Sunday, December 25, 2011

This Is Not Another Best Records Of 2011 List.

R.I.P. Trish Keenan - "You're missed."
I'm tired of Best Of lists: the idea that things need arbitrary categorical ranking stipulating just what, in most reviewers opinions, constitutes the absolute best of, well, pretty much any and everything. Nine will get you 10 that one person's Top 10 list is another person's signal of the dumbing-down of our society.

Take Best Of lists regarding recorded music, for instance. At (or near) the end of every year, trivial blogs like the one you're reading right now take time and energy pouring over their summations of what the writer feel are their favorite records of the year. And good for them; these folks usually have pretty good taste in music. But here's the thing: they have shit ability to rank said music in any fashion whatsoever. Most of the bands I've seen ranked in any discernible way are more often than not the inverse of any selection I'd make. And vice-versa for them of my list, I'm sure.

Worst yet are the so-called professional purveyors of music criticism: rock journalists. Take for instance the re-launched Magnet magazine. On their cover of this month's issue is the band Yuck, who's self-titled album also just happens to be Magnet's pick for releasing the No. 1 album of the year. Now, I like Yuck and enjoy their music, but No. 1 album of the year? More than Wild Flag's debut, Dum Dum Girl's Only In Dreams, Real Estate's Day's, or either of The Oh Sees two stellar long players (those latter three bands didn't even rank in Magnet's Top 10 poll)!?! Again, don't get me wrong; Yuck is a great band - one that's very reminiscent of those wonderful 1990's "alt-rock," 120-Minutes days - but I didn't find their 2011 album to sound "...current, vintage and timeless all at once," as Magnet's Editor-In-Chief Eric T. Miller did in his editor's letter (to my mind, the only band that could pull off these three feats at once was Love).

(Of course Magnet is the same publication that ranked The Shins' Chutes Too Narrow second to The Wrens' The Meadowlands as the best album of 2004, so, you know... )

Which leads me back to my point (I have one, right? Oh yeah... ): year-end, Best Of lists are absolute bullshit! Ranking music in this modern day and age is largely pointless. There's just so fuckin' much of it - we're overwhelmed! And people are tied so tightly to the shit they love, that saying anything to the contrary to what they insert into their ears is a direct assault on their musical tastes and egos. Who needs it?

To that I end, I present to you my list of the 40 songs that I enjoyed in 2011. I even took the time to format them into a 2x mix CD format complete with cover art. See? Best Of lists are cut. Listing shit on the Internet? That's where it's at these days!


The Last Gas: Some Of The Best Of 2011

Disc One
1. Wild Flag “Romance(from Wild Flag, Sub Pop Records)
2. Ganglians “Jungle(from Still Living, Lefse Records)
3. Toro Y Moi “Got Blinded(from Underneath the Pine, Carpark Records)
4. Karl Blau “Celebrate By Singing(from the Max EP, K Records)
5. Dum Dum Girls “Bedroom Eyes(from Only In Dreams, Sub Pop Records)
6. Death Grips “Spread Eagle Cross the Block(from Ex Military, Third World Records)
7. Fleet Foxes “Lorelai(from Helplessness Blues, Sub Pop Records)
8. The Black Keys “Lonely Boy(from El Camino, Nonesuch Records)
9. Washed Out “Amor Fati(from Within and Without, Sub Pop Records)
10. Thee Oh Sees “Carrion Crawler(from Carrion Crawler/The Dream, In the Red Records)
11. Raphael Saadiq “Heart Attack(from Stