13 essential frightened rabbit

To some, music is a background; a simple nullification of the voidance to silence. To the other some, music is a passion; a collected series of human existence with song to fill that silence. To the few, music is a lifeline; that thread you desperately hold onto so that you do not fall into the void that the first some was seeking avoidance.

Three groups of existence. Three groups of hope. Three desperate versions of us all at any moment in our lives. Sometimes we act through the cycle alternatively while other times we can be cyclical as we glance back at the person we once were.

Here we stand parading through mucky waters eager to stand at the place that we can currently only see. Unfortunately, we do not always react to our emotions when our head is held at its highest. Often it is when we are lying down that we are forced to react, and it is in those times that we are the most vulnerable.

Last week we lost another voice in music. Scott Hutchison, singer for the Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit, fell victim to a lifelong battle with depression. His desperate grasp to life catalyzed by the lyrics in his music became a shielded passion for those that shared a similar pain. An onslaught of overwhelming but destructive emotion filled the songs from Hutchison who had slowly become one of the better lyricists of our time. Hearing these songs, and having a fairly reasonable sense to the message behind the music, I still find it a devastating surprise that one of his songs about self-harm were to eventually (and literally) come to be.

As someone who has struggled a good portion of my life with what I have recently learned to be mild forms of depression companioned with alternate episodes of anger I can somehow understand the place that he always said himself to be. Overcompensating my own reactions to life in each opposite direction have led me to a place, with help, that has finally given me a better way to steer my own path.

This Hutchison story has reminded me once again how far the ripple can travel when one gives in to their own self-destruction.

We all struggle. We all fall. We all succumb ourselves to our own version of self-mutilation.

Anger is not a curse.

Suicide is not cowardly.

Fear is not your co-pilot.

Depression is not a sign of the weak, it is born of hopelessness that can imagine no other way. It is a thick black cloud created by a cyclone of personal demons that prevents you from seeing any light.

People like Scott Hutchison, people like Chris Cornell, and people like Chester Bennington did the very best they could in the worst seconds of their lives. They were as brave and as strong and as selfless as they were able in that moment.

If you struggle with self-worth or anger or have consistent thoughts of harming yourself, please.. seek help, and you can start by going here, here, and here. Talk with someone. There is a better way.

In memoriam to the art and the life and the music of Scott Hutchison I have collected thirteen songs from Frightened Rabbit in which I have chosen to share.

I hope this memoir serves him well.

Cheers 🍻

13 | be less rude

sing the greys

12 | the modern leper

the midnight organ fight

11 | behave

sing the greys

10 | nitrous gas

pedestrian verse

9 | die like a rich boy

painting of a panic attack

8 | keep yourself warm

the midnight organ fight

7 | the loneliness and the scream

the winter of mixed drinks

6 | head rolls off

the midnight organ fight

5 | floating in the forth

the midnight organ fight

4 | holy

pedestrian verse

3 | my backwards walk

the midnight organ fight

2 | poke

the midnight organ fight

1 | old old fashioned

the midnight organ fight

13 essential by the national

Last year began in a way, for me, that could only have been worse if I were in direct impact of one of the many California fires. Things got off to an incredibly rocky start when what turned out to be my last pick from the right side of the debate for commander-in-chief was preparing to be sworn into office. (Kasich was my gop preference, although I would have even taken Rubio or Jeb over the eventual DT.) Read More

Best Albums of 2017 | The Top 10

The holidays snuck up on me this year. I didn’t realize it could be nearly seventy and also the winter solstice. But hey, it’s Fresno. So as we say goodbye to the holidays and to twenty seventeen let me remind you (and the future me) of what my favorite music from the past year was. I’ve already reflected upon the music that impacted me this year beyond my top ten, and here is where I end the conversation.

Cheers🍻 Read More

Best Albums of 2017 | Runner Up Top 10

As promised, here is part two of my three part series of my favorite music from this twelve month nightmare I was told was supposed be called twenty seventeen. I truly hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did putting it together.

