Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paige's Day of Pentecost

I've mentioned that Paige isn't always big on church. Maybe tonight was the turnaround.

In the parking lot at Lowe's [unprovoked]:

Paige: Parents are not the boss anymore. No parents of any families are the boss. There is only one boss over the whole world. And that's Jesus!

Testify, sister!
I have a feeling that this has less to do with any religious conviction than with the fact that she refuses to accept that Traci or I should be able to tell her what to do.

On Sunday she said to me, "Dad, YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME! I'm the boss because I'm the most beautiful one.

If she's already figure that out at age 5, what chance do I stand?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys

Death Cab for Cutie
Codes and Keys

Remember The OC? You know, with Marissa Cooper’s self-destructive tendencies and Ryan Atwood’s endless insecurities about growing up in Chino? And who could forget Seth Cohen, the lovable hipster with a passion for comic books and Death Cab for Cutie?

A lot has changed for Death Cab since they made an onscreen appearance on The OC, playing a gig at the show’s fictitious club, the Bait Shop, in 2005. Back then, Death Cab was a band who had earned a Seth Cohen-esque fan base by touring endless in a pre-MP3 Blog world. But they were also a band in transition--counting down the days to their major label debut and clearly on the verge of something much bigger.

If you ask me, 2003’s ”Transatlanticism” was the band’s high-water mark. The songwriting was miles beyond its LP predecessors, yet the endearing roughness remained, like Ben Gibbard’s warbly tenor or the fuzzed-out studio experimentation. Not to mention that it included two of the best songs in the band’s catalog--the title track and the heartbreaking “A Lack of Color.”

After such a strong release, fans were poised to disdain their first big budget release, “Plans.” But it didn’t happen. It couldn’t happen. The looseness of early records had disappeared, but the songwriting was stronger than ever before and the production was painstakingly perfect.

Given all of the effort to make “Plans” a masterpiece, it’s not surprising that 2008’s “Narrow Stairs” headed in the opposite direction. Filled with rock ‘n roll abandon, it was a guitar album, fueled by some of the darkest lyrics Gibbard has ever written.

In 2011, things feel a bit more sunny in the Death Cab camp. Gibbard is now a married man and alcohol-free. Their new record, “Codes and Keys,” is the most upbeat in years. Beats skip along wistfully, like a band in love (“You are a Tourist”). At times, it’s all the Gibbard can do to not start dancing (“Some Boys”). Even tracks that are less immediate (“Doors Wide Open,” “Unobstructed Views”) still deliver a rewarding punch.

Much like “Transatlanticism,” “Codes and Keys” strikes a beautiful balance between traditional arrangements and studio embellishment; it would not be surprising to hear these songs played on an a piano or an acoustic guitar, but the layers of synths and noise give the tracks an added depth.

Somewhere, the writers of The OC are huddled together, trying to figure out how to bring the show back to life, just so Seth Cohen can tell the world how much he likes this record.

For fans of: Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand
Rating: 3.5 of 4

This is Week in Film: Curtis Edition

As usual, Curtis came home from the library yesterday with a stack of DVDs.

"Curtis, what movies did you get," I asked.

He stands at the top of the stairs and holds one DVD high above his head. It is impossible not to see the pride in his stance as he displays it.

I glance at the title, then read it aloud "Mighty Sanitation Machines?!"

"Garbage trucks," he replies.

The boy loves his garbage trucks.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This Week's Music, Fleet Foxes, The Naked and Famous, Reaganomics

Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues

Though he’s only in his 20s, Fleet Foxes singer and leader Robin Pecknold is an old soul. His band’s sound echoes former times, channeling the folk of Simon and Garfunkel and paying homage to the intricate harmonies of the Beach Boys. While the group’s debut LP was an ode to the majesty of the forest and the sun, Pecknold turns inward on “Helplessness Blues.” His wanderings are filled with introspective questions, as he ponders both his youth (“Now I am older than my mother and father/When they had their daughter/Now what does that say about me?”) and his eventual death (“I woke up one morning/All my fingers rotten/I woke up a dying man without a chance”). The music matches the weightiness of the subject matter and every note is perfectly placed—lush harmonies, finger-picked guitar melodies, and Pecknold’s soaring tenor.  Having successfully reached the top of the mountain, it’s hard to see where Fleet Foxes will go from here. 

For fans of: Simon and Garfunkel, Bon Iver
Rating: 3.5 of 4
Check out: Montezuma

The Naked and Famous
Passive Me, Aggressive You

These New Zealand electro-rockers are a sneaky bunch. Their outstanding, ultra-dancey lead single “Punching in a Dream” would lead you to believe that the group is nothing more than a well-polished, hook-heavy pop group. While that would be enough, their debut record offers up even more. Dueling boy-girl vocalists Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith are equally adept at getting dark and moody (“Frayed,” “The Sun”). And just when you think they might drown in their ‘80s goth-inspired angst, they come back with another dreamy bounce-along (“Young Blood”) that should become the soundtrack for every teenage soap opera. Here’s to a solid debut and plenty of unexpected surprises.

