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The Other Steve Miller

Posted in Friends' Work, Odds 'n' Sodds, Very Important

A Quick Word

And it will be quick.

When scanning through earlier entries, I cringe somewhat over the writing. It’s too, how do you say, wordy. Like, way too wordy.

Nowadays, it’s a little embarrassing I wrote at such great lengths about what I was doing September 2009-January 2010, and in such a verbose manner. It seems a bit self indulgent and overwrought, in retrospect. But maybe that’s better than not posting at all, which is the route I’ve taken this last two and a half years.

What I will say about the present is that Lowlands has been taking a bit of a break, but will come together again in time for our Dec. 1 show at Barboza’s (we’ve also played at Neumo’s, which is a cool accomplishment). I also hope to start my own band soon, where I will be the frontman and lead songwriter — like Newsfeed Anxiety, but hopefully better after six years of playing with such talented groups as Andrea Desmond and the White Lights, Mariko Ruhle / Temple Canyon, Anxiety Fair, and Lowlands. I’ve also improved vocally since the Newsfeed Anxiety days, thanks in large part from the aforementioned groups, as well as singing in various Orthodox Church choirs in the Seattle area. At first, some of the material will be rehashed Newsfeed Anxiety songs, but I have some tunes in the works that show promise.

Anyway, just thought I’d drop a line and give a brief update on my happenings. And because this is primarily a music blog, I thought I’d feature the newest song by former bandmate Andrea Desmond, “Inner Fire.” I’m really digging the new style, and the song itself is well produced, well written, and has a great message — one that I need to heed now, as I am lacking in motivation, or “inner fire,” if you will. Give it a listen and thumbs up:

Posted in Very Important

An Update — And Some New Music

Hello. In the words of the incomparable Staind:

The above is the lead single from the band’s second album, Break the Cycle, which gives this song a double meaning in the context of this post: It’s been a while since I’ve published a blog post, and I hope to break that cycle, as it were. Staind has always been a rich fountain of inspiration for me, and now is no different.

Sparing you all every single little detail since my last post, I will rather just post a couple albums on which I am featured — Temple Canyon’s self titled, and Lowlands’ The Valley Below. While both deserve the track-by-by, full retrospecticus treatment of previous albums, in the interest of expediency, I will instead post the albums so you can stream/share/purchase as you see fit:

Temple Canyon, Temple Canyon

The Valley Below, Lowlands

Expect some more updates in the near future.

Posted in Odds 'n' Sodds, Phantasmagoria

Memories From a Time That Never Was

sunsetI remember those summers up on the high-line ranch, where Pa would toil in the forge all day — his calloused hands blackened with soot — and Ma would busy herself with the housework. There was no counter top too clean, no floor too spotless, that wouldn’t pass her scrutiny unscathed. The kids — Suzie Mae, Tommy Joe, Joey Tom, Cousin Jeremiah, and polio-stricken Samuel — would, in their imaginations, sail around the skies as the fearful Android Pirates of Gerowas-7, or in the depths of the earth as members of the secret, telepathic Doolars, who, as well all know, dwell in lunar caves.

 

Those sunset would explode an entirely unknown spectrum of dazzling reds, oranges, and cyans. Those were days of fondness, days of wonder. Days that are no longer.

 

(Single tear rolls down cheek.)
Posted in Commentary

Throwback Thursday Extended Edition: The Crane Wife

crane-wife(The following first appeared on the Lowlands website. I’m publishing it here in its extended form.)

As I briefly mentioned in my previous Throwback Thursday Post, I have a penchant for revisiting a band’s catalogue when they release new music—that is, if I like the band enough. The first time I recall doing this was for the sudden, pay-what-you-want release of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, an album I consider one of my favorites, and may be the focus of a future #tbt writeup if the other Lowlanders don’t beat me to it. I’ve repeated this retrospective several times since— for Radiohead’s not-as-good King of Limbs, the Flaming Lips’ The Terror and most recently Pink Floyd’s The Endless River—and while this can be a very nostalgic and worthwhile endeavor, it can be quite exhausting for bands with such extensive catalogues (like the Lips and Floyd) that, by the time I’ve arrived at the new material, I’m somewhat tired of the band and need a break.

