Matt Brundage

Archive for 2008

Saturday, 12 July 2008

This could be you

The music world is now almost a decade removed from the pop-punk, “alternative”, and mainstream grunge of the ’90s. With that in mind, Virginia outfit No Compromise adds a healthy dose of nostalgia to both their live shows and their latest release, This Could Be You.

No Compromise is a classic rock band, in the loosest sense of the phrase. This Could Be You builds on that reputation, compressing the best of ’90s rock into seven tracks, while still managing to sound fresh. Standout track “Whatever It Takes” is full-on 1994/95-era Foo Fighters with scalpel-sharp guitar work from Jack Kwait-Blank and enough energy to tide them over for the rest of the album. Lead single “Love, Myself” is catchy and works in part because of a two-part harmony that pops up in a couple of places. Additionally, listen for it in the chorus of last year’s “Seams So Seamless”. It sounds appealing, but is vastly underutilized.

No Compromise at the State Theatre on July 11, 2008 Their overall sound is pleasing. Think of a downtuned, grungier Jimmy Eat World without Auto-Tune, circa 2000. Altogether radio-friendly, the band takes another step forward, production-wise, with keyboards on “Rain Over Washington” and “The Only One Left” and subtle vocal effects (and perhaps double-tracking?) on the plodding “Cybernoia”. In the right hands, the track “Restless” could have hypothetically devolved into an all-out hardcore grungefest the likes of which Korn has never heard. If NoCo gets picked up by a label, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Restless” gets a makeover.

No Compromise played the State Theatre in Falls Church, VA last night and the relatively high quality of the venue’s PA system really “opened up” NoCo’s sound, as if a layer of dust had been squeegeed off. The trio fit in quite nicely alongside unsigned group Redshift and established local band The Blackjacks. Again, Jack Kwait-Blank’s versatile guitar work anchored the performance — at times channeling Billy Corgan, at other times even Dave Grohl or Al Pitrelli — sometimes all within the same song. William Bowen pounded the drums with a style that, for some reason, reminded me of Slowhand. The sticks appeared to be hitting the skins just in the nick of time. Thrilling to watch, to say the least. Bassist and lead singer Justin Fry was energetic and employed fuzz effects at times, essentially playing rhythm during Kwait-Blank’s solos. Or perhaps it was just my imagination.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Fleet Foxes at the Black Cat

Fleet Foxes at the Black Cat, July 7, 2008 The hype surrounding Seattle new-comers Fleet Foxes is altogether warranted. After receiving excellent reviews for their self-titled debut album (released June 3), they suddenly became the band to see.

Their performance last night at the Black Cat did not disappoint, although the band was not in full form. Lead vocalist and songwriter Robin Pecknold excused his singing with tales of a cold that has lasted for weeks; he even claimed that those in attendance were being “half-conned” out of their money. To the contrary, his vocals were more or less spot-on, save for a time or two when I could detect some cracking. I was hoping that it would hold up during the a capella numbers, and thankfully, it did. I recall thinking that, “presently, I’ve forgotten what all other voices sound like, and frankly, I don’t care.” They have that good of a blend — Robin’s voice in particular. Their harmonies are tight, high, and wispy, with no apparent bass sound. At times, it sounded as if Pecknold were singing two or three parts simultaneously.

The set started off quiet and subdued. The sold-out crowd became hushed, and no one dared flash their camera. For a while, the audience failed to clap between songs — I’m guessing that we were just awestruck. It’s as if we were about to applaud in church after a particularly eloquent Latin chorale piece. It not something that one does without serious contemplation. Eventually, the mood lightened a bit and the audience was as enthusiastic as ever.

