Friday, December 21, 2012

When caught in the familiar trap of reminiscing, I remember thinking at one point how interesting it would be to see people grow on blogs, and to contrast the writing from youthful petulance to older wisdom. I'm not really in a position to comment - as all I do nowadays is tell you what songs I like or complain about how everything's screwed up - but it is sad that that has largely come not to be. Mostly, it's because people have moved on from blogging, into either living real life or the next internet trend. Many who continue with regularity seem to have realized the value in giving up the journal flavour, and instead going for something with more purpose. All of which are certainly indicative of changes, I suppose, but I dreamt of more: what I really imagined having access to was the change in internal dialogue that once was deemed appropriate and mildly worthwhile to document.

It's getting close to a decade of cataloguing for me, and in many respects, I detect only changes for the worse in the writing. Youthful fury at life's perils has given way to older apathy and/or defeat at the same, which you could call gaining wisdom and realizing how to pick your fights, but I'm sure the younger me would have called it failure. How many times can I...oh, so there's a change for you: there I go again with attempting to unravel the present and the past. Then again, what does any of it matter? What sense in doing otherwise when the party's over and you're sitting by yourself?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I sometimes think that if I put my mind to it, I can come off as charming. Don't tell me I may actually be right for once.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

1) American Music Club, "Blue and Grey Shirt". To be honest, I don't know whether I really like AMC. It's always the case that on reflection, I think to myself that no one component of the music itself particularly stands out. But I seem to be oddly attached to Eitzel's lyrics, because of the uniformly pessimistic worldview they espouse, without falling into an overt sense of gloom. Eitzel's style is more of a matter-of-fact analysis of the successions of defeats and disappointments that he's dealt with. That these are occasionally melodramatic is likely an objective flaw, but it goes down just fine with me. Anyhow, this early song is an example of my dilemma: it's a pretty nondescript song, really. I think it succeeds because of the unusual details, like the favourite shirt of a particular style, which make it seem like something that might've actually happened. Plus the delivery is fittingly weary, to say nothing of the resignation in accepting that all he's got left is to wait around for people that are gone. He also says he's tired of speaking for every tired thing, but I'm not sure that I believe him.

2) American Music Club, "Now You're Defeated". Apparently the first line ends with "dream", not "drink" as I am convinced it was intended. But as if that changes the message. Which is, I think, take defeat square in the face, so that you may stand up stronger. Or because it's easier.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

I've interacted peripherally with a few ancient peers of late. I can't comment on whether or not they are successful, but I will say that they seem to have at least made headway when it comes to forging a path for their own. They also seem generally content, though of course each likely has their own problems and worries. Keeping up, or comparing oneself with the neighbours is likely the road to perdition, but at the same time I think it's just embedded in our nature. In my case, I do find it strange that I should be spending my time on, let's be clear, pointless intellectual pursuits that seem to drive me further into solipsism, while providing not sufficient enjoyment to make not notice this (in no small part because I seem quite unsuited for said pursuits). At the same time, each thought of leaving sees the ground turn to quicksand. Somewhere along the line, I seem to have crossed some line through my inaction, and landed in a state where I make sure that every door back to civilization, I shut myself. I especially make sure that any reminder of the past is kept safely at bay. Best that I remain as a memory of whatever minor virtue I used to possess, instead of whatever it is I'm supposed to be now.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I suppose it isn't surprising, but I realized the other day that the internet doesn't have enough serious emotional reaction to music. You can find pithy platitudes in droves, and serious reviews too, but not much in terms of actual discussion of how something affects someone deeply. I suppose for one thing, these reactions are genuinely personal and likely private. For another, they're likely hard to translate into words. And probably no one else would find them interesting, except me. But I do wish sometimes, when I feel a rush on listening to a favourite song or artist, that there were voices out there that expressed their thrill about the same.

St. John The Gambler

Back when I swore by every word of Nick Cave's, I remember being touched by his recollection of listening to Cohen's "Avalanche" for the first time, and how that swept away everything that made him feel chained in his youth. I think I'd heard the song at that stage, but hadn't paid it as much attention as I clearly ought. With subsequent listens, it occupies a special place in my mental landscape. I think you'd call it songs bereft of hope, in a way simultaneously poetic - in the sense of not being a retelling of some personal tragedy, but aiming higher - and yet not - in the sense of conveying a genuine emptiness that can be frightening in a way that the arts scarcely are.