With this in burnout factor in mind, I decided not to start from the beginning of the Decemberists’ catalogue leading up to their new album, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, but rather, from my introduction to the band: 2006’s The Crane Wife. Like the watershed Echose, I received The Crane Wife as a Christmas present; unlike Echoes, however, I wouldn’t say Crane was necessarily a profound, like-changing album. But after listening to the album again last week, it was as though I were transported back to Christmas Break ’06, and began to realize how formative The Crane Wife was to me.

Christmas breaks for the University of Montana are ridiculously long (mid-December through the last week of January), and it was during this extended hometown stay my freshman year when this album became my soundtrack. I remember listening to Crane Wife while driving the family minivan on the icy, post-Christmas roads of Billings, which is still pretty much the only thing I do when I’m back home for the holidays. In my winter meanderings, I continually listened to this album, and, once I became familiar enough, began singing the upper harmonies, of which there are plenty here. Little did I know at the time, but singing Jenny Conlee’s and Laura Veirs’ harmonies in my head voice played a fairly important role in my development as a backing singer, which, before this point, I refused to do live in any of my bands (except for my other, other, other, other band Metal Face). Also important to note, “O Valencia” partially served as the melodic basis for “Everybody’s Got Somebody,” perhaps the first song of mine that was both somewhat nuanced and slightly catchy (though its self-revelatory lyrics and inconsistent vocals are a little cringe-worthy for me now; listen to this blast from the past and judge for yourself). But once I returned to Missoula in January 2007, The Crane Wife was replaced by the Shins’ Wincing the Night Away as my indie-album du jour, and though I continued to listen to the Decemberists every so ofter—be it my Picaresque kick the following summer or the respective releases of The Hazards of Love and The King is Dead—I mostly forgot about The Crane Wife until last week.

With a slightly more mature musical sense and renewed desire to listen to the Decemberists, this digital rotation of The Crane Wife revealed some things to me that I either didn’t notice or fully appreciate back in 2006. In addition to the strong harmonies—which I still remembered and sang—I was more aware of the band’s subtle, yet solid musicianship, as heard most explicitly in the twelve-minute, three-part epic “The Island,” whose middle section, “The Landlord’s Daughter,” features a keyboard-guitar interplay reminiscent of early-70s Genesis, which is to say it’s quite elaborate and awesome. And while I’ve always welcomed Colin Meloy’s not-so-Montanan, sea-chanty’s singing accent (which I can say because, like Meloy, I also grew up in Montana, and nobody sounds like that), I didn’t realized how much I truly appreciated its clarity and uniqueness after not having heard it for a couple years. Songwriting-wise, Meloy is on a level that I cannot even hope approach; his archaic vocabulary, clever wordplay and vivid storytelling abilities are wholly distinct and unlike any other modern frontman.

For me The Crane Wife represents everything the band does so well: the sprawling, epic story songs and the catchy, accessible folk songs, all of which possess a 19th Century air to them. The band’s followup, The Hazards of Love, in my opinion, signals a shift a little too far to the former (though it’s still a glorious album), whereas The King is Dead is a bit too safe compared to its predecessors, and, judging by the track lengths of What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, it looks as though the band is staying in the realm of shorter, more accessible/less sprawling songs. But on The Crane Wife, the two spheres of the band are balanced just right.

Posted in Album Notes, Music Retrospecticus

A Look Back, a New Solo Album(!) and a Glimpse of the Future

If I think back to the very first shows of the year—at the Crocodile with Mariko and in Portland with Andrea two days later—and remember what’s happened since, it’s clear that this was a very productive and active year. And while 2014 maybe wasn’t too prolific on the blog-post and/or new-releases fronts, it was actually one of the busiest in terms of gigging practicing and recording, which explains my lack of output in the former categories. Much of what happened in 2014 is setting the stage for an even greater 2015.