Come down from the mountain; you have been gone too long
The spring is upon us; follow my only song
Settle down with me by the fire of my young love…

The only sour note was the exclusion of quite possibly their most accomplished piece, “Ragged Wood”, a song that evokes a “woodsy” sound — a style recently employed by My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, and Midlake, among others. I kept waiting for it, but it never came (contrary to what NPR claims). At the encore, I had one last glimmer of hope, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

As some may know, Josh Tillman is now Fleet Foxes’ drummer, having joined the group in early 2008. I knew Josh back when we were in our teens. We attended the same high school for a few years; he was a grade below me. I told him after the show that I had never set out to find him or his music — his music simply found me over the normal course of events. I started listening to his solo albums and EPs a few years ago; I have a feeling that I’d still be a fan even if we had never had that personal connection back in high school. Seeing him drum for Fleet Foxes was almost surreal, and he has a fine voice as well. I have a feeling that even better things are in store for him and his band.

NPR has a write-up and streaming audio of the show.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Our political environments

Lately, I’ve been wondering to what extent my political worldview was influenced by my parents and my environment when I was a child. Are my beliefs truly my own? Or am I simply regurgitating what I happened to soak in during my formative years? The same set of questions can be asked of anyone with political opinions: is what you believe truly “original”?

I see three possible outcomes, with the first two being the most likely:

  • Opinions are formed by childhood indoctrination — the environment — with little or no resistance by the subject
  • Opinions come as a direct result of rebellion (typically in the teen years). The subject ends up having opinions at odds with those of his environment.
  • The subject forms opinions objectively — with scant indoctrination during the formative years. In this case, the subject’s environment has little or no effect on the subject’s worldview, either positively or negatively.

Rarely is the third outcome given as a explanation of why someone has certain political beliefs. If his environment propagated similar worldviews, then it is likewise credited. But if his environment had dissimilar worldviews, then the subject must have rebelled.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Food and the general state of things

weight Just when I thought it was safe to eat healthy again, Annie goes to the store and brings back two large containers of ice cream, at least two packages of Pepperidge Farm cookies, a dozen doughnuts, tea cookies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies (with sprinkles), spicy hot potato chips, Boboli pizza dough, two four-packs of Starbucks Frappuccinos, and Lord knows what else. Add to that my new affinity toward Dagoba dark chocolate and Jif peanut butter — and Annie’s propensity toward putting those bite-size chocolate morsels and Reese’s peanut butter cups in little bowls in the living room — it’s a wonder that my body hasn’t completely gone to seed.

On the bright side, at long last my weight now starts with a “1” instead of a “2” (well, at least for this week), so I must be doing something right. Let’s see how long it lasts. Here’s another meaningless graphic for those of you who enjoy such things…

Friday, 13 June 2008

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Additionally, readers should possess a strong command of the English language and should have the ability to detect such subtleties as irony, parody, and attempts at wry humor. Reading this post while under extreme mental anguish or substantial physical pain is not recommended.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

My City Was Gone

Medium Image The Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone“, known as the bumper music with the killer bass line on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, has typically been viewed as a protest song: focused on then-president Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. Between the lines, Pretenders’ singer Chrissie Hynde argues that Reagan’s policies (the “government”) contributed to the mall culture in middle America — whereby bedroom communities and open spaces are replaced with big box stores, fast food joints, off-ramps, and strip malls. While there is some validity in protesting against the homogenization of American culture, Hynde’s anger may have been misdirected. Let’s examine if Reagan could have contributed to the injustices that Hynde rails against:

The Budget process of the United States government states that the president shall submit a budget proposal to congress, who will then approve and/or modify the proposal. Reagan’s first budget request was for fiscal year 1982, which started on October 1, 1981.

Since “My City Was Gone” first appeared on wax in October 1982, Hynde only had a small window by which to pen the supposedly anti-Reagan lyrics. Reagan didn’t even take office until January 1981, and his budget wasn’t effective until October of that year. I seriously question the influence that Reagan (and the gridlocked 97th congress) had on new construction contracts in Akron, Ohio between October 1981 and the day that Hynde wrote “My City Was Gone”. For the sake of argument, let’s say spring 1982, although it could have been much earlier. Various sources indicate that the song was written before the death of The Pretenders’ guitarist James Honeyman-Scott which occurred in June of 1982.

In reality, Hynde is lamenting that her Ohio isn’t the Ohio she knew when she was younger. In a perfect world, there should have been a moratorium on all real estate development in Akron, Ohio in 1973 — the year Hynde left for London. It’s becoming apparent that Hynde is railing not only against development and change, but against capitalism and the market economy itself.