There aren't many other songs I'd put in this category. For example, over time, I've found that as dark as Cave's music can be, it occupies only the former and not the latter for me. (Which is not to say it's inferior. It's just different.) But I'm starting to feel that Townes Van Zandt sits next to Cohen in the two towers of song. There is something very affecting in hearing a young man admit that his sins are the only alternative he sees to picking up the razors, or just waiting for the end. I also find it interesting that, rather than embrace the cliche of living free on the road, he chose at least a couple of times to basically reveal it as a failed attempt to escape it all, most famously in "Pancho & Lefty"'s opening lines. Like most good songwriters, his work stands on its own, but when you learn about his life, it inescapably adds an extra level of seriousness. Relistening to some of his more pessimistic moments, it's as if one is watching the chronicling of a futility as it unfolds. Which makes it music not appropriate most of the time, but essential when it is.

Friday, November 02, 2012

When he admitted that he didn't know the first thing about me, I suppose it was reassuring, because I'd told him this adamantly several times now. But when I stopped to think about it, I wondered whether I shouldn't take it as cause for concern. Does it give me actual pride when people say I'm a mystery to them? I'm not sure if it's as extreme as pride, but certainly I'll admit to feeling some validation of the part of me that always keep watch on the world around, always disappointed at the apparent scarcity of people with similar mixtures of idiosyncrasies. Be that as it may, two thoughts come to mind. For one, me being a mystery is not to be confused with me being interesting to other people, and in fact, the opposite is likely closer to the truth. For another, and this deflates the bubble, I have to say that most of the time the mystery arises due to willing obfuscation on my part. I have a litany of excuses for why this has been the case of late, but one that I must reluctantly allow for is that I'm worried that if I open up, I'll find that I'm less interesting than I thought. So, locked away with the conviction that I'm some lost treasure, or embracing the possibility that I'm really no-one; didn't I solve this dilemma already?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

1) Robyn Hitchcock, "The Sleeping Knights of Jesus". The melodic rush. The whimsy. How it just takes a line to open the doors. I think to myself, there is a light that never goes out.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The early Fall moon in sight, I close my eyes and dream. Maybe one day I will no longer be able to go back. Each time I do, the bridges seem creakier, the landscape hazier. But when I catch sight of her, my eyes awake.

1) Bright Eyes, "We Are Nowhere". Back when this was released, I used to think unkindly of the band and their lead singer especially. This was based purely on the hype that surrounded his talents, in particular comparisons to the Master, which is something I still don't take very lightly. But there's nothing that time doesn't heal, I suppose, because these many years later I'm happy to report that my purely emotional reaction to the music has been positive. As with any musician you come to like, you have to learn to overlook the obvious turn-offs, like the sometimes overfelt quaver in his voice. You instead learn to tune into the undeniable lyrical strength, and the surprisingly resonant melodies, even if the latter are in no small part due to one of the Master's old friends.

2) Elliott Smith, "Needle In The Hay". Were I slightly older, I could imagine writing the same thing about this man, who is fast occupying a privileged zone wherein I feel an artist can do no wrong. I vaguely knew this was supposed to be a classic, and was bracing myself for the classic tale of initial befuddlement followed by gradual enlightenment. Turns out I just needed to hear him deliver the opening line for me to become a believer for life.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The biggest lie

Just a glimpse, from a distance, and I lose whatever grasp of time I used to think I have. Walking by myself on the way back, humming a tune to keep me company, I think that the feeling of that moment is all I need. Looking back now on such moments' scattered appearances through my life, I'm of course aware of the almost comic nature of my actions, or lack thereof. I don't doubt that I will find myself with a host of regrets that can match any spiritual compatriot, and the thought does sadden me. At the same time, part of me thinks: what does it all matter, anyway? While other paths may bring a richer, deeper experience, in my eyes at least I have seen a larger hand at play, and have received joy from it. If it were to take me from this world the second my eyes fell down, I wouldn't feel robbed of anything. When it comes to you, what hurts the most is that I must instead walk on, knowing that each time I look back, the longer it is that I will find what I am seeking.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

1) American Music Club, "Jenny". Eitzel's nihilism is sometimes melodramatic, but for the emotionally misaligned there's nearly always something to grab on to, and occasionally marvel at, lyrically. In this portrait of a husk, I find it in the consistent imploring that home (alone) is the worst place to be, ably supported by a pliant melody. Perhaps these lyrical tricks are just that, but I can't deny that they work on me.

2) Elliott Smith, "Sweet Adeline". More fleshed out musically than earlier songs, but no less astute in squeezing out emotional details from a well-delivered lyric. I like that he hints at a misery he tries his best to escape, sedated or sober, but which never seems to want to go away. I think the explosion at the end tells us which way he goes this time, but I'm skeptical he's escaped it for good.

