on ben folds, travis stevens, and their last legacy in my life

Travis introduced me to this album.  I’m a big Ben Folds fan, but at the time had never heard about his album Fear of Pop, Vol. 1.  It’s this side project he made in the 90s while starting out with the 5 (I think their self titled had just been released… maybe Naked Baby Photos too… I’m not too sure).  Anyway, it was as if Ben had a month and nothing to do, and made one gem of an album.

My favorite song?  A William Shatner/BF collaboration.  So priceless.  Here are the lyrics:

In Love

Original Artist: Ben Folds

I remember the night we met,
That night we sat entwined,
Under summer skies,
I looked into your eyes,
And you looked into mine.

You said “You’re not like the rest”,
And I nodded.
“No one understands me” you said,
And I nodded once again as if to agree,
That all men are indeed the same,
Somehow, you say, I was different.

For months on end I maintained a veneer of sincere interest,
As if I was listening as you relived every page of self-help and new age that you’d read,
And I went in for the kill,
I’d read the same books,
I learned to ape the motions of a sensitive human being,
And we were oh so happy,
But you found things to fix,
And I knew it was time to move on.

So now you have me completely figured out,
You feel sorry for me,
I can’t express my feelings,
I can’t tell the truth,
We are all alike,
At puberty I was sworn to secrecy by the international brotherhood of lying fickle males,
I can’t tell you anything,
And I can’t commit,
You’re right,
I can’t commit to you.

I will always treasure our time together,
I don’t feel enough of anything to harbour the kind of disdain that you’ll maintain,
You painted me into what you wanted to see,
That’s fine,
But you will never know me.

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first day back in erie

…and I’m sure I could write about a whole heck of a lot, but I’m going to join the blogosphere buzz and talk about The Roots new album Game Theory.

For those of who are long time readers of my blog, you know I’m a HUGE Roots fan.  When I think about where my own musical style has gone and has been influenced over the last few years, few artists have as much sway with me as The Roots (maybe only Ben Folds and Sufjan Stevens have the cred in my mind equal).  The biggest reasons for my love is that they take hip-hop and apply creativity and intelligence to create art.  What makes them even more special is that they do it in a music genre that struggles for artistic relevancy.  This fall, I’m planning on FINALLY seeing them in concert.

Anyway.  On to Game Theory.  It’s coming out at the end of the month, but they released an EP, and I was able to snoop out a couple other tracks.  The drummer and musical genius of the group, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, said this would be their darkest album yet, and that the MC (which, in my and in others opinion, one of the best ever), Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, is dropping back from is, diss-heavy, KRS-One spitting, and developing narratives and social commentary – a move that I think reflects the ethos of The Roots in general.  The Roots, and the group best associated with them (Common, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott) are thoughtful about the issues concerning race.  To be more forceful in their lyrics is a great transition.

I find as I’m listening to the couple tracks I have (specifically the EP, Baby, and Game Theory), I sense a couple things.  First, they’re forging new territory.  Don’t Feel Right, their first single, has a top-notch piano vamp that compliments BTs MCing.  Tariq has one of the best rhythmic senses of any hip-hop, and his ability to syncopate is second-to-none.  Secondly, they’ve brought some of the best pieces of old-school Roots (Malik B?  Rhazel?  Yes, I’ll have some of both.)  In Right, Rhazel’s doing his thing in the background.  Third, again, a stronger play on social issues in BT’s rap.  ie (emphasis mine, and ps – it’s explicit, and I edited for you… but I make no apologies for explicit lyrics… it’s art, man.  C’mon.):

[Chorus]
It don’t feel right, it don’t feel right
It don’t feel, it don’t feel, I can’t feel it no more
It don’t feel right, it don’t feel right
It don’t feel, it don’t feel, I don’t feel it no more
Things don’t feel right over here
Lately I ain’t been seein’ clear
It don’t feel right, it don’t feel right
It don’t feel, it don’t feel, I can’t feel it no more
It don’t feel right, it don’t feel right
It don’t feel, it don’t feel, I can’t feel it no more
Seems to me nowadays things have changed
I don’t know if I feel the same

[Verse 1-Black Thought]
Yo, in the land of the unseen hand, and hold trouble
Theorize your game, it’s difficult to roll a double
The struggle ain’t right up in your face, it’s more subtle
But it’s still comin’ across like the bridge and tunnel vision
I try to school these bucks, but they don’t wanna listen
That’s the reason the system makin’ its paper from the prison
And that’s the reason we livin’ where they don’t wanna visit
Where the dope slang and keep swayin’ like Sonny Liston
The money missin’ and there’s mouths to feed
Yet the brain kickin’, thinkin’ of a thousand things
Remember back in the days, when the kitchen had eggs
And pancakes, thicken and greens and Kool Aid
When the ‘fridgerator naked then the cupboard is bare
People got to strip naked, stick ‘em up in the air

Wasn’t lies when they told you wasn’t nothin’ to fear
Somethin’ don’t feel right out here, nahmsayin’? Check it out

[Chorus]

[Verse 2-Black Thought]
Look, my eyes open ‘cause I’m really a rocksmith
And when inviting me thoughts, I’m really unboxin’
My main adversary in this silly concoction
Freeze your face like bosilium toxin
If you ain’t tryin’ to get popped, then give me a option
Helicopters choppin’ from Philly to Compton
The Jones is the richest since dismissin’ the Johnson’s
If you ain’t sayin’ nothin’, you a system’s accomplice
It should play with your conscience, do away with the nonsense
I’m overseeing anything within my circumference
This ain’t a press junket, I ain’t seekin’ responses
I stand where the people got the heat in they pocket
You mesmerized by the calm nonchalant-ness
I spit a dart, rub on some John Hitchcock s***
If you ain’t speakin’ your life, your rhyme’s adopted
If it don’t feel right, then stop it, you nahmsayin’?

[Chorus]

[Verse 3-Black Thought]
Yo, field you work in, weapon producin’
Natural disaster got the planet in a panic
We all gots to make that livin’
Sex, drugs, murder, politics and religion
Forms of hustlin’, watch who you put all your trust in
Worldwide, we coincide with who sufferin’
Who never had shit and ain’t got nothin’

But most strugglin’, and make you wanna run up in the ma’ f*****’
With hots on for a piece of the cake back
I can’t work for it, I can certainly take that
I’m fired up, thinkin’ about the payback, except
You f*** around and be a enemy of the state, black
Ill, but that’d be too real for TV
It’s crazy when you too real to be free
If you ain’t got no paper then steal this CD
Listen man, I’ll let you know how it feel to be me, it don’t feel

[Chorus]

There’s an angry fist being raised, and I think this is going to turn some heads.  Also, this isn’t to say they weren’t thinking about this stuff before, but I like they’re making it a point on their first single.  Speaking of, now that they’ve moved from Geffen to Def Jam and Jay-Z, I think there will be a better distribution, and finally we might see The Roots get the public accolade they so sincerely deserve.

But I don’t know if they will.  Folks who were die hard fans in the 90s and albums such as Illadelph Halflife, and Do You Want More?!!!?? are often jaded by Phrenology and The Tipping Point, saying the former are “true hip-hop”, and the latter are just sell out albums.  Me?  I love the latter stuff.  For the same reason I love The Roots – progressive thinkers.  Which really, might be the best way to describe The Roots – the thinking man’s hip-hop.  So, please.  Take a listen.  Go to ?uestlove’s MySpace page and download the latest track.

On a more current note, it’s about 90 degrees in my apartment tonight.  I’m going to remedy this by taking a trip with Hernandez to the Hookah bar in town.  High fives.

Much love to the people still reading my blog.   I’m back.  And this year is going to be huge.   I can feel it.

concert

So in August I'm going to see Anathallo in Pittsburgh with some CCO folks, and they're playing with a band called The Format. I decided to download one of their albums, and as I was listening to the first song, I was like "wait, this sounds remarkably familiar!"

