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McLain had a creek-crossing triumph at Vogel State Park a couple of months ago, and I’m thrilled to say that this seminal moment in his childhood has inspired a full-length documentary.

I won’t play the role of spoiler, but I will provide a plot summary:
Boy meets perilous trek. Boy begins trek successfully. Boy falls, gets wet. Boy perseveres and grows up a little bit more.

Here’s the trailer. The film/home video will be released in full in a few days (after I get a chance to put it together).

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This year is shaping up to be musically notable:

  • I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the LPs I’ve heard so far this year. Of the 12 albums I list here, I don’t consider any one of them to have more than two weak, filler-type songs. These albums make me appreciate the long-play recording again, instead of viewing the album as a commercial bucket that contains a few good songs and a bunch of bad songs, just because the good songs have to be contained somewhere. Full-album appreciation hasn’t been the norm for me in recent years.
  • Hip-hop hasn’t sounded so good since the golden era, the ’90s. I think maybe that’s because the regional qualities of the music are blending, and the cream is rising to the top. Of course, in a house with two children younger than four, hip-hop is relegated to headphones and ear buds. But, my taste for it is as strong as ever. When I was a sophomore in high school, a wizened senior told me, “you’ll stop listening to rap when you get a little older.” 2012 is making a liar of him. Related reading: Hip-Hop And You Do Stop is a great summary of why the ’90s were special.
  • My kids continue to be eager for jams. Jackie makes occasional requests, although she hasn’t latched on to any newer songs as tightly as she did last year. McLain is just starting to discover the dancey side of his alter ego, Party Boy, but the kid can flat-out do a soulful impression of Usher. I don’t have video of this yet, but imagine an almost-two-year-old singing high notes and pretending to strain, eyes closed, as he moves his head around in a Stevie Wonder kind of way.

Speaking of McLain, he also had his first genuine sing-along moment with a song. We were in the car, and I was playing Wordless Chorus by My Morning Jacket. Out of the blue, he chimed in with the chorus…”Ahhhh, Ahh Ahhhhhh Ahh Ahh”. I shouldn’t have been surprised — in addition to sharing the same initials as the band, his first concert (in utero) was My Morning Jacket.

I’ll never forget McLain singing along with an unfamiliar song for the first time, just as I never forgot that time I was changing Jackie’s diaper a couple of years ago. Grizzly Bear’s While You Wait for the Others was on the home stereo, and she jumped in on the refrain towards the end, when Droste or Rossen is wailing, “Oh Oh Oh Ohhhhhh”.

Back to the purpose of this post — here are my favorite LPs and tracks for the first half of 2012.
Note: Each track has a Spotify play button. You’ll need a Spotify account and the app installed to play the songs.

Albums

Hot ChipIn Our Heads
The Walkmen — Heaven
Killer Mike — R.A.P. Music
Royal Headache — Royal Headache
Bear In HeavenI Love You, It’s Cool
GrimesVisions
John TalabotFin
Schoolboy QHabits & Contradictions
The MenOpen Your Heart
Andrew BirdBreak It Yourself
Lower DensNootropics
Cloud NothingsAttack On Memory

Tracks

Igoyh — Kwes.

Really In Love — Royal Headache

Stay Useless — Cloud Nothings

Inspector Norse — Todd Terje

Climax — Urrsher

Hurting (Tensnake Remix) — Friendly Fires

Brains — Lower Dens

Unless You Speak From Your Heart — Porcelain Raft

Lazuli — Beach House

Oblivion — Grimes

Know Me — Frankie Rose

Sinful Nature — Bear In Heaven

Lay Your Cards Out — POLICA

Gun Has No Trigger — Dirty Projectors

Every Single Night — Fiona Apple

The House That Heaven Built — Japandroids

Heaven — The Walkmen

Black Treacle — Arctic Monkeys

One Second of Love — Nite Jewel

Simple Song — The Shins

Monoliths — Lotus Plaza

Candy — The Men

Hood — Perfume Genius

Brodermordet — War

Give Out — Sharon Van Etten

Hole in the Ocean Floor — Andrew Bird

November Skies — Tomas Barfod, Nina Kinert

Betty Wang — Hospitality

Tiffany Lou — Daughn Gibson

Ashtray Wasp — Burial

I’ve Seen Footage — Death Grips

Untitled — Killer Mike (featuring Scar)

There He Go — Schoolboy Q

Oldie — OFWGKTA

The Full Retard — El-P

Half of 2011 has elapsed; in the blink of an eye, my toddler daughter is reading letters, my baby son wants to walk, and the music of our lives (sentimental, isn’t it?) for the first half of the year is in heavy rotation on White Oak. By the way, young McLain has shown a prodigious talent for percussion. His style reminds me of Lionel Hampton in form and Claude Coleman in flare, although at 9.5 months, it might be a bit early to put labels on him.

Also, one day last week, I was playing Purity Ring’s “Ungirthed“. On a whim, I switched to a Wes Montgomery song. Jackie heard the smooth jazz guitar and asked me, “What happened to the jams?” Talk about your priceless parental moments — it was my daughter’s first critical + music-related comment. I was proud, and I honored her request.

This post is not a lame attempt to describe the best of the first half of the year. If that kind of thing strikes your fancy, you can find it at NPR Music or Paste or somewhere.

Here are the albums we’ve, or I’ve, been listening to this year, even though the last three in the list were released in 2010. Even though there seems to be an ever-increasing number of exceptional (and free) mixtapes, I didn’t include those in the list.

