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The Carrboro stop of the “Classic Lineup Reunion Tour” did not disappoint me. Going into it, I knew that 80% of what GbV would play at Cat’s Cradle a couple of weeks ago were songs from Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. Provided that Mr. Pollard was sober and coherent for the show, how could I have been disappointed?

The two aforementioned albums were recorded about the time I was finishing high school and leaving Burke County once and for all, so you can imagine how much the band and its fans have aged. I’d guess that the average show-goer was around 35. But, when Bob did the Roger-Daltrey-style kick, he still could get his foot up around eye-level, and there were several fans who were partying and throwing stuff like it was 1995 (don’t worry…I kept a safe distance from them).


Highlights of the 30-some song, 3-encore set included Quality of Armor, My Valuable Hunting Knife, Shocker in Gloomtown, and Don’t Stop Now. Bob and the boys were energetic and their sound was tight. I’m glad to have had a last opportunity to see one of my favorite acts of all time.


Every summer, I compile my favorite tracks of the year so far and force the compilation on the people I know will give them a listen or two. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they miss. I don’t know the adoption rate, or catchiness quotient, or conversion statistics for the stuff I share with friends and family, but I do know that I like the idea of collecting, sorting, and imposing subjective evaluation on new music.

For me, I can attest as of August 20 that this is the year that the album was resurrected. I’ve purchased 18 complete new albums this year so far, and if you break down those acquisitions into individual tracks, I’ve picked up and broken in about the same number of song downloads here and there, thanks mostly to Peel and the blogs that provide the mp3s. By the way, if you have a Mac and love music, Peel is the best $15 you will ever spend on anything in your life (I don’t care if the code is three years old).

Here’s a rundown of what stands out to me so far in 2010. You might notice that hip-hop, R&B, and electronic are missing, and conspicuously so, but it’s only because the new recordings I love from those genres don’t have standout tracks. I can justify those omissions; I limited this list to 18 songs, and like I said before, the album has made a comeback this year in my estimation.

Note: An asterisk in the list below denotes one of my daughter’s favorite dance tracks.

I Was Thinking… — Gauntlet Hair
Heart to Tell* — The Love Language
Odessa* — Caribou
The Suburbs — Arcade Fire
Mouthful of Diamonds* — Phantogram
Marathon — Tennis
O.N.E.* — Yeasayer
Round And Round — Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Albatross — Besnard Lakes
Promises — The Morning Benders
Empire Ants* — Gorillaz
Lucidity — Tame Impala
Gold Skull — Miniature Tigers
Walk in the Park — Beach House
Shadow People — Dr. Dog
Bloodbuzz Ohio — The National
That’s Some Dream — Good Old War
Sinister Kid — The Black Keys

The most popular of the tracks listed above contains a close-to-home-hitting verse:

So can you understand
Why I want a daughter while I’m still young?
I want to hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before all this damage is done…

Updated: I added several good pictures, including the Witkin family of Winston-Salem, horses, and a modified garden wagon.

I don’t have time right now to go into details about our weekend in Boone.  Of course, Jackie’s time with her grandparents on Blue Knob is always post-worthy, and our most recent visit included feeding horses and the Cadillac of kids’ wagons (or maybe Humvee of kids’ wagons) — she rode in comfort and rugged style down the winding gravel road. Maybe after we return from holiday I’ll sort out the many videos and pictures from last weekend.

Our fun wasn’t limited to Watauga County. We also had a good time at a party thrown for the upcoming Halsey/Busick union. In fact, I would bet the ranch that no one at the party had a better time than Jackie.

Here she is running happily amok, as the band played on:

Updated: the following pics were added on July 13.

The JACKIE-LAC; a rugged, yet stylish mode of Blue Knob transportation

Cheers! (pronounced "Che-ouh-was")

Eustace's horses

Post-bubble blowing

Michael, Jackie, and Spencer enjoy story time

Sharon, arms full

Annie Dillard wrote, “The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out.” Well, when the sea spoke to Jackie this past weekend, she talked back to it.

The three of us really enjoyed our first nuclear family vacation (and only nuclear family vacation for just the three of us, considering that McLain arrives in September). We spent four days and three nights in Nags Head over the Memorial Day weekend. Our home base was within walking proximity to a public beach access, a grocery store, an ice cream shop, and Sam & Omie’s — we had everything we wanted adjacent to our modest motel suite. Katie deserves all the credit for coming up with the idea and putting it all together.