Not wanting to overlook what actually was accomplished this year, 2014 marked the release of a very important album in my musical development: The Disconnect by Newsfeed Anxiety. Much—too much, perhaps—has already been written on behalf of that effort, and while it definitely doesn’t seem like a 2014 album, the fact that this ever-in-the-works project finally saw its completion is something worth mentioning again. Again, this may not be the perfect album, but I’m still very proud of it, and it represents my post-Nets and pre-White Lights days quite well. Here it is again, in case you missed it the first time.

The Disconnect by Newsfeed Anxiety

But there’s actually a newer(ish) collection I would like to share with you. I say “newer(ish)” because some of the songs contained therein date back to as early as Fall 2009. I suppose you would like to know the name of the album. Here it is:

Quadrilogy

 

Yes, it is true—I named an album Quadrilogy. I will not share the exact inspiration behind the title other than it’s an improvement over its original titles. You can stream Quadrilogy in its entirety below, and, if you’d like, read some background context after the Soundcloud embed:

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Posted in Odds 'n' Sodds

A Cornucopia of Music Happenings: Thanksgiving Edition, 2014

Ms. Thanksgiving herself.

Ms. Thanksgiving herself.

I’ll admit it: I’ve been off the radar for some time now. It wasn’t anybody’s fault–including my own–so this post will not be about dishing out the blame. Rather, this post will be a celebration of what has been, what is now at the moment currently, and what looms over the horizon–a horizon filled with mountains of opportunities, an ocean of hope, and a sunset of blessedness. (It’s apparent that I still need to shake the rust from my writing skills.)

I will get to the point. This summer, I spent a lot of time either 1) loafing around, 2) meandering about, 3) and/or playing music. In the post-Disconnect release days, I briefly went to Montana, and shortly upon my return to Seattle, Andrea Desmond and the White Lights disbanded, for Andrea decided to move to L.A. to further pursue her dreams (though the distance proved no hinderance to recording one last song as a band, “Number One“). I was both excited and saddened for the change–excited for my band mate’s/good friend’s next step to stardom, and saddened that our two years of playing together was at an end. For now, at least. But we had some great memories, and this blog attests to that (read “Andrea Desmond: The Cupboard Sessions” and “Behind the Scenes: Andrea Desmond’s ‘I Can Wait No Longer‘”). To commemorate the awesome run we had, watch our final video together for my personal band favorite, “Dawn Breakers.” The video alone deserves a blog post (or two), but in these days of limited writing time, the video itself will have to suffice. Doesn’t this make a great Seattle tourism ad?

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Posted in Odds 'n' Sodds

“(Eo) + Zibo I.13” — A Love Story for the Ages

A Romeo for the 200th Century. And no, I didn't draw this as a child, but as a 23 year old.

A Romeo for the 200th Century. And no, I didn’t draw this as a child, but as a 23 year old.

In the interest of preventing this blog from collecting too much dust in my post-Newsfeed-Anxiety life, here is a little gem I wrote in 2010 for a theatre class, the same class that produced the now-famous How My Parents Met: Special 30th Anniversary Edition post. The assignment was to re-imagine Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, providing the alternate setting, characters and costumes for my butchering take on the most-studied-by-high-school-freshman-students play in history, this time in a setting worthy of Stanislaw Lem’s “The Cyberiad,” which served as the main inspiration behind this sci-fi silliness.

Furthermore, I thank my instructor for tolerating all my strange ideas; other teachers in the past weren’t too kind to my creative spirit (see 1995’s “Herry Gurl,” a clever love poem to my old cat, Mittens, the contents of  which my second-grade teacher called “disturbing.”) I would also like to add that I wrote this while at my cousin’s Lake Shore Drive condo in Chicago. Submitting the assignment came down to the wire: My brothers and I, accompanied by the great Roman Stubbs, traveled from downtown Chicago to Gary, Ind., via subway and commuter train, and once in Gary, met my Uncle Metri and cousin Skevo, who then gave us a ride to their home in Crown Point. By the time we arrived in Crown Point, I was minutes away from the submission deadline, and, once connected to the wi-fi, submitted the assignment just before deadline. But throughout my travels, and despite the instructor’s hard-line, non-negotiable late submission policy, I wasn’t ever worried in the least bit. All this is to say that the entire assignment (including the costume designs, surprisingly enough) took about an hour, and, although composed under tight time constraints, actually turned out quite well — that is, depending on your definition of “well.”