For fans of: the xx, Tegan and Sara
Rating: 3.5 of 4
Check out: Young Blood

Lower the Bar

Metal-punk trio Ryan's Hope were trying to make a record when they decided to take a break from taking themselves so serious. They kicked the tempo up a few hundred beats per second and unleashed every junior high joke they could remember. The result is “Lower the Bar,” a record that is equal parts NoFX and stand-up comedy. Other than a few outliers, each song track clocks in at under 90 seconds. The band masterfully tackles pressing social such as programming on The WB, Ed Hardy t-shirts, and Robocop. The songs are catchy, slightly stupid, and perfect for the pit.

For fans of: NoFX, Rancid
Rating: 3 of 4
Check out: Don't Worry, We'll Play First

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tate, Lady Killer

Either people in San Diego have never seen a baby (maybe), or Tate is, in fact, the cutest little guy in the world (probably).

Traci and Tate accompanied me to a work conference in San Diego last week, and Tate was all the rage. From the second we stepped in the airplane, the little guy was getting compliments left and right. Including, but not limited to, the stewardess staring lovingly at him while performing her safety spiel and then asking me if I'd needed her to burp him. Seriously.

After Curtis' meltdown on the plane ride home from Disneyland, I wasn't sure I would ever fly with one of our kids again.  But Tate was a masterful traveler, quietly having a bottle on the way there and sleeping the entire flight back.

The idea behind taking Traci and Tate was to give Traci a little break from chasing around all three kids. Of course, the second we got in San Diego, all we could think about were the things we wanted to show Paige and Curtis. Oh, the guilt.

But those two couldn't have been happier with their time with each of the grandmas and all of the cousins. The morning after we got home, Curtis woke up and said, "Which grandma's are we going to today?"

Maybe we'll go on more vacations without them.

Enjoying the sun at the San Diego Zoo

Wrestling with the pillows

Zonked out while we ate Mexican food in Old Town

Monday, June 06, 2011

Things I Ate at Squatter's Tonight

1. Chicken pizza
2. Beef sliders
3. Mini sausages
4. Pita and hummus
5. Ribs
6. Little taquitos
7. Blackberry tart

My digestive system may never forgive me. (But everything was so delicious.)

Review: Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys
Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2

Did I miss something? Where did the “Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2” come from? I didn’t even know there was a Pt. 1.

It turns out the band played a fast one on me. (Or maybe a slow one.) The Beasties were planning on releasing a two-part “Hot Sauce” series until Adam Yauch was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. While he recovered, the New York City trio retooled the project, releasing it as just one disc. (You can find Pt. 1 as an import, but before you shell out the extra $20 bucks, you should know it’s almost exactly the same as Pt. 2.)

For most artist, a two-year delay would certainly kill a record. Not so for the Beastie Boys. Like all their records, “Hot Sauce” exists in a strange time warp, somewhere between 1985 and outerspace.

The Beastie Boys have never felt obliged to fit into a definable category. Over the past 25 years, the groups has done pretty much done whatever they’ve wanted. Obnoxious hip-hop (“License to Ill”)? Sure. An eight-song punk rock EP (“Aglio e Olio”) that clocks in at 11 minutes? Why not. An ‘80s throwback album (“To the 5 Boroughs”) followed by a an instrumental record (“The Mix-Up”). Of course.

While each of those records had a very specific flavor, “Hot Sauce” is more reminiscent of “Check Your Head,” when all those various styles got dropped in a blender. The record starts on a high note with the funky “Make Some Noise” and the robotic “Ok.” It gets even better when they make room for a rare guest appearance, inviting fellow New Yorker Nas to add some bite to the attacking “Too Many Rappers.”

While the trio have kept with the same rhyme patterns since their early days (who else can still get away with using lines like “Let me introduce myself, I’m Ad-Rock?”), their music never stays in the same place. “Say It” sounds like a cover of Onyx’s 1993 hit “Slam” and “Don’t Play No Game” finds the group on a tropical island with Santogold.

“Hot Sauce” is wildly uneven. Things get murky in the middle third (the fuzzy “Long Burn the Fire,” the warbly “Tadlock’s Glasses”) and there are a few misses (“Crazy A%% S*&%”). But that’s a small price to pay for a record that is willing to take risks without taking itself too seriously.

For fans of: Run-DMC, Rage Against the Machine
Rating: 3 of 4

Check out: Make Some Noise (Vevo)