Tuesday, November 18, 2014

FANTASY COMEBACKS

Nothing can be as it was, which is why nostalgia is so palpable and potent. There's something impossibly unique about events in the past but we still try too hard to replicate how we felt, or rather how it made us feel.

Our attempt to recreate magic is definitely a huge motivational factor in pop culture. This explains Hollywood's fixation on sequels, or our ever-present reboot efforts. The music industry, too, is guilty of this strategy but it's not as blatant. Take Weezer's recent re-teaming with producer Ric Ocasek--this was bandleader River Cuomo's effort to placate the old school fans.

This morning, I got wondering about comebacks, recreating the magic that once was, but still finding room to innovate and progress. In my mind, I paired up some of my favorite musicians with producers who could probably inspire greatness after years of inconsistency. It's a geeky mental exercise, granted, but I'll share my results regardless.

Peter Gabriel produced by Nigel Godrich
Imagine pairing up one of the most soulful and artful songwriters of the last few decades, and a producer known for engendering celestial beauty.  Gabriel's work has been weirdly spotty full of non-committal electro-misfires ever since he released 1992's US. A producer like Godrich could pull Gabriel back into the zone of evocative warmth and potentially encourage him to try incorporating more woundedness into his quirkiness.

Beck produced by Ariel Rechtshaid
Beck hasn't been much fun since, say, Midnite Vultures. Sure, there was The Information and Guerro, but both albums sounded less like where it's at, and more like where it's been. Retreads of Beck's presumed idea outtakes. Nothing special, nothing offensive.
But a few sessions with do-no-wrong'r Ariel Rechtshaid could result in wondrous funtimes. Look what Rechtshaid did for Haim and Vampire Weekend--he made them both sound sophisticated and accessible, but also limber and bold. Sure, he's played the trendy producer card before with Danger Mouse on Modern Guilt, Brian Burton doesn't necessarily produce--he makes a Danger Mouse record which features the same guest vocalist on all songs. Rechtshaid is more reverent. He has a signature (wet, shiny, smooth) but doesn't impose too much of himself. Make this pairing happen.

David Bowie produced by James Murphy
This one is a no-brainer--nearly a year back, Murphy produced Bowie's best song in two decades. "Love Is Lost" was a one-off, but was also a fair indicator of how magical this collaboration could be.  Besides anything Bowie has done of very recent has been both weird and depressing. I know he's getting old and he's feeling introspective, but seriously..."Sue?"  That track is a mess.
Bowie needs to go out with a bang, a real party reminiscent of "Let's Dance" and "Dream Genie." And the only person who could bring that out of him is definitely Murph.

U2 produced by Rick Rubin
The last U2 album is flaccid and limp. This is because Bono and crew worked with the young'uns, and the young'uns like Paul Epworth, Danger Mouse (guilty again) and Ryan Tedder are all too reverent to tell this legendary band what to do. Instead they probably patronized bad decisions and sat outside the recording booth giving the thumb's up when the only exposed digit should have been a very strong thumb's down.
Rubin and U2 have worked together beforehand during the recording session of 2008's No Line On The Horizon. None of those tracks have made to the light of day. Yet if the band is sincere and true about its desire to sound like it did back in the day, only one man can accomplish that. It's the proverbial time traveler Rick Rubin. Set those old tracks free so we can properly gauge whether this union was meant to be.

Lady Gaga produced by Roy Thomas Baker w/ Jack Antonoff
Gaga needs help. If she's going to come back and be reclaim her throne as the reigning queen of P-O-P, she better bring it. Which is why I give you Roy Thomas Baker, the man responsible for the first half of Queen's catalog, the Cars, and the Darkness should be able to GLAM IT UP THE ARSE. But admittedly, Baker is old and potentially out of touch which is why I'm suggesting that maybe we have Antonoff on deck for support and rejuvenation. Antonoff is a great songwriter and supplier of hooks. He can also bring heart to a project and perhaps with all of Gaga's thick shtick, she's in some need of sincerity. It's a bizarre team up, but it could result in capital "f" fun.

Any suggestions of your own?