Enough said. Enjoy this little relic from yesteryear, and rest assured: new music and happenings are coming.

Section 1: Time Period

Most modern-day Shakespeare productions are set neither in the time nor the place that the Bard originally intended. My version of “Romeo and Juliet” is no exception. Titled “(Eo) + Zibo I.13,” this adaptation of the classic tragedy takes place in the year 19992 following the 100-Century War. This means the characters, story and audience are presented in a completely different and extremely bizarre context, which ultimately keeps the familiar material still fresh. Instead of Renaissance-era Italy, “(Eo) + Zibo I.13” is set on the planet of Gonibasiwbfykgan following the cataclysmic 100-Century War. The Gonibasiwbfykganians are in a state of turmoil, divided into two factions: the WabbiDaDos (Montagues) and the Dovjduesfjdiaos (Capulets). By establishing these two feuding bands, the story, characters, and audience are once again grounded in the familiar aspects of the original while doing something cutting edge and unique.

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Posted in Album Notes

Newsfeed Anxiety’s The Disconnect: A Look Inside and the History of (Part II)

disconnect(4)(Continued from the previous post)

Disassociation

Having written the songs anywhere between two to five years prior to the album’s release, there’s bound to be a disconnect between who I was then and who I am now, even though now is when they (the songs) are made public, which gives the impression the person who wrote these songs is who I am now; while that may be technically true — I am the person who wrote, sang and played on these songs — so much internal and external change has occurred since the songs’ conception that this album may as well have been written by somebody else. Gosh, that sentence borders on Bill Simmons-level of sophistry devoid of substance, but not wanting to delete it forever, perhaps I can pare it down to its more concise, to-the-point, non-meandering essentials: I wrote the songs so long ago that they don’t seem like mine. (There, that should be better.)

While The Disconnect may have a common theme of alienation, isolation, disillusion, disenfranchisement running throughout (at least until the last song), the album may as well be viewed a conceptual narrative about a highly sensitive/introspective 20-something college student dealing with the struggles of the digital age; who knows, maybe it could someday be made into a Broadway musical, with Chris Hemsworth obviously playing the main character … either him, or one of the Jonas brothers — Jumpy, I think is his name. (Note: I haven’t heard more than 20 seconds of the Jonas Bros.) Is Hugh Jackman too old? He’d be good.

Broadway delusions aside, the setting and frame of mind may accurately reflect who I was in January-May 2011, but certainly isn’t the case for May 2014; far too much has changed in terms of musical taste and life outlook to say that I can relate to these songs any more. Had we released The Disconnect as intended in August 2011, I’d say it would be an accurate snapshot of the time — but now, it isn’t. In that sense, the album’s title reflects my separation from the work, as if I’m listening to somebody else’s music. And because of its intensely personal and revelatory subject matter, I doubt I’ll be able to listen to this album in the company of others (I can almost envision the TMI-induced cringes of close friends and family members). What’s more, that which occupies my mind is so completely different than that of three years ago that I couldn’t write songs like this even if I tried — in fact, I’m hard-pressed to write songs in general, but that’s a different post — and some songs I’ve considered leaving out all together. The long, painfully drawn out process from inception to completion just needed to end in order for me to move on, personally and musically. Thank God it’s done.

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Posted in Behind the Scenes

Newsfeed Anxiety’s The Disconnect: A Look Inside and the History of (Part I)

disconnect(4)

Photo courtesy of Charlie Ray. Album design by yours truly.

The world has never been more connected than it is today. Such is the topic of many a tech trend story, citing social networking sites, various modes of communication and notification serving as the digital ties that unite us. We can have hundreds of friends, followers, subscribers, connections, buddies, Pinners, Instagrammers, and so forth. We’ve never been closer to each other, and yet, are we that close? Does the number of “friends” or “followers” determine one’s happiness? Are we even connected to each other? Or are we as disconnected now than ever, far from the truth, but close to the edge?