It is. Hannah put it on an album she made me a couple months ago. It's funny (and if you read this, Hannah, a big check+ for you) that so many of the songs on that album I've come back and rediscovered in various ways – Garden State, listening to some of the songs I had on my computer, and then getting ready for this concert. But as I was listening to The First Single, I found I really liked the lyrics. So I'm putting them up here. Enjoy!

"The First Single"

I can't stand to think about a heart so big it hurts like hell
Oh my god I gave my best but for three whole years to end like this
Well do you want to fall apart? I can't stop if you cant start
Do you want to fall apart? I could if you can try to fix what I've undone
Cause I hate what I've become

[Chorus]
You know me, oh you think you do you just don't seem to see
I've been waiting all this time to be, something I can't define
So let's cause a scene, clap our hands and stomp our feet or something,
yeah something I've just got to get myself over me

I could stand to do without, all the people I have left behind
What's the point in going around when it's a straight line baby, a straight line down
So let's make a list of who we need and it's not much if anything
Let's make a list of who we need and we'll throw it away
'Cause we don't need anyone, no we don't need anyone

[Chorus]

And I hate what I've become.

You know the night life is just not for me
'Cause all you really need are a few good friends
I don't want to go out and be on my own,
You know they started something I can't stand
You leave for the city,
Well count me out
'Cause all this time is wasted on everything I've done

[Chorus x2]

Yeah
Over me
Yeah
Over me

It isn't necessarily a reflection of how I feel about life – I'd like to think my life is better than a striaght line now, but it just reminds me of times we just feel out of sorts. It reminds me of the John Mayer song "Not Myself":

Suppose I said
I am on my best behavior
And there are times
I lose my worried mind?

Would you want me when I'm not myself?
Wait it out while I am someone else?

Suppose I said
Colors change for no good reason
And words will go
From poetry to prose

Would you want me when
I'm not myself?
Wait it out while I am someone else?

And I, in time, will come around
I always do for you

Suppose I said
You're my saving grace?

There are moments in life, for whatever reason, that we all are not the people we percieve. I think the friends that stick around you in those times are the ones that like you, but I think the ones that love you are the ones that stick by, let you have the off time, but care enough to want to bring you through it.

…and that's enough thinking for me tonight. Much love.

sweet new album i made

    So I promised Hannah I'd make her an album documenting my favorite songs.  This is a monumental task for me, and in fact, for Volume I, I only managed to go from A-J (first word… Media Player doesn't sort by last name).  Anyway, here's the first set of tracks:

  1. Amy Winehouse – In My Bed
  2. Aqualung – Extra Ordinary Thing
  3. Ben Folds – You To Thank
  4. Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals – Ground on Down
  5. Bright Eyes – First Day of My Life
  6. Britney Spears – Toxic
  7. Cee-Lo (f. Pharrell) – The Art of Noise
  8. Coldplay – X&Y
  9. Common (f. Kanye West) – The Food [Live]
  10. Jamie Cullum – Frontin'
  11. David Gray – My Oh My
  12. Derek Webb – I Hate Everything (But You)
  13. Dispatch – Silent Steeples
  14. Diana Krall – Peel Me A Grape
  15. Fiona Apple – Criminal
  16. G. Love and the Special Sauce – Rhyme for the Summertime
  17. Guster – Ramona
  18. Jack Johnson – Wasting Time

    As I'm listening to the album (I haven't given it away yet), I think "Dang, this really is a good reflection of my musical taste", and it's not even including a few of my favorite artists in the A-J (Anathallo, Alicia Keys, Amerie, Badly Drawn Boy, Danger Mouse, etc), and obviously arists like Kayne West, Sufjan Stevens, The Roots, and Pete Rock haven't even been thought of yet.

    It's funny too that I've tried to do this for years, and when I finally said "oh, let's just do this alphabetically" how easy it's become.