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ON THE SPECTRUM


The thing about moving to a new community is that you start thinking about friends. Old ones, new ones. Close ones, the ones you thought you were close to, the friends who stick with you irregard of location. There are the friends who disappear completely, and there are friends who will always feel close no matter how long the gap between catch-up sessions. 

I have spent many contemplative hours on the notion of friendship. What it means. Questioning whether its real, or if it's simply a brand name given to people of convenience. And in truth, I vacillate between the two alternatives. There are times when I feel extremely fortunate for having so many friends, but then there are time when I wonder whether I'm deluding myself. I'll sometimes wonder, what are my friends thinking? What do they say about me when I'm not around?

The other day, Jerry Seinfeld conducted an interview in which he revealed that he believes himself to be somewhere on the autism spectrum because "basic social engagement is really a struggle." There was somewhat of a backlash coming from the the autism advocacy community, but while they say controversial appropriation, it comforted me to hear this from someone so successful. 

While basic social engagement has never truly been a struggle for me, I do suffer from a deep-rooted and well hidden insecurity which makes me question just about every relationship I have ever had. It's an exhausting especially when it happens in real time, during those very moments of engagement. My hyper-analytical mind is not only devoting resources to the conversation in progress, but it is also wondering over the organic nature and potency of the connection.

Being in a new place, in new surroundings, will truly fray the nerves of this already fragile structure, throwing this dizzying centrifuge of self-doubt into a chaotic vortex. I would be lying if I did not admit that it's a weird time akin to the way you felt when you were a high school freshman, and I decided that as awkward as it is to articulate this vulnerability, I would still do so in an effort to understand it better. And perhaps even conquer it.  


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

WHO'S YOUR TERRORIST DADDY?


CARRIE MATHISON: Hi, you're my daughter. Unusually, I don't know your name because we rarely use it on the television show Homeland.

DAUGHTER: How is it possible that you don't know my name when I'm already fifteen years old?

CARRIE: Look, I don't write the show. All I know is that you're the daughter I had with a guy you don't know who he is yet, and that you brood a lot. Because on this TV show Homeland--that you and I are both on--teens tend to brood. A lot. 

DAUGHTER: Cool [sarcastically]. So great that I don't have a name. You're a great mom. [Broods]

CARRIE: I wanted to have this talk with you...

DAUGHTER: The first conversation we've had in like, a million years?

CARRIE: OH MY GOSH. Whatever do you want from me? You think it's easy taking out terrorists all the time AND raise a daughter? What is this? A sitcom? By day, she battles Al Qaeda. At night, she battles diapers. Actually [takes out tape recorder] note to self: pitch mom/ CIA sitcom. 

DAUGHTER: Mom, be real. For like once. 

CARRIE: Anyway, here's the scoop. I want to tell you who your dad was. 

DAUGHTER: Oh, cool. Like, tell me. [Broods]

CARRIE: This may sound crazy because it is, but your dad was a US soldier who was captured by Islamic fundamentalists and turned into a terrorist but then became a US double agent who was then killed by the Islamic fundamentalists.

DAUGHTER: Wait....WHAT?

CARRIE: Yeah, and here's the crazy part. I kept you. Despite the fact that I am unstable and make terrible decisions and am incredibly unfit as a mother. But I guess that makes this more interesting...? Like plot-wise?

DAUGHTER: W. T. F. Moooooom, this is like my life? You had a baby with a whatever terrorist and I'm it. That's like, bananas. 

CARRIE: Yeah. That's kind of it. Oh, and whatever you do, don't Google search him. It's ultra depressing. There's this video of him being hanged and it's a major bummer. Hey, are we done here? I feel like I've told you enough. 

DAUGHTER: Ugh, I can't believe my dad was a terrorist. That's like a huge deal. 

CARRIE: Yeah, but like I said, it moves the plot along. Now, I'm bored. Is this the part when you go back to your room and slam the door and brood some more? I've got to make questionable decisions concerning the security of United States which, no matter how many I've made, I still have a job. 

DAUGHTER: And I still don't have a name. Can we resolve that?

CARRIE: [snaps fingers] Oh. Wait a second. I think it's Frannie.

