson. This thing looks wild, riotous even. I can't wait.

Monday, 12/21
- One of my favorite people in Cleveland, Lawrence Daniel Caswell, puts his DJ Racecard hat on and co-presents a night of soul music at the Beachland with Beachland co-owner and record collector extraordinaire Mark Leddy (aka DJ Mr Fishtruck). I can't dance (I never could dance, I never will dance, etc.), but if any event gets my toes a tappin' and my booty movin', it is one of these Downtown Soulville parties. Also, this mother is FREE.

Tuesday, 12/22 - Another night at the Beachland is in store for you tonight, especially as the management there has capitalized on an early evening private party featuring Cincinnati's Wussy and booked the band, led by former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver, to play a bargain basement $5 show in the Tavern. People are still getting over the band's show the last time they ran through Clevo, so this should be a good one, and in a perfectly intimate venue, to boot.

Wednesday, 12/23 - It Is Here. The Day Of The Week You All Have Been Waiting For. No, not Christmas, you nerd; I'm talking about the Cleveland Bachelor December Show of the Month! Bears, Unsparing Sea, The Modern Electric, Mystery of Two, Terminal Lovers, All Dinosaurs, and Shit Slicer. Both rooms at the Beachland, a mere seven bucks. Be there or I'll never speak to you again.

Thursday, 12/24 - tba

Friday, 12/25 - It's Christmas! Which means, aside from the presents and familial tension, you also have some Cleveland-style rock and roll to look forward to at the Grog Shop. Featuring a headlining Chargers Street Gang reunion show, you'll also be treated to sets by Sun God, Self Destruct Button,and one of my favorite new bands of 2009, Founding Fathers. Expect drunken santas, new sweaters, and the rock fist.

Saturday, 12/26 - tba. Seriously, a Saturday night, and I have no idea what's going down. Any tips?

Other stuff to keep your eye on the following week:
- 12/27 - The Alarm Clocks @ Beachland
- 12/28 - Texas A&M vs Georgia in the Independence Bowl!
- 12/29 - The Sex Crimes reunion show @ Beachland
- 12/30 - The Cowslingers reunion show @ Beachland (tickets going very fast on this one!)
- 1/1 - Solo artist festival @ Beachland ($1 only!)
- 1/2 - Music Saves Brit Pop Night @ Beachland
- 1/2 - 2010 screens @ Cedar-Lee Cult Night

Friday, December 18, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #20: We Are Wolves "Holding Hands"

I'm only starting to realize what a pervasive influence Kings of Leon - and especially frontman Caleb Followill's vocals - have had on a generation of indie rockers. Surprisingly, that's A-OK by me. If we could lop off the last 2-3 years from the band's history, I'd be as big a fan as anyone. And if a new band wants to come up and take a Followill approach, minus the MTV and the silly "sex on fire" and such lyrics, I'm down for the getdown.

Which brings me to the current contender. In this corner of the blogosphere, we have Québécois rockers We Are Wolves, who are about to drop their third full-length album, Invisible Violence, on American ears in early 2010.

In all fairness, the band has been in operation almost as long as Kings of Leon have, officially coming together in 2002 but with collaborations dating back to 2000. It has only really been since 2005 that the band has truly entered the indie rock conversation, when their debut full length, Non-Stop Je Te Plie En Deux, was put out by Fat Possum. Since then, though, they’ve been greedily devoured by critics and listeners like so much poutine (sorry, couldn’t resist); a critical reception that has continued through the subsequent release of Total Magicque (2007, Dare to Care) and numerous mega-festival appearances.

Invisible Violence finds the band continuing its freneticism, while somehow also feeling their oats in a luxuriating but grimy kind of way. “Holding Hands,” the first single to be released off the forthcoming album, is a barn-burner of a song, but also one that seems a bit more Alabama than Montreal. The band, on this track at least, is a bit less dancy and a bit more punk, but the kind of punk you could get your groove on to, even if you are a beardy longhair.

We Are Wolves || Holding Hands music video from Dare To Care Records on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Terminal Lovers and the Cope Treatment

Here's the great thing about friends. Or rather, A great thing about friends. Especially ones that dig rock. When you are all stoked about the first four bands on a seven-band bill, they let you know that the other ones rule, too.