Jackie loved the beach with the exception of that huge body of bothersome salt water; it must have seemed so unpredictable to her, the way it continually advanced and retreated. Whenever the tide came within ten feet or so, she scolded it, shouting, “NO wa-wa.” In her defense, the water was pretty chilly.

Jackie is a little beyond 17 months old, and it’s hard for me to imagine a child being more fun at any other age. Here’s some holiday video.

Note: The music snippets used in the video are from songs by Shabazz Palaces, Toro Y Moi, and Gauntlet Hair.

A couple of years ago, pregnant Katie and I went to see R.E.M., Modest Mouse, and The National at Walnut Creek (or whatever corporate name it has now); Jackie’s first prenatal concert experience showcased some of the best (R.E.M.), most innovative and raw (Modest Mouse), and worthwhile contemporary (The National) alt-rock.

A couple of weeks ago, pregnant Katie and I went to see My Morning Jacket with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary; McLain’s first prenatal concert featured the pre-eminent live experience of Jim James and company, preceded by the mostly-Dixieland style of a New Orleans jazz institution.

Pooch displays the set list from the Cary show

The show was also one of the biggest conventions of Triangle friends and family I’ve seen in years. My brother and his wife, Katie’s sister and her husband, as well as five college friends and other acquaintances. We really appreciate the baby sitting services of the Grandparents Jones.

Katie and Mindy

I’ve been waiting about six years to see MMJ, so my expectations were probably a bit inflated. As Katie and I walked to the car after the show, she asked me how I would grade it. I told her that I gave it a B for two reasons. First, the town of Cary has a noise ordinance that limits the volume (and therefore, limits the fun); there were four or five times when I was consciously irked that there wasn’t more output resulting from the band’s hard work. Second, they played too many songs from their most recent (and my least favorite) album. Even worse, the heart of the encore was the one MMJ song I detest: Highly Suspicious. So, count me among the curmudgeons who are old enough to complain about wanting to hear more of the “old stuff” from the “good old days.”

The end of Run Thru

Now that I have the negative out of the way, I want to say that the band was extremely tight considering that they didn’t really tour at all in 2009 or the beginning of 2010. The final song included the PHJB in a moving (literally for Rich and me) rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s Move on Up. What’s more, they played about six of the 15 or so songs that I really wanted to hear. That’s a pretty good batting average, and it included my Jim James favorite, The Way That He Sings. Why does my mind blow to bits every time they play that song? It’s just the way that he sings, not the words that he says or the band.

Dondante was one of several highlights

In one of my fantasies of the future, McLain will come to me one day and ask about the virtues of Southern Rock and who killed it (when it needed to die gracefully). Or maybe he’ll want to know how powerful a voice can be under the command of good songwriting. Perhaps he’ll just want to know what constitutes a great live rock and roll show. We’ll listen to It Still Moves or Z and I’ll remind him that he was in attendance, sort of, in Cary of all places.

Earlier this year, Tom Ewing summarized the power of popular music quite nicely:

Often, the pleasure of pop is surrender: when a record overrides your reflexes or emotions for a few minutes, when you let it possess you. That feeling isn’t easy to write about, let alone argue over.

Pop music, for me, has come to mean two things: current and fun. Somewhat contrary to the modifier “popular,” the music described here is not overplayed and overconsumed.

So, when I spend a few hours every week catching up with my mp3 blog aggregator (much cooler than it sounds) and reading band news and album reviews, I’m actually chasing new sources, hoping to find those diamonds in the rough that will possess me. It sounds like an addiction because it is an addiction.

The capacity of any song to induce surrender is temporary. After the first few listens my memory starts to capture the most prominent qualities of the song (a bass line, a vocal harmony in the chorus). Soon the song realizes its full potential in my brain, and the song possesses me.

Possession continues for multiple future listens; the staying power of a song varies from five to about twenty replays. Then, as the newness of the melody, dynamics, and rhythm wanes, it loses its grip on my brain.

If the song is merely good, it sits quietly somewhere on my hard drive until I stumble upon it on some future date. If it’s a really good song, it has several different long-term locations in several different playlists, and I will listen to it occasionally in the future. If it’s a great song, it will have a celebrated retirement home where I will visit it (similar to beach-side assisted living in Boca).

Every song must retire. Here are my 2009 inductees for the Dog Food Money Hall of Fame — the most surrender-inducing songs of the year.