Monday, 2 June 2008

A Certain Confluence of Situations

A certain confluence of situations has devolved this blog into a near-ghost town. Admittedly, posts of late have been less than superb. About the only bright spots are write-ups (that I didn’t write) and photos (some of which I didn’t take) of our rabbit, Sniff. There’s been some unintentionally funny images and musings that only a mother could write.

Apart from that, posts have been sort of boring. I just don’t have the flair that I once did. I’ve gotten the mindset of not blogging about specific topics because they’ve been done in bigger and better fashion by others. To compound matters, I don’t find my life particularly interesting. Deeply fulfilling, yes — but hardly interesting.

Some authors of topical blogs feel restricted in that they don’t have any leeway in what they can blog about. They blog about one topic, and write well. I have the opposite problem — my site has no true focus, so my posts swing wildly from religious and political musings and random humor to geeky stuff to what I happened to do last weekend. Because I have the freedom to post in any conceivable topic, I post infrequently, and with poor results. I’ve had better luck with Facebook’s status updates, a feature I adore because it enables me to post witty one-liners without all the rigmarole of creating a full-fledged blog post.

My resolution for the summer is to assign myself topics to blog about. I may even ask people to demand that I write a blog post about a specific topic — however obscure or esoteric. Whatever it takes to get out of these doldrums.

Friday, 16 May 2008

An open letter to Trader Joe’s regarding their Chocolate Nonfat Yogurt

Trader Joe's chocolate yogurt I have a comment about the design of the yogurt container. There is no mention that the yogurt must be stirred. I ate about 3/4 of a yogurt before I realized that there was a huge dollop of chocolate at the bottom. Before I discovered the chocolate, I was thinking, “, what a bland yogurt!” Perhaps I was just having an off-day.

My suggestion would be to replace the text on the front (“With Imported Cocoa”) with “Chocolate on the bottom”, “Please stir”, or something to that effect.

Furthermore, calling it “imported cocoa” isn’t necessary, as the US doesn’t even grow the cocoa bean. The phrase borders on deception, as some consumers do not know this and assume that “imported” cocoa is a luxury.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Sera Cahoone and Sea Wolf

Small Image Sera Cahoone is an interesting little-known “country” vocalist from the west coast. I first heard her on KEXP (Seattle) and purchased her first self-released album almost immediately thereafter. Her voice isn’t particularly commanding or strong, but it’s very pure and has a certain charm to it. Her band plays down-tempo classic-influenced country with just the right amount of pedal steel guitar and banjo.

Small Image Sea Wolf is a newish band — actually a pseudonym for Alex Brown Church, an indie-pop singer/songwriter from LA. I actually just purchased his debut EP (Get to the River Before it Runs Too Low, 2007) a month or so ago; it was only a matter of time before the full-length album came my way. I think what initially drew me to Sea Wolf was the way his songs sounded like sped-up dirges. Church also double- or triple-tracked his vocals on the songs — altogether pleasing to the ears. Further adding to his appeal are at least two songs on the album that specifically mention gypsies!

Monday, 31 March 2008

More and more each day

my love for Annie I’ve told Annie that I love her more with each passing day. While on the surface, that may sound mushy and trite, but there’s actually some truth behind the statement. But the question remains: is this increase in love quantifiable? Would a graphical representation be adequate in estimating the inestimable?

The formula I use is simple: L+((1-L)/D) where L = love and D = divisor. Rules: The initial value for love must be a number between 0 and 1. The divisor must be a number greater than 1. The greater the divisor, the slower the rate of increase in love. For this exercise, the number is totally arbitrary. Actually the number I chose for love is totally arbitrary, too.

The formula calculates the estimated increase in love for each year — not unlike the increasing amount of principal that many of us see on our monthly mortgage statements. One crucial difference is that my calculations are, fortunately, not at all dependent upon the workings of the Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve. At the current rate of increase, I’m projected to peak sometime in the year 2056.