3) The Soft Boys, "Underwater Moonlight". Hitchock seems a likeable weirdo, and this is a melodic fantasy (I suppose) tale I find myself liking on its own terms, not thinking too much about the retro vibe and all that. Evocative imagery, too.

4) Morrissey, "King Leer". If you get in my good books, I'll give you a lot of rope. At this stage, anything I haven't heard from Moz that has any distinctive edge is likely to be similarly rewarded. But partiality aside, is it just me or are the put-downs of his sweetie's goon the best?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sitting on a couch in the deadening summer light, marveling at how the wheel turns once again. I used to have one less thing to worry about. Why do I have the king Midas touch in reverse? I can't afford to think about this anymore. I am paralyzed, in a web of my making. All I wanted was to feel what I felt when I first read that Simon Singh book. I had no other business with your planet or your ways. I am sorry if I offended.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

You could call it the arrogance of youth, if you wanted to be uncharitable. The thought that anything can be conquered with a bag of memories, a melody for every occasion and a good book in hand. Challenges can break you. They can show you who you really are. I've been having fancies of starting anew and putting to rest whatever minor demons the past brought. That's funny, it sounds pretty familiar to my ears. Now what seems like hell will in time likely seem like child's play. The best acts are yet to come. That's how it stands today.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Why is it that everytime I get the urge to write something bombastic and fiery about the inadequacy of the modern world, there is a voice that urges significant restraint? You would think that after 8 years in this business, I'd know by now that there is basically no external reason for censorship. And if I am not to express things that occur to me frequently, what good is this place? So anyway, here is something I miss: the mystery of the arts. I remember a time when we didn't know what everything was, when its full backstory was not laid bare before release, when its secrets remained so for yeas, serving as fodder for all manner of fantastical imaginations and stories. I see why it may seem jejune to the believers, but each time I am reminded of its reality nowadays, I grow a little colder, and I'm not sure why. Recurrent realization of time slipping out of hand, perhaps. I'd like to think it's because a little more magic has been lost, though.

It is unfortunate that this earlier time was also my childhood, so perhaps I am conflating the two. Ah, what did those times mean? They are wispy memories now. I can hardly believe they happened to me. During my exile I feel even disconnected from my more recent naivete. This fiend I have become, sedated by the steady access to entertainment, takes empty steps each day and ends up where he started. What are we living for?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

I'm not sure that time spent away from chronicling my thoughts here is time out of mind, per se. But I have noticed that these warm-up posts are generally based on realizations that would be at the front of my mind during periods of more intense introspection. The latest instance was a moment of interaction with people whose backgrounds largely mirror my own. I was struck that there is a big difference in how well-adjusted they were, how effortlessly they conducted themselves in situations that have filled me with palpable tension for long as I can remember. It made me realize how unusual my social awkwardness really is. I suppose I've had vague ideas that this was at least partly borne from nurture, but I don't think that holds any creed anymore.

Now, not that it's any strong consolation, but it may be that there is a selection bias involved here. Perhaps it's just a miracle I've made it so far in a path that naturally encourages like-minded people to politely excuse themselves and seek another calling? (If this other calling involves listening to music by myself all day, then I'll be set.) Ah, but that's the thing: these are supposed to be the social misfits and outcasts, aren't they? What does it mean when I'm the odd one out amongst them?! Either I just haven't seen these lads in a wide enough set of social situations, or (what I'm leaning towards) this outcast theory is something that may have been true 30 years ago, but no longer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sometimes, when reading of other people's lives, and contrasting them to my paltry existence, there is a resurrected fear that whatever consolations I've tried to offer myself as to why things have turned out a certain way - that things being any other way would involve choosing to forsake some things very important to me - are simply baseless. Where that leaves me, I don't know.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The first time I saw Morrissey perform, I was reminded of the classic line from "Rubber Ring" and felt lucky that such music existed. This time, it was more "Crashing Bores" and a general disaffection with the world. Not that Moz himself didn't try - on paper, he did play many strong songs - but this time I felt like there are some things that are better when they exist only inside your own head. Seeing them interpreted by other people, instead of making me feel not alone in being alone, produced the opposite effect.

To elaborate, the one characteristic of Moz songs is that they are emotional, and the reason that I was drawn to his songs that they expressed certain facets of my thinking very directly and eloquently. This time, I realized that not everyone takes the songs as seriously as I did, and largely still do. Which is not to say that I am a better listener or fan, because heaven knows my interpretations of what things mean is as unreliable as anyone's; but having placed so much faith in these songs, seeing them treated so frivolously makes me feel somewhat foolish. Maybe that's all they were meant to be, after all? What that makes of the hours spent in their company, I can only guess.