Cheers🍻

20 | Lecrae

All Things Work Together

Last year my favorite record was da’ t.r.u.t.h.’s It’s Complicated and it was within the same genre as this one: christian rap. It came as no coincidence either, because the way in which I discovered it organically transpired as I rediscovered music I used to listen to not more than just a few years ago. It began as I listened to last year’s Switchfoot album. On it was a song featuring Lecrae which inadvertently brought me back into his catalogue of music I was neglecting. The Switchfoot song was Looking For America and it helped remind me that Christian music didn’t always need to be about the end of times or the ten commandments to be good. From there I discovered da’ t.r.u.t.h. and it was a consistent listen throughout the year. That was how my favorite record from twenty sixteen developed. Over those several months last year I had also listened to Lecrae’s Church Clothes more times than I had worn actual church clothes in nearly all my life (and that was a struggling attempt to poke fun at the fact that, with a modest refusal to grow up, I insist on still wearing a t-shirt and levis to church on Sunday). Now, let’s set a mental precedent for those that are unfamiliar with Lecrae: he is basically to rap culture what Switchfoot is to rock music. With that being said, I find it more than just a coincidence that he guest vocaled on the most recent Switchfoot record. Regrouping (this is a mini review of Lecrae not Switchfoot) I can express in absolute that this record is not perfection. What it is, rather, is necessary and relatable. This is an expression of a black man in a white world not yet able to completely understand his role, but exceptionally grateful for where he is at. This album isn’t for everyone, but it was definitely for me during the point in my life that I heard it. I look forward to his greater eclipse into more mainstream successes, which is inevitable.

Favorite tracks:

can’t stop me now, facts, I’ll find you

 

19 | LCD Soundsystem

American Dream

img_6971-1

Typically, as expressed multiple times before, I steer clear of records released after a bands’ retirement, or any mention of a hiatus. Bands that do this have proven over the years that momentum can often be subject to sacrifice when rest is granted. American Dream is the anthem for the exception to this rule that I have made up entirely for myself in my own head. LCD Soundsystem returns essentially unannounced with the album that was never supposed to have happened. With the lengthy farewell from several years ago it was understood that this aging rock star was filing for an early retirement. The joke is on us apparently. He never quit to begin with, and the new album returns better than ever. This band is about as age appropriated and stereotypical for the basically-middle-aged-white-man-looking-for-dance-music-while-still-seemingly-hip subset of our society, but don’t allow that single description falter or misguide you. American Dream is one of the better indie electronic records out there and it is arguably the best one that they’ve released.

Favorite tracks:

how do you sleep, oh baby, call the police

 

18 | Queens of the Stone Age

Villains

img_7013

Villains sometimes are cast with a random but creepy redhead (refer to General Hux in the more recent Star Wars movies), and Queens of the Stone Age does not fail to disappoint. Lead singer of QOTSA, Josh Homme, is about as redhead and creepy as they come. Perfect foundational layer to any rock band seeking to fright. Last year Josh Homme collaborated with Iggy Pop to put together an album that I heard for the first time this last summer. It was the perfect pairing of a couple of rock & roll’s best badasses and it was my own unexpected surprise of the summer. It was then at around the same time that Villains was released. The consistency in Homme & Co. persisted as perfectly crafted rock & roll riffs spilled from my speakers one track after another. Not only is the fright carried with the pigment of Homme’s hair, but also in the songs that they make. They are exceptional mini soundtracks to the melodic nightmare you can’t seem to wake from. Next year celebrates twenty years since the release of their first album, and what better way to celebrate than to be on tour in support of one of your best records yet? Villains isn’t quite in the same caliber as the riff-heavy Rated R but it throws a good punch to the ears removing any reason to not include it in a debate about whether or not these songs are as enchanting or consistently catchy as those from Songs for the Deaf.

Favorite tracks:

domesticated animals, feet don’t fail me, the evil has landed

 

17 | Eminem

Revival

img_7014

As we continue my list of favorite albums from the year you should be reminded that I ended honorary mentions with the new edition to my list of guilty pleasures in Lorde. Here we find one of the mentioned guilty pleasures nested near the end of my favorite twenty. Eminem has always had a portion of my attention as early as the the My Name Is video played in heavy rotation on MTV. Now here we are, nearly two decades later, and I have literally grown disinterested with anything he has done since he welcomed us all to the Eminem show. Today he is as close to fifty as I am to forty and his new record easily contains some of his most vulnerable lyrics to date. Sure, there’s plenty of the typical juvenile tantrum and the immature lyric on Revival that everyone is used to, but this time the serious tone is more grounded and the message more sincere. He also has alienated his base by (as previously warned with the anti DT freestyle rap rant) drawing a figurative line in the dirt between him and any fan who disagrees with his politics. The album itself isn’t a political statement, but the few tracks that are driven by modern politics may as well be a digital punch to the face of at least fifty percent of his fans. Other moments on this record we see Eminem being nostalgic and regretful, poetic and hopeful, narcissistic but sorry, and self-reflective while doubtful. I’ll probably catch a lot of negative reaction here after claiming to have enjoyed this record as much as I did, but as I often say on here: “I do this for me, and I do not care”.