Note: My favorites (so far) are denoted with an asterisk, and albums are listed in order of acquisition, most recent first.

Bon IverBon Iver

Shabazz PalacesBlack Up*

Random AxeRandom Axe

Junior BoysIt’s All True*

BurialStreet Halo (EP)

My Morning JacketCircuital

Wild BeastsSmother*

Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues

Drive-By TruckersGo-Go Boots

Curren$y x The AlchemistCover Coup

Panda BearTomboy*

The DodosNo Color*

Frank OceanNostalgia/Ultra

AustraFeel It Break

The WeekndHouse of Balloons*

RadioheadKing of Limbs

Cut CopyZonoscope

Smith WesternsDye It Blonde

jjKills Mixtape

Lower DensTwin-Hand Movement

The Tallest Man on EarthThe Wild Hunt*

Other music notes:

  • I’ve been using Amazon Cloud Player quite a bit.
  • I’ve been experimenting with Google Music, even though it’s another online locker for music like Amazon Cloud.
  • Ultimately, I’m waiting for Spotify to come to the U.S.so I can jump head-first into a subscription service.

Forgive me for these two transgressions:

  1. In a lazy attempt to summarize all of the late-summer events for our family, I’ve crammed two months worth of highlights into one video.
  2. This post has nothing to do with dogs. Don’t worry, I still love my boys.

My family has been busy in July and August. My amazing, pregnant wife and my amazing, pre-toddler daughter have been traveling — Katie (for work and pleasure), and Jackie (for pleasure). I have been renovating a girl nursery for a baby boy and a guest bedroom for a growing little girl. Katie and Jackie spent some time in Simsboro, Louisiana, with the Jeffcoats and Gordonsville, Virginia, with the maternal grandparents. All three of us have made a couple of trips to Boone to hang with my folks. We also hosted Katie’s college girlfriends and their kids, and attended a wonderful Dubberly wedding.

All the while, we are prepping for the arrival of McLain Moore Jones; this boy will expand our family no later than September 14 (and possibly earlier). We are ready for the little guy, save for finding some indie-rock (or dad rock?) onesies that will help me project my tastes onto my new son. At 14, he’ll probably go through an Eagles phase just to get back at me (other than vengeance, why would anyone go through an Eagles phase?).

I hope to document the room changes in a near-future post. Jackie has handled the transition from a crib to a real bed in a new room like a 12-year-old. At the risk of bragging, I will tell you that Jackie has made parenting easy for Katie and me so far.

Here’s the video:

I finally sorted through the video from the Burns Family Reunion. A lot of good footage ended up on the cutting room floor, but I managed to post some of the highlights from the week.

Every year, in mid-June, Vogel State Park in north Georgia is taken over for an entire week by Burnses from all over the country. It’s the Burns Family Reunion, and this was Jackie’s second experience with Katie’s great uncles and aunts, second cousins, third cousins, sixth cousins twice removed, and so on. Jackie shared the spotlight with a few other children this year (including Henry, Audrey, Emilyn, and Emory), but she somehow managed to get plenty of attention and/or ice cream whenever she wanted either or both.

This was the first year of the BFR (of 44 years total) that Katie served as co-organizer and chief cabin coordinator. With her Uncle Robert’s tutelage, she did an outstanding job making sure that everyone had comfortable accommodations.

I brought a special non-Burns friend along to the BFR this year. Robah made the trip southwest, and I really appreciated him coming. He’s always been a true friend, but I was surprised to learn what a good hiking partner he is. You could say that Robah is a dog’s dog, except that he doesn’t really like other dogs. He does love people though.

Here’s a generalized schedule of the typical day during our week at Vogel State Park:

6:30 — Katie, Robah, and I wake up. Robah goes out to relieve himself, sees a deer in the woods, and takes off for about two minutes (the amount of time it takes for the deer to lose him)

7:15 — Katie heads up to her parents’ cabin, where Jackie is sleeping

7:15 – 8:00 — Robah and I listen to Tame Impala, Ariel Pink, The Arcade Fire, Tennis, and others as we get ready for the day

8:00 – 11:00 — Robah and I hike one of trails that head at VSP. Katie and Janet cook for the family members hanging around Janet and Ben’s cabin (at least 5 guest eaters total, maximum of 15). Jackie entertains, or is entertained, and then naps.

11:00 – 12:00 — Robah and I eat leftovers and snacks for lunch while we catch up with Jackie and Katie on the morning events

12:00 – 4:00 — The Joneses change into swim gear and enjoy the lake, except for Robah, who naps

4:00 – 7:00 — Jackie naps, and Katie, Robah, and I read and relax

7:00 – 9:00 — BFR dinner gathering (everyone), socializing or planned event (e.g. talent show) afterward

9:00 – After reading books with Nana and Papa, Jackie goes to bed in cabin #25

9:00 – 11:00 – Before bed Katie reads, Robah snoozes, and I play with my new phone

The schedule listed above shouldn’t leave you with the impression that every day at VSP is the same. Every day brings nuanced surprises, or in the case of our next-to-last day there, a fairly major event. Robah and I had a scary and exhilarating hike to wrap up our week, but I won’t go into details here.

Katie is lucky to have an amazing extended family (both paternal and maternal), and I’m lucky to be accepted by them (Robah was also accepted, except for the few isolated instances when he slobbered on someone).

Here are pictures from the week. Video will follow when I get around to editing and polishing.

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

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

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

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