Of course, listening to the songs again, the answer that screams back regarding their frivolity is an emphatic No. (If otherwise, Moz would have to be one of the greatest emotional frauds that lived; an interesting proposition, and a lifestyle interesting to contemplate, but not one I could fathom being true!) But I do wonder how Moz himself takes to the crowds of people cheerfully asserting their heritage from a criminally vulgar shyness, for example. Quite possibly he's learned to move on from expecting everyone to be and think like you, a state that is childishly naive at best, dangerously solipsistic at worst. Isn't that how people grow up?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

1) Grant McLennan, "Haven't I Been A Fool". I'm now a devotee of his facile melodic gift, which lends an initial familiarity to all his songs. His lyrical gift operates in both an apparent and subtle manner, I feel; he can turn a phrase when he's so inclined, but even otherwise, there's a delicate cohesion between the words and the music, to say nothing of the delivery. (Regarding the latter, I've realized that in particular I like his mild Anglophonic touches. The August moon never sounded more romantic to me.) In short, someone who seems to have intuited the secrets great songwriters possess. If this group accepts members less by the votes of the masses than by affection amongst those who care about this sort of thing, long may his reign be in the tower of song.

2) The Go-Betweens, "Quiet Heart". Does the fact that you can place the commentary above next to this one suggest that Grant was a one trick pony? Or that his consistency is something we must all bow down before?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Every time I've silently taken his casual put-downs, I've promised myself there would come a time when I would speak up and at least make him realize that words have meaning and consequence. Today, in a moment of bravery, I finally made good on this promise when one of my oft-abused arguments was presented back to me. As curtly as I could muster, I pointed out the deep hypocrisy in his logic, hoping that it would make him realize that years of offhand criticism could so easily be turned around. And what should happen but my wretched heart sorry for him at that moment. Years of quiet preparation amount, as ever, to nothing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

She strode over, wide-eyed innocent, gentle subject of gentler ribbing between perennial adolescents who meant no harm. Confronted with (as the ribbing would have it) the object of each of our affections, who did nothing more than look at us good naturedly, I dare say there was a collective sense that in every joke there is more than a sliver of truth.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

If I looked into your eyes,
I might disappear,
But what better way to end;
Wrapped in your warm ray,
My mind scorched,
My heart beating once again.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Melodic numbers with something more under the surface? Or is that just me over thinking again?

1) The Seekers, "Georgy Girl". I've always liked the sweet '60s melody, but I used to feel the lyrics were uncomfortably misguided. But five years on, they seem wiser than I remembered, and unusually empathetic. Whether this is justified, I don't know. Certainly any insight you get from this type of music is largely from personal projection, but that's more than you can say for most things. And to me that's cause to smile, a little bit.

2) Cockney Rebel, "Tumbling Down". Harley has the gift of making otherwise absurd lyrics seem like the most important words in the world. It's true that this time you can read a little bit into the final chorus, and his vocal passion is characteristically brilliant, but additionally, for mine, the melody is worthy of any early '70s peer. In a sense this is a swansong for Harley as mirror freak, but I hope this is a period that will be given its due more in the years to come.

3) Elliott Smith, "Waltz #2 (XO)". With my newfound belief in pre-internet era indie idols, I've corrected what in hindsight must seem like an embarrassing oversight. I'm not too old, and likely will never be, to appreciate a good lyric of remorse, and that's a gift Smith seems deservedly praised for. But honestly, it's that melody that keeps lingering in mind.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Having not written one of these in a while, and having thought of a theme, I thought just this once you'd pardon me if my judgement on these tunes isn't final or convincing.

1) Supertramp, "Gone Hollywood". Prindle said that he hadn't heard a song with a fade-in intro that was ever less than excellent. (Even better when said song kicks off an album. Like Sparks' "This Town", this reminds you of one of the joys of listening to an album.) There may be only a few hundred people who listen to Supertramp and find an emotional connection to the lyrics, but by God I'm now one of them. In its non-specific dissatisfaction and disappointment with a particular stretch of the land of dreams, I see a bit of myself. Plus the sax is neat.