Take, for example, my much ballyhooed CB December Show of the Month. I've already told you how geeked I am to see The Modern Electric and Unsparing Sea, and I'm pretty pumped to hear Bears do their indie pop thing while Mystery of Two gets their punk on. I didn't really think too much about the other three bands on the bill - not out of disrespect, but just because after being stoked about four bands on one night, that's really all I needed.

Which is when my pal Ed, who pens the increasingly awesome Beachland Blog, points out I should be just as pumped, if not more so, about the fact that Terminal Lovers, with their legendary frontman Dave Cintron, are also gonna be on that stage. He then goes on to point out that the band has previously received what I call the Julian Cope Treatment. Read through that rant and you'll start to figure out the brilliance of Cintron and company. You'll have to see the real deal live to get the full scope, or so Brother Ed tells me.

Celluloid Bachelor #19: The Besnard Lakes "Devastation"

Writing about the new Unsparing Sea album a few days ago got me thinking about The Besnard Lakes, which got me listening to the Besnard Lakes, which made me happy. I think you should be happy, too. So here's the video to "Devastation."

Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Celluloid Bachelor #18: Paul Mawhinney's vinyl archive

I just discovered this short film - and that's what it is, a short film - on the Gotta Groove Records website. I was really moved by this guy and the emotion he and his wife rightfully show over their incredible effort to preserve recorded music.

Also, it makes me wonder if anyone out there would like to give me three million dollars.

The Archive from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.

Best Albums of 2009: A Cleveland Indie Rockers Survey

Seems like every single blog and website I read regularly is doing an end-of-year rundown on the best albums of 2009. I'm totally down with that - I've been keeping my powder dry all year for it, actually. Problem is, everyone seems to be doing something kinda creative. Whether it is Bill at I Rock Cleveland citing previous review quotes or my colleagues at Citizen Dick doing an ongoing retrospective, it doesn't seem like a regular old list will cut it this year. So, I decided to take up the creativity challenge.

Problem is, I'm not very creative. So, instead, what I did is I contracted out the labor. What follows is a series of top 10 lists from some of my favorite folks in the Cleveland indie rock community. Enjoy. When I get the brainpower for it, I might calculate which albums were most enjoyed across the spectrum. But for now, this is what you get.

Tom DeChristofaro - Guitarist, Vocalist, and Songwriter for Afternoon Naps.

1. Cats on Fire -Our Temperance Movement (Matinee)
2. Comet Gain - Broken Record Players (What's Your Rupture)
3. Lake - Let's Build A Roof (K)
4. Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland)
5. Pylon - Chomp (DFA reissue)
6. Bill Fox - Shelter from the Smoke (Scat reissue)
7. God Help the Girl - God Help the Girl (Matador)
8. Dent May and His Magnificent Ukelele - Good Feeling Music of Dent May (Paw Tracks)
9. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career (4AD)
10. The Radio Dept. - David (Labrador)

Fred Gunn - Lead Singer for The Sex Crimes (performing a 12/29 reunion show at the Beachland) and DJ extraordinaire

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glass Note)
2. A Place to Bury Strangers - Exploding Head (Mute)
3. Floating Action - Floating Action (PARK THE VAN)
4. Passion Pit - Manners (Columbia/DMZ)
5. Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland)
6. Times New Viking - Born Again Revisited (Matador)
7. Fresh & Onlys - Grey-Eyed Girl (Woodsist/Revolver)
8. Almighty Defenders - Almighty Defenders (Vice)
9. Blank Dogs - Under and Under (In the Bed)
10. Wavves - Wavvves (Fat Possum)

Cookbook - Author of The Lead Paint Cookbook

1. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Anti)
2. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career (4AD)
3. Eagle and Talon - Thracian (s/r)
4. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glass Note)
5. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes - Up From Below (Vagrant)
6. Vic Chesnutt - At the Cut (Constellation)
7. Afternoon Naps - Sunbeam (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
8. The Postmarks - Memoirs at the End of the World (Unfiltered)
9. Ramona Falls - Intuit (Barsuk)
10. Sondre Lerche - Heartbeat Radio (Rounder)

Bill Lipold - Author of I Rock Cleveland (Note: Click this link for more detail and the rest of Bill's Top 20)