    If you, too, would like this mixtape, give me a holler. 

this will not be a lyric posting blog… promise

But I love this one.  And I think it might be the single best way to describe how I want to feel when I'm dating someone.  Enjoy:

"First Day Of My Life" – Bright Eyes

This is the first day of my life
I swear I was born right in the doorway
I went out in the rain suddenly everything changed
They're spreading blankets on the beach

Yours is the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you
Now I don’t know where I am
I don’t know where I’ve been
But I know where I want to go

And so I thought I’d let you know
That these things take forever
I especially am slow
But I realize that I need you
And I wondered if I could come home

Remember the time you drove all night
Just to meet me in the morning
And I thought it was strange you said everything changed
You felt as if you had just woke up
And you said “this is the first day of my life
I’m glad I didn’t die before I met you
But now I don’t care I could go anywhere with you
And I’d probably be happy”

So if you want to be with me
With these things there’s no telling
We just have to wait and see
But I’d rather be working for a paycheck
Than waiting to win the lottery
Besides maybe this time is different
I mean I really think you like me

Jesus + Music ≠ CCM

Tonight at the ARK, one of the CCO staff working at W&J (Andrew Heffner) came to visit to talk about Christianity and Music, and, although I’m giving him no credit by this less-than-skeleton synopsis of what he spoke on, said that contemporary Christian music (CCM), is placing Christians in a space that ignores relevant culture, and that by considering music a tool, we are making it just that (like a hammer – no one ever holds precious their hammer), and not art.

I found such relief that we had a conversation like this.  Music is my #1 passion outside of Jesus.  And there’s too much beautiful and intelligent music that Christians are either running away from, or are allowing themselves to be satiated with inane, 3-chorded loosely-defined music that fills airspace.

I try to hard not to come off as a music snob, because my point isn’t that people – Christian or not – can’t find their top music choice to be Top 40 pop.  But, all of our call should be music that means something.  And as much as I hate to admit it (because I like these songs) Ne-Yo and Sean Paul aren’t really challenging anything – except maybe how low individuals can dip it and get thurr eagle’s on.

CCM is in an espeically delicate place.  Paul, in Acts 17, goes to the Stoics and Epicureans and talks to them about things not from an arrogant “I’m right, you suck” standpoint, but rather with things that they would understand, talking about their poets in order to connect on intellectual levels.

In much the same way, I question why we have a plethora of bands which are saying “we’ll use the same formulas of all of our ‘secular’ buddies, and say ‘Jesus’ 15 times instead of ‘baby'”.  And, obviously, CCM artists run the spectrum of artistic as opposed to mechanistic formulation, but, there will still be something lost if it is labeled Contemporary Christian Music.

In an effort to not turn this into a “it’s 2am and I should be in bed” rant, I leave you with a song by Sufjan Stevens – a Contemporary Christian in Music, who has made something both thoughtful, and beautiful (Paste and Rolling Stone both rated it within the top 5 albums of the year).

Goldenrod and the 4H stone,
the things I brought you,
when I found out you had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone,
and he drove his car into the navy yard,
just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade,
when the light pressed up against your shoulderblade,
I could see what you were reading.

All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications you could do without,
when I kissed you on the mouth.

Tuesday night at the Bible study,
we lift our hands and pray over your body,
but nothing ever happens.

I remember at Michael’s house,
in the living room when you kissed my neck,
and I almost touched your blouse.

In the morning at the top of the stairs,
when your father found out what we did that night,
and you told me you were scared.

All the glory when you ran outside,
with your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied,
and you told me not to follow you.

Sunday night when I cleaned the house,
I find the card where you wrote it out,
with the pictures of you mother.

On the floor at the great divide,
with my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied,
I am crying in the bathroom.

In the morning when you finally go,
and the nurse runs in with her head hung low,
and the cardinal hits the window.

In the morning in the winter shade,
on the 1st of March on the holiday,
I thought I saw you breathing.

All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications when I see His face,
in the morning in the window.

All the glory when he took our place,
but he took my shoulders and he shook my face,
and he takes and he takes and he takes.