DAUGHTER: "FRANNIE?" I waited fifteen years to find out I'm a "Frannie?" Are you on crack? I go to school tomorrow and tell my friends not only was my dead a convicted terrorist/ double agent, but I'm also a Frannie? 

CARRIE: Just wait until you find out that in the second episode of season four I considered drowning you in a bathtub.

DAUGHTER: Oh jeez. You're the worst. 


Monday, October 06, 2014

"Hey, did someone just fart during my jam?"

Yesterday, I heard a Dave Matthews song on the radio. It was a live version of "Ants Marching." The strange thing is that I did not turn the dial. I let the song play out until the end.

Now I do not have a background in jam. I can neither stand the Dead, or any act associated with it, nor will I tolerate Phish for a patchouli soaked microsecond. If there's a banjo involved, you can probably count me out. This goes quadruple for unironic saxophone. But for some strange reason, I have a weird and inexplicable tolerance for DMB. This confuses me, and so I thought that I would try to figure this out. 

This is not to say that I would qualify myself as a "fan." I don't know the deep cuts, and am more of a greatest hits tourist, but I would be lying if I did not admit to loving "Two Step" at one point, finding vulnerable sweetness in "Crash Into Me" and even qualifying "The Space Between" as poignant. Despite the fact that Matthews' voice occasionally sounds like an Adam Sandler parody character, I like the guy. Is it because he just looks so laid back with his perpetually opened two top buttons and his rolled up sleeves, like he's a co-worker who's really determined to meet client expectations? Or is that goofy smirk like he's about to pull a prank on you, and it's George Clooney-worthy? These two aspects certainly add to his appeal, but I'm not hanging out with the guy any time soon, so it has to be more than that. 

I think the appeal lies in the fact that I admire the casual nature of the songs, like they're not belabored over to the point of obsessiveness. I bet most of the recorded takes are first cuts. I bet Dave says "yeah, that works" a lot followed by his signature giggle. There's an unpretentiousness in Matthews' songwriting like he's--I wouldn't qualify it as "jamming" necessarily--having actual fun. It's loose, frayed, and limber. 

But there's also an underdog nature to the DMB oeuvre, like I can imagine the guys in Radiohead making fun of them. Like I imagine Thom being offended by Dave and his troop of uncool dudes even sharing the bill with him on a festival line-up. But whatever, Dave says. I get it, man. You make art. I make music people want to smoke weed to and maybe if they're up for it, they'll run outside and get a bag of Doritos. I personally would never choose to actively listen to this kind of music, but if I heard it on the radio, nostalgia along with my inability to resist the laid backed nature of DMB would probably render me helpless to changing the station. 



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

BUILD A ROCKET


After I became a dad, my hearing changed. Rather, I should say my listening changed. I wanted less noise, less aggression, and less demand. This isn't to say I'm totally against feedback or angst--it's just that sappiness resonates with me more than it ever has.

I've always sensed a resistance to that change, as if becoming more empathetic made you weaker or uncool. And I would be lying if I said I didn't judge the safe choices of fathers from the distance of childlessness, but I now see the mistake in that.

My shift in cultural taste is simply a shifting of priorities. I'm looking to invest more time into the things that inspire me to connect with other people, as opposed to spending time on those things inspired by alienation and confusion. One of my favorite songs since Steven was born has been Elbow's "Lippy Kids" (this is the live version posted above), and at times, at the right moment, it's really moved me in a profound way. It's stark in its beauty, humble in its heroism, and mountainous in its motivation. It's the sort of song I want Steven listening to and feeling inspired by, as if he could in fact "build a rocket" and fly anywhere in it. It's the sort of song that makes me want to hug someone.

The self-aware me knows the eye rolling these sentiments inspire, but the self-aware me also reminds me of the childless me. The concentrated comfort of having a child and starting a family is that there's much less need to impress others, and more of a want to embrace what feels most comfortable. Detractors would call that "settling" but settling can also be about resolve and reconciliation. And I've reconciled with myself to not be so cool. At least as far as my listening goes. Everything else though...? Still pretty cool.

Friday, January 06, 2012

OFF THE RECORD

This is rapper Azealia Banks with her hype-man sidekick Lamb Chopz.