Best songs

Note: An asterisk in the list below denotes one of my daughter’s favorite dance tracks for Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Tier One

Two Weeks* — Grizzly Bear
Idiot HeartSunset Rubdown
French NavyCamera Obscura
My GirlsAnimal Collective
All the King’s MenWild Beasts
HomeEdward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Take it Easy* — Surfer Blood
Rain onWoods
Islands* — The xx
Oslo CampfirePort O’Brien

Tier Two

Chi Don’t DanceBBU
While You Wait for the Others
— Grizzly Bear
Tonight’s Today*
— Jack Peñate
Skeleton Boy
* — Friendly Fires
Lisztomania — Phoenix
Lust for Life
Pyrex Vision — Raekwon the Chef

Ghost Life — Bowerbirds
No Reasons
* — VEGA

Tier Three

Hazel * — Junior Boys
Velvet — The Big Pink
Lost Words — Ganglians
Vacationing People — Foreign Born
Suburban Beverage — Real Estate
The Now — Muzzle of Bees
Shine Blockas * — Big Boi featuring Gucci Mane
Norway — Beach House
You Don’t Know What You Do to Me — Blakroc
Ambling Alp — Yeasayer

Best album

— Grizzly Bear

Best album runners-up

Girls — Album
Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II — Raekwon
xx — The xx
Dragonslayer — Sunset Rubdown
The Bright Mississippi — Allen Toussaint

Note: This is jazz, not pop, but it’s super.

Best mashup

Two Weeks of Hip Hop (Dead Prez vs. Grizzly Bear)
— The Hood Internet

Best remix

Friendly Fires featuring Au Revoir Simone (Aeroplane remix)

Note: I know, it was released in ’08, but it wasn’t put on blast in our house until January ’09, and I didn’t hear anything better that came out this year.

Best video + song created from recorded clips of a legendary astronomer and physicist

Glorious Dawn
— Carl Sagan (featuring Stephen Hawking)

Best chillwave (new sub-genre of the year)

Feel It All Around
— Washed Out
Green Knight — Memory Tapes
Fire Ant — Bibio
Weak 4 Me — Nite Jewel
Last One Awake — Memory Cassette
Terminally Chill — Neon Indian

Most Annoying

At least in indie and mp3 blog circles, 2009 was the year of AnCo. They started the year with a much-anticipated, inevitably-leaked full length album, and ended it with a heralded EP. They narrowly escaped the list below because they produced interesting music throughout 2009, but when will the AnCo hype machine take a breather?

Here are the bands that I think were overhyped and overrated in 2009.

The Antlers — I know that music critics loved “Hospice”, but it was a bit too whiny and monotonous for my tastes.

YACHT — Psychic City was amusing the first few times I heard it, but the other tracks from this album annoyed me.

The Dirty Projectors — If I’m just not sophisticated enough to appreciate the dissonance and tempo changes, then so be it.

Wilco — Just because I’m a dad, that doesn’t mean I have to like dad-rock.

Modest Mouse — I know they didn’t realease a full-length album in 2009, but I’ve heard plenty of the EP they put out. After This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About and The Lonesome Crowded West, I would have never guessed their music could be boring after Johnny Marr joined the band (not that it’s his fault). Oh, and Isaac never screams like he used to (that’s a bad thing).

The Very Best — Someone explain to me why they are so widely adored by critics.

Kings of Leon — They’ve regressed in a similar way, yet in a much more dramatic way, as Modest Mouse. They have a clothing line now, and I hear their music on sports radio. I am now proposing a new law (the Followill rule) for evaluating music: The second a song is used as a segue snippet on sports radio, it is instantaneously lame.

MGMT — See the Followill rule, and I’m talking specifically about Kids of course.

Now, on to 2010. In with the new!

There are many musical associations lurking in our heads. In my experience, a connection between a certain song and a stimulus happens often, and some even happen and repeat on a regular basis. For example, “Summertime Rolls” by Jane’s Addiction is triggered every year during the month of August, and I think I’ve experienced this — the song evoked by the late summer heat, set to repeat in my head  — since I was 14 or 15 years old.

I thought about personalizing and re-hashing the lyrics for this post, but that seemed a little too contrived (although the line “there is so much space…I cut me a piece” is a perfect fit for beachgoing). I also didn’t use the song as a soundtrack to the beach footage below, but for me, it’s playing in my head when I see my daughter barefoot, fingernails of mother’s pearl playing in sand, gumming cantaloupe, and dancing with her Uncle Rich.