1. Flaming Lips - Embryonic (Warner Bros.)
2. The Horrors - Primary Colours (Beggars)
3. Sunn O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord)
4. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs (Matador)
5. Nadja - When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV (The End)
6. Dinosur Jr - Farm (Jagjaguwar)
7. Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Eddy Current Suppression Ring (Goner)
8. Japandroids - Post Nothing (Polyvinyl)
9. Boston Spaceships - From Zero to 99 (GBV)
10. Wizzard Sleeve - Make the World Go Away (Hozac)

thatgirl - author of Cleveland Love

1. Amadou & Mariam - Welcome to Mali (Nonesuch)
2. Oumou Sangare - Seya (Nonesuch)
3. Jawbox - For Your Own Special Sweetheart (Desoto reissue)
4. Yppah - They Know What Ghosts Know (Ninja Tune)
5. Metric - Fantasies (Metric)
6. Bela Fleck - Throw Down Your Heart (Rounder)
7. P.O.S. - Never Better (Rhymesayers)
8. Thievery Corporation - Radio Retaliation (Eighteenth Street)
9. Mos Def - The Ecstatic (Downtown)
10. K'naan - Troubadour (A&M/Octone)

Kevin Neudecker - Owner, Music Saves record store

1. Fever Ray - Fever Ray (Mute)
2. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (Warp)
3. Califone - All My Friends are Funeral Singers (Dead Oceans)
4. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career (4AD)
5. Circulator System - Signal Morning (Cloud Recordings)
6. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm (Jagjaguwar)
7. Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns (Saddle Creek)
8. Ramona Falls - Intuit (Barsuk)
9. Abe Vigoda - Reviver (PPM)
10. Double Dagger - More (Thrill Jockey)

Melanie Hershberger - Owner, Music Saves record store (Note: Melanie's choices are not rank-ordered, but rather alphabetized. The lady hates to play favorites! If you really want to know which one topped the list, check out the Music Saves sponsored show at the Beachland this Saturday featuring Shiny Penny, Casual Encounters, Talons, and The Talkies.)

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
Fever Ray - Fever Ray (Mute)
Japandroids - Post Nothing (Polyvinyl)
Ramona Falls - Intuit (Barsuk)
Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns (Saddle Creek)
Thermals - Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars)
These Are Powers - All Aboard Future (Dead Oceans)
Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead (Fat Cat)
Veils - Sun Gangs (Rough Trade)
Wooden Birds - Magnolia (Barsuk)

Tim Thornton - Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist for The Muttering Retreats, vinyl producer at Gotta Groove Records, and Music Saves 'Timployee'

1. Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor (Drag City)
2. Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
3. Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Pains Of Being Pure At Heart/Higher Than The Stars (Slumberland)
4. Asobi Seksu - Hush (Polyvinyl)
5. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
6. El Perro Del Mar - Love Is Not Pop (The Control Group)
7. Clark - Totems Flare (Warp)
8. Flaming Lips - Embryonic (Warner Bros.)
9. Lake - Let's Build A Roof (K)
10. Trouble Books - Endless Pool (Mr. & Mrs. Bark & Hiss)

Kevin - Writer at Citizen Dick. (Note: Kevin stresses to me that this isn't precisely his top 10, but rather than one he felt the whole site would endorse. But since he's the one who responded to the email, he gets the credit. Also, linked album titles will take you back to Citizen Dick reviews of those albums. Or click here and you can check out the list of albums Citizen Dick has been including in its End of 2009 Retrospective series.)

1. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (Warp)
2. White Denim - Fits (Downtown)
3. Megafaun - Gather, Form and Fly (Hometapes)
4. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
5. A. A. Bondy - When The Devil's Loose (Fat Possum)
6. The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Nonesuch)
7. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free (Dead Oceans)
8. Bear in Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth (Hometapes)
9. Barzin - Notes to an Absent Lover (Monotreme)
10. Fever Ray - Fever Ray (Mute)

J.R. Bennett - Frontman for Unsparing Sea and the man who turned me on to Phosphorescent

1. Jay Z - The Blueprint 3 (Roc Nation)
2. Flaming Lips - Embryonic (Warner Bros.)
3. Vetiver - Tight Knit (Sub Pop)
4. Lightning Dust - Infinite Light (Jagjaguwar)
5. M. Ward - Hold Time (Merge)
6. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (Warp)
7. Mos Def - The Ecstatic (Downtown)
8. The Love Language - The Love Language (Bladen County)
9. Au - Versions (Phantom Sound and Vision)
10. The Dodos - Time to Die (Frenchkiss)