Favorite tracks:

like home, bad husband, walk on water

 

16 | Bleachers

Gone Now

img_7015

Gone Now is the quintessential pop masterpiece from the side project of the guitar player for a band who we all forgot. That band, fun., was topping the charts just a few years ago. Remember fun? No, not that fun.. I’m talking fun.; fun with a period, because apparently punctuation can be part of the name of your band now (i.e. P!nk, Panic! at the Disco, or simply !!!). But instead of screaming the name of their band, fun. simply presented themselves in monotone on paper with the standard ending to any sentence; a period. On stage was a different story. They were upbeat and in your face. The lead singer held the type of flamboyant persona that was missing from this part of the twenty first century. Now, just a few years later, with fun. not releasing any new material, it has provided an opportunity for Bleachers to emerge with the fun. guitar player as its creative catalyst. This record, Gone Now, is the twenty seventeen pop anthem for those wanting zero politics in their music. There’s hindsight, but not of the societal layer. There’s remorse, but not with a political undertone. There’s sadness, but not without also celebrating life and the people we have to share with it. Here, we may be experiencing a time where the musical entity in pop music in fun. has spawned a successor in Bleachers as becoming the more important of the two.

Favorite tracks:

all my heroes, I miss those days, everybody lost someone

 

15 | Priests

Nothing Feels Natural

img_7023

I first heard this album shortly after I shared my favorite music from last year. It was a solid jolt to get the year off to a good middle finger type of pace. This album plays as a series of vignettes, nine stories that materialize to a bigger picture of social unrest, economics in human relations, and the overall frustrations with modern politics. The music is enchanting, eerily angelic at times, but without any purpose to be uplifting. The lyrics are descriptively aimed at everything you want to complain about, but take the joy out of it as they do it for you. This record is as close to prog punk you can get without being so progressive that you lose interest in the song entirely. At a reasonable length, these songs hold a sound with more depth and musicianship not typically expected in a punk band. I had my eyes on this group all year. I’ll be looking forward to what comes next.

Favorite tracks:

pink white house, Jj, no big bang

 

14 | Big Thief

Capacity

img_7017

Ok. I am getting exhausted from all this angst. It is starting to take its toll. Let’s slow down for a bit and talk about something more palatable to adults my age. (Is that even a thing?) While seeking out palatable music for adults nearing forty is arguably a subjective statement it is also just as much the wrong thing to do as it is the right. Music speaks to me no matter what the genre. Emotions pulled from the music I listen is determined entirely by the mood I am currently in while listening. Good moods welcome pop music, angry moments discover new punk rock, nostalgia may ignite a series of thirteen essential blogs, and melancholy finds acoustic vivid storytelling. There is something about reflecting upon yourself in music with the very mood you are in that exuberates the silver lining to any emotion, and the way in which I channel my emotions through music may not be the same as yours. There is beauty behind the very existence of music. This album, Capacity, fueled the engine in my soul needing rebuilt so many times throughout this year. With these lucid representations of well-crafted storytelling I was able to find my way out of a few holes I would have otherwise been lost in. It was a trying year, personally, relationally, professionally, and on a grander scale, politically and socially. This record was my Xanax, it was my Ritalin. I appreciated everything about this album, and most of all I appreciated its timing.

Favorite tracks:

haley, shark smile, mary

 

13 | Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

Lotta Sea Lice

img_7018

A couple years ago in a similar setting as this I confessed my fan boy status toward Kurt Vile. Here he is again this year lending a hand, and a guitar, to the latest Courtney Barnett album. I did not anticipate Kurt & Courtney (no not that Kurt & Courtney) to collaborate in such a way as this, and I was initially unsure of its ability to come together properly. I’ve seen this before: prominent male songwriter teams up with equally prominent female in her own right to combine creative spells to craft an album that eventually falls flat to the listener. If you can’t think of any instances like this as I can, simply type in your search bar “Pete Yorn and Scarlet Johansson” or “Nora Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong”. I’ll give you a few minutes, you’ll see. The difference with this album isn’t necessarily the collaborative style of the project, but it was the literal sense that they took the conversation within the lyrics. From the opening lines to the record to nearly the end of the final song you feel as if you are a fly on the wall of the studio that these two are sharing. It is a conversation among would-be friends hammering out the details about writing the songs that they are singing. While Hail, Caesar is one of the better (if not only) films about making a movie, Lotta Sea Lice is setting a perfect precedent for what a record full of songs about how the songs become the song is supposed to sound. The imitative vocal nature of these two as they come together grasps the best of both artists to put together one of my favorite records of the year. Kurt’s lingering vocals and Courtney’s storytelling nature combine to make a musical integration that would come as an unexpected but very appreciated record.