Another birthday has come and gone, and I realize now that one of the best periods of every year is not my actual birthday, but the two weeks that follow it. My family and wife’s family now know that I would rather have new music than 95% of other gift ideas. It isn’t that they aren’t creative in their gift planning. Rather, they try to make me happy, and I truly appreciate that.
During the fortnight after my birthday, I don’t let the iTunes credits, Amazon credits, and cash burn holes in my pockets. I spend time reading about, listening to, and legally purchasing new music.
Here’s what I’ve scored recently, and I’m fairly pleased with everything on my acquisition list for late July and early August.
God Help the Girl, God Help the Girl
Sunset Rubdown, Dragonslayer
Akron/Family, Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free
Spoon, Got Nuffin — EP
Bibio, Ambivalence Avenue
Memory Cassette, Calls & Responses
Dinosaur Jr., Farm
The Very Best, Warm Heart of Africa —– WTF???
The Eels
The Magnetic Fields (XX Merge)
The Hood Internet, Mixtapes

Another birthday has come and gone, and I realize now that one of the best periods of every year is not my actual birthday, but the two weeks that follow it. My family and wife’s family now know that I would rather have new music than 99% of other gift ideas. It isn’t that they aren’t creative in their gift planning. Rather, they try to make me happy, and I truly appreciate that.

During the fortnight after my birthday, I don’t let the iTunes credits, Amazon credits, and cash burn holes in my pocket. I spend time reading about, listening to, and legally purchasing new music.

Here’s what I’ve scored recently, and I’m fairly pleased with everything on my album acquisition list for late July and early August.

  • Creaturesque by Throw Me The Statue
  • God Help the Girl by God Help The Girl
  • Dragonslayer by Sunset Rubdown
  • Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free by Akron/Family
  • Got Nuffin (EP) by Spoon
  • Farm by Dinosaur Jr.
  • Ambivalence Avenue by Bibio
  • Calls & Responses by Memory Cassette

Classify those last two albums under the hottest new summer genre: chill wave, or GorillavsBearcore. If you’re into this sort of thing, read a summary of the sub-genre Carles coined at I Guess I’m Floating or the original Carles post at Hipster Runoff.

I’ve also been cherry-picking some other artists, not all of whom have recent releases. I’ve included some editorial notes too.

  • The Eels — always one of those bands that I thought I would like if I ever put in the effort. Their catalog is pretty large, and I’ve enjoyed my time browsing.
  • The Magnetic Fields — chalk this up to the single thing that makes The Triangle much cooler than it would be otherwise: Merge Records. They recently celebrated their 20th anniversary, and it inspired me to try out my favorite Merge band that I knew very little about. I’m about 10 deep in 69 Love Songs.
  • The Hood Internet — if you like hip-hop and indie rock, you can’t find a better value (free at than these mash-ups. I’m not exaggerating when I say that some have blown me away. I’m serious. These guys are supreme matchmakers.

Finally, can someone out there explain the appeal of The Very Best’s Warm Heart of Africa. Even though every respectable taste-making music blog/magazine is smitten, I’m afraid I just don’t get it. I’m cool with world music, I like Afro-pop, but I just don’t get it.

This post is really going to disappoint the grandparents, but sometimes a man has to give some credit to the lowest-on-the-totem-pole members of his family. The dogs have earned the recognition — especially Robah.

One drizzly day last week, the three of us were strolling down White Oak Road when a lab-like dog that was about Robah’s size sprinted toward us. I had my ear buds in and my rain jacket hood on, so I didn’t realize the dog was approaching so quickly until he was ten feet from us. Robah, who always walks on my right side (Baxter always holds down our left flank), was ready and waiting. I looked to my right just in time to see Robah lunge, teeth showing and spine hair raised, and attack the dog that seemed to be attacking us. The aggressive assailant pooch was instantly reduced to a defeated, whimpering stray.

Moments after Robah came down on his head and snapped at his neck, the stray dog ran back from whence he came. Before we continued down the street, I looked at Baxter. He seemed just as surprised as me that sweet, easy-going Robah had earned a badge of honor in such intimidating fashion.

About a week ago, I recorded and edited a frisbee session. I know the grandparents (except possibly my Dad) will find this dull, but worry not — I’ll get back to baby footage soon.


1. The video looks much better if you press play and then click the HQ button in the YouTube control bar. This action displays the high quality version.

2. The soundtrack consists of songs by The Field and Guided by Voices.

Jackie is approaching three months, and one of the latest developments is her new-found fondness for chewing. I can’t wait to leave indie rock, electro, Russian classical, non-gangster hip-hop, jazz, slowcore, post-punk, or shoegaze credits under her pillow on behalf of the Tooth/Tune Fairy. Here’s a video of her teething a little, playing a little, and being her adorable little self.

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

I took this post-apocalyptic picture outside Jones Barber Shop in Raleigh last year.