2) Jackson Browne, "Running on Empty". This hits a spot not unlike the one tapped by other emotional favourites from the late '70s by the new Dyland crowd - Rust Never Sleeps and Darkness on the Edge of Town, in particular. Earnest and dissatisfied enough to get my vote. And if I'm being honest, more than a little of my appreciation comes from nostalgia for the first time I heard the previously mentioned albums. Which is oddly fitting: in 2001 I was 17, and all the rest.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

By default, nowadays I basically sit around expecting disappointment. You'd think being prepared would help, but it doesn't. A particular source of anguish is being walked over by people who are unanimously praised by everyone around me. This has happened so many times that it seems like character doesn't matter anymore. But since that seems like an extreme possibility, I must consider the alternative, namely that my reading of character is based on a meaningless code of conduct. This code is nothing that others seem to be aware of or care to find out, and yet it's how I thought we were supposed to be living all these years. That's great.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Moving about on desolate strips of land, as the sun beats down and the big cars roll by. Yup. Life is going nowhere.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The most picturesque spot near where I live has now twice been the scene of one of those long, serious conversations about (my) life that may sound like a good idea for a book or movie, but in reality have left me feeling gutted. This last time, it's probably because it reminds that even so many years after the first torture, things haven't brightened up, and people take notice of that. My companion this last time suggested, in the nicest possible way, that all this mental turmoil might just be ego. In the strictest sense he's right, but I feel it's off-target in spirit. What makes me feel particularly bad is the sense that the person who came here hoping to put an end to whatever uncertainty and unhappiness there was in the past life has been fundamentally let down. Not by anyone or anything in particular, and not entirely self-blamelessly, but it's unarguable that circumstances have not worked out as they should or ought. My shortcomings pried open for all the world to see, how is it that I have kept on going? I ask myself but have no answer. Sometimes it makes sense to embrace emptiness.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Nearly each person of significance in my immediate environment has shown this week a capacity to tremendously disappoint, and leave me feeling more isolated than ever. There was a time when I was confident of my judgements of people and their characters, but now I am not very sure. If I am right, and these people, who found a way into my heart, turn out to be not worth relying upon in times of need, what good does this bode? It could be that it's me who is the common problem in each situation, I grant you. But does that make the future look any better?

Monday, January 30, 2012

1) The Triffids, "Estuary Bed". I don't know how it is possible for music to induce nostalgia for times I haven't actually experienced. You could call such songs "evocative" and leave it at that, but there is something more. The narrator of the preceding "Seabirds" may have departed in despair, but the one here possibly knows more pain, by virtue of being on the wrong side of forgotten affection and having to live with that as years tick by. Forster said "Cattle and Cane" was a key progression where McLennan managed to dig up the past, and so too here. When that happens, it does not matter how tangential or disconnected your personal experience is to what is literally expressed; the heart will find a way to make a connection. Which is another way to say, this is a perfect song.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I regret not having kept a better record of my thoughts regarding the world around me, focussing instead on the one inside me. Not only because the latter gets repetitive (I like that, mind), but because I sometimes struggle to remember my feelings about, say, computing in the early days. I vaguely recall amusement about wikis, for example, and more clearly remember a growing sense of discomfort with the old system being pushed aside. It strikes me that the world has changed a lot in not a lot of time, and there hasn't been nearly enough of discussion to match. I like some of the recent manifestos on the topic, but there's nothing like reminding oneself of one's own reactions to events as they unfolded.

Yet everytime I try to engage in the topic with other people, it's met with cool, logical approval of what has happened, backed up with a pretty convincing list of reasons why that is the only sane reaction. It's when this happens that I am reminded of why I never liked writing about these things. It has rarely been facts themselves that interest me, even though they are what is needed for a calm discussion. No, I seem to cast everything into an emotional issue, in this case, as with all manner of childhood souvenirs, a lament on what has been lost. I could say more, but really, that's about all there is to it. I used to suspect, and now I know, that most people place no value on such oddities. And why should they, after all? Ah, but I cannot help it. I just cannot let go so easily. I may forget specifics, but I carry a mark. When out of the blue the memory comes back, it takes some willpower to prevent a deluge inside. It feels as though as these losses are connected in some way. Even after years of training, I'm not very far off from where I started.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

By no means are these feelings worthy of a post, if only because they are nothing new, and are likely to recur as long as I continue to live like this. Amongst people who know you, one feels the wistful reflection to the past has not always been misguided. A little bit of you lives on in people's memories, and that reciprocation seems so wonderful to a troubled mind. There is strength derived from seeing other lives, there is a stronger conviction in onesself. Not that that means one wants to put any of this to use. Much better to be immersed in this environment for longer; not use it as a remedy, but use it as reality. Because at the end of it all, how to put it better than: I really would not like to go.