As I previously wrote, these thoughts first occupied my mind in December 2007, when a simple Facebook status change led to a host of new worries directly linked to the platform conveying the message. This weariness with such modern modes of communication only worsened in the years to come, prompting the naming and creation of a shortly lived group about which I’ve written plenty. While this group’s thoughtful-but-mechanically flawed early material addressed issues related to disillusionment, alienation and disappointment (to name a few), what came after delves deeper into the perils of our age, and confronts the void and disappointment that no amount of digital acquaintances can fill. At least, that’s what I’d like to think, having written the songs and all.

Newsfeed Anxiety’s The Disconnect came about from the gradual heightening of disenfranchisement toward a world that is not as unified as our profiles like to make it seem. By the time I was writing the songs for The Disconnect, my reality wasn’t matching the “reality” presented in the parallel online world; I had 500+ friends, but didn’t feel like many were my friends. And in my own reality, being in my fifth year of school, I had my fill of the college lifestyle (even if it was, in retrospect, pretty ideal) and the limited and not-so-accessible Missoula music scene left much to be desired. My burnout is a little too well-documented in the post “How Missoula Was Won … And Lost,” in case you need a refresher.

But the disconnect of The Disconnect goes beyond a super-senior-year discontent: It refers to the overall disjointedness and dissociative nature of this project. I will discuss each of its “dis” properties more in length.

Disjointedness

After the disaster of adding drums to un-metronome’d tracks for The Compromise, we were determined to never make that mistake again, and from the start of recording The Disconnect, we made good that resolution. In one night, Anthony and I recorded acoustic click tracks for more than half the album, and the rest a few nights later. Within a week or so, we were adding Anthony’s bass lines, and by early June, we had recorded all of Carl’s drum parts to far far greater results than The Compromise. We parted ways after the not-so-well-attended finale performance at the Top Hat, but the plan was to resume work on the album following the completion of Metal Face’s Nets. But with Anthony in Missoula, Carl somewhere in the forests of Minnesota, and myself caught in the ever-worsening plight for post-grads, making progress on the album proved more difficult with three separate silos instead of a unified band. Even with the location disparity, I assumed the album would be done and ready for our limited fan base by 2011, or early 2012 at the latest.

And now it’s 2014.

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Posted in Going to the Show

Roger Waters The Wall Live in Seattle: A Look Back (Part 1)

On Thursday, May 24, the Key Arena in Seattle played host to one of rock and roll’s greatest achievements: Roger Waters’ The Wall Live. Waters, former bassist, co-lead singer and main visionary behind the legendary Pink Floyd, has been touring for about a year and a half behind a revived version of the band’s 1979 double-disc masterpiece of the same name  to packed stadiums of wowed witnesses across the world. And now I can finally say that I am one of those witnesses, on it’s among one of my life’s greatest privileges to be one of those witnesses.

My preparation for The Wall began well before the actual concert — about 12 years before, to be exact. I was still in adolescence stage of liking nu-rock bands with Eddie-Vedder sound-a-like frontmen and/or bassists who tuned their instruments well below the musical notation spectrum when I saw the cover to Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81. All it consisted of were four emptied-eyed masks (one for each member of the band) set against a black background, but it intrigued me all the same. At that point in my life, I had only heard “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” a couple of times, the first of which while waiting for my mom outside of Barnes and Noble sometime in October 1998 (I pictured the band as a single, presumably scrawny, pink-haired man). Regardless of my ignorance, the mystique of the group inspired me in my early attempts at making music, even to the point I referred to myself as Redd Waters at 13 years old. And that was before listening to a single song beyond “Brick, Part II.” It seemed I was destined to be an ardent fan. The seeds had just been planted.

Over the next year or so, my fascination with Pink Floyd grew each time I saw the TV ad for Echoes: The Very Best of Pink Floyd, which seemed to play three or four times during the course of any given Simpsons episode. But I didn’t care: I had to hear whatever was on that album, so I requested it for Christmas 2001. When I received as a stocking stuffer (thank you so very, very, very much, Mom and Dad), I almost immediately went downstairs and put it on the family computer. My life would never be the same after that.