Favorite tracks:

continental breakfast, over everything, fear is like a forest

 

12 | IDLES

Brutalism

img_7016

A self-description pulled from the IDLES website is as follows:

“At a point of uncertainty, IDLES bring you concise carnage. At a time of lies, IDLES bring you honesty. At a time of body shaming and Photoshop, IDLES bring you a visceral barrage of joyous bile. At a time of The Kardashians, IDLES bring you a story of working hard for what and who you love. In a time of polarized politics and murky waters; IDLES and bands like them are needed to remind people that it’s ok to dance and laugh and sing in the face of adversity.”

I don’t think I could have said anything more appropriately fitting to describe this band in as few sentences as I just shared. This record, Brutalism, is the debut from one of the best punk bands to emerge, ever. Just try and argue that with me. Based in England, these guys have a bright future in dark, unapologetic speak-sung punk anthems for the age of the social collapse. They are relevant. They might become huge. But they will be influential.

Favorite tracks:

well done, white privilege, mother

 

11 | Mount Eerie

A Crow Looked At Me

img_7019

A couple years ago Butch Walker made a heartbreakingly emotional record about the death of his father which translated into being my favorite records of twenty fifteen. This year I crossed paths with a record of similar discussion on the topic of death. Difficult emotions and widespread turmoil help the dawning of expression through art. This album by Mount Eerie is a nearly perfect lyrical arrangement of a love letter to a lost loved one. He opens the record with the softly sung monotone line “death is real” and from that very moment the tone of the album is very clear. I distinctively remember the first time I listened to A Crow Looked At Me, I experienced a kind of tears I never thought possible while listening to words from a stranger as they express heartache over a wife’s death through song. This album is utterly heartbreaking. It is completely personal. It is at times difficult to listen to. It is a final love note from a husband to his wife gone forever. Listen to this record with something to wipe away the tears, but also hear it in solitude because you are about to let sadness escape your eyes as you cry tears of sorrow for this poor man. This record gets as close as you can get using music to literally live through someone else’s trauma.

Favorite tracks:

crow, real death, toothbrush/trash

Best Albums of 2017 | Honorary Mentions

Hard to believe that twenty seventeen is already almost over.

I specifically remember back in the early-nineties as a preteen imagining ahead to the year two thousand. I would fantasize about things such as what I would look like as I aged, if I’d still be reading comics, and even doing simple math in my head calculating how old I would be once I reached the specific year being imagined. Twelve year old me would be in for a surprise seeing what the me of twenty seventeen has become. Some good, some bad, all of it me, and I am still managing to perfect the style which is able to portray the best version. Often disappointed and sometimes surprised, I am able to take this all in stride while enjoying one of my first loves: music. Read More

13 essential by the ataris

It can be more than a bit embarrassing being caught singing your heart out as you lose yourself in a song by The Ataris when you are as close to 40 as I am. Although the mental venture isn’t as often as it once was I will admit that it does still happen on occasion. Read More

A Preview: Prevention Songs, Vol. 1

Knowing where your food is grown and where your clothes are made should be just as important as what fuels the passion in the music you consume.

I remember when a compilation album was my preferred way to discover new music. Many years in my youth was spent browsing record store shelves searching for the best cover among the cd’s filed under “various”.  This scavenger hunt for new music was that search for the next big thing, my new favorite band that you hadn’t heard yet, the band that sang the song your friends would be singing tomorrow. This was what defined my early days as a fan of music. It truly was an art form in both directions. A unique way to consume music and a creative way to sell it to a variety of eager ears. Fat Music, Songs From The Penalty Box, Atticus: …Dragging the Lake, Punk Bites, and various soundtracks from the 90s would conduct the effort to navigate the discoveries.  Read More

13 essential lawrence arms

Duel vocals seem so dated now (and so do my lists of essential listening).

Nevertheless he persisted. Read More

13 essential john vanderslice

I cannot take credit for becoming a John Vanderslice fan organically. That would be treasonous. The truth be told is that his music was brought to my attention during the early stages of my relationship with my wife. This was back when I thought the only music that mattered was pop punk. Read More

essential tom petty

Man, yesterday was hard! I keep typing out lines, deleting them, rewording and rewriting them only to delete it again and forget the point in which I was trying to make to begin with. Read More