A few months back, I met with the supremely talented but then virtually unknown rapper Azealia Banks. I conducted an interview with her in her Hudson Hotel room which ended, forty-five minutes in, somewhat awkwardly and abruptly. So I asked for a follow-up. I got that follow up as requested but that too ended awkwardly and abruptly, so we promised one another to continue the interview via email. I sent my questions to Banks, but whatever the reasoning was, never received the answers.

And now in 2012, her fame is bursting like a July 4th firecracker (loudly). The story I wrote has been making the rounds on the web these days because of some "controversial" things Azealia said. And despite the unpleasantness associated with the assignment, it turned out to be one of the most interesting, and more insightful interview I've ever been a part of. It's taken me over a decade to truly understand and appreciate the insight, but a few years back, I read in a Chuck Klosterman interview that too many journalists try to be friends with their subjects, he griped. It may not be intentional or conscious, but the atmosphere between the two tends to remain staid and polite when there is too much caution. But thanks to Azealia, I realized that there's more to be gained from a conversation when it's nothing personal.

In many of her recent interviews since then, she's complained about nosey or prying journalists. I'm not sure if she's talking about me or not, but I kind of hope she is.

- Azealia Banks website


Thursday, January 05, 2012

GROAN
"My name is Kanye, and I do not have an office job."

The first week back from vacation is always a very difficult transition. One would think that after being away from a job for so long you would be refreshed and revived. One would be completely wrong.

The thing about freedom, about not having meetings, and about being home is that this is when you feel most human. Like you have control over your own actions. Like you have the capacity to make decisions. Paradoxically, as a cog in the machine, you are stripped of all that. Corporate America, and all jobs, for that matter, is about the resignation of your ego and free will. This isn't a bad thing or a good thing. Nor is it profound. It just is.

And yet, we subject ourselves to this. We all have goals and aspirations, specifically this time of year, and how disappointed are we in ourselves when we can't quite fulfill or meet those expectations. Ask me about the promise I made to myself on January 1st to write two pages a day on my book. Go ahead. Ask me.

Better yet, don't. But I've been spending the better part of the past four days trying to figure out my inability to find the self-control. And it's not like the other things I'm doing to distract myself from this project are worthwhile. Do you think I needed to watch two episodes of the Big Bang Theory? Did I really need to go to sleep last night at 10:15? Why am I compulsively checking blogs about shoes? One answer is the fear of failure. Complete my project and it's bad and then what. I've wasted all that time.
Another reason is that I'm having a hard time finding passion in just about anything I do. I'm the Tin Man with a bit of the Cowardly Lion (sure, give me pigtails and I'll be Dorothy, too). I've been conditioned to lose heart after years and years of being at the bottom of a hierarchy. When your opinion is just the ground floor of a skyscraper, maybe you're acclimated to the temperature of the lobby?

Whatever it ultimately is--this self-imposed creative paralysis--it's my hope in 2012 to find it. This past weekend, I read about the Christopher Paolini the writer of Eragon and how he wrote his first book in 2003 when he was 18, and he's written four books since then which have all gone on to sell 25 million copies total. I wish I had his discipline.
He also has a sword. I wish I had his sword.



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MORE FREE THAN LANCE, PART II


Freelancers can't afford a cleaning lady.

Just the other week -- to bring you back to the present day -- I had two interesting freelance experiences. The first one, an outlet that I had contributed with frequent regularity, reconnected with me after an internal staff restructuring caused us to lose touch. Being that most of my words, if not all of them, appear on the web, the prospect of writing for a print magazine again excited me. It's strange, right? Years ago, you could walk into any newsstand and you would inevitably find one or two magazines at any given time with my name printed in it. Usually it would be spelled incorrectly.
Now, with Heeb focusing exclusively on our website, and DIW's phoenix-like resurrection into self-titled magazine, contributing to a print magazine is an old folk's coveted opportunity. Only the select few get to do it, and those poor bastards have to hustle and contribute to multiple outlets in an effort to scrounge a decent salary together. That being said, if they were still paying, there's a chance I would love it. There's something so non-blogger about print. But alas, the aforementioned magazine, like all of them, really, wants me to pitch them and them write for free.

The story with the second outlet is exponentially more frustrating. This is a casual friend who is also an editor. We have talked multiple times over the last half-year about me contributing to her outlet and judging by her enthusiastic response, this is really something she would like to see happen. Yet every time I respond, there is a ghost town-like disappearance. I'll hear back weeks later and then I'll write back. And again, another disappearance. This is the norm. Maybe she's been kidnapped. Probably not.

Now, idealistic writer, why would you want to do this to yourself? If you had asked me today whether you should be a freelance writer, I would tell you, sure. Just make sure you have a great full time job. After years and years of service, I've finally allowed for my disenchantment to take over. Yeah, writing is amazing. But it will never be your best friend.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

MORE FREE THAN LANCE



This morning, I read a truly heartbreaking article on The Awl titled Seven Years as a Freelance Writer. Richard Morgan, an impressively motivated former freelancer, spent seven years in New York pitching stories to editors and magazines and tried to make a living by doing something he loved. His story would have motivated me had I still been an idealistic and eager recent Journalism grad, but instead it brought back a ton of memories for me from my life as a freelancer, mostly bad ones.

But first, my experience as a freelancer is one of the motivating factors behind my decision to go back into advertising. After September 11th, when the ad industry first felt both uncertain and unnecessary--who was buying anything then? The world was coming to an end--I decided to give the freelance world a serious chance. Besides, this was right before the blogosphere practically consumed the newsstand to only then regurgitate it back onto the Internet--People were reading magazines still.

The first outlet I pitched to was Time Out New York. I had a connection through a connection and boldly emailed Elizabeth Vincentelli, the Arts and Entertainment Editor at the time, with some pitches and some sample reviews that I had written for a few indie zines. She wrote back telling me that my reviews read more like press releases. Her response was critical, nonconstructive, and ultimately, discouraging.
Six years later, a story I wrote was included in DeCapo's Best Music Writing compilation alongside one of Vincentelli's. In fact, one night at a DeCapo reading event at the Housing Works, she read an excerpt from her piece right after I had. I didn't introduce myself that night.

[To be continued]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

MOVING



If you're coming to this site still, well then I thank you for keeping up with me. No excuses for the lack of creativity because--GUESS WHAT--we're still being creative.

1. Yes, BRING BACK SINCERITY will still exist just as it has since February 2003 (before blogs became all the rage) but with less frequency. This site will exist for long form opinions. However, I am posting with more regularity at BBS II: THE BRINGING BACK CONTINUES.
That is my new Tumblr blog which is fancier looking and way easier to use than the ole' Blogger format. So once again, come visit me all the time at BBS II. I am there.

2. This is a link for my latest mix, MIX FOR FRIENDS X: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO BO DEREK.
It's getting rave reviews from the people with ears.
This is the tracklisting:

1. “Teenage Whore” by Dinosaur Feathers, 2. “Cranberry” by the Ruby Suns, 3. “C.L.U.B.” by MNDR, 4. “Rollerskate” by Matias Aguayo, 5. “Excuses” by the Morning Benders, 6. “Harmony To My Heartbeat” by Sally Seltmann, 7. “You’d Be Surprised” by Bobby Birdman, 8. “When I’m With You” by Best Coast, 9. “Albatross” by Besnard Lakes, 10. “Evil Son” by the Rumour Said Fire, 11. “Hurtful” by Erik Hassle, 12. “Dance The Way I Feel” by Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, 13. “Terminally Chill” by Neon Indian, 14. “Stylo” by Gorillaz, 15. “I Can Make The Pain Disappear” by Fear of Tigers, 16. “Rocket” by Goldfrapp, 17. “Caeser” by I Blame Coco (featuring Robyn), 18. “Something I’m Not” by Penguin Prison, 19. “Giving Up The Gun” by Vampire Weekend, 20. “Daisy” by Fang Island.

Okay, that is all for the time being. But like I said, come see me and BBS II and tell them Arye sent you.

What?

Yes, that's me.

What?

Uh huh. I'm over there, too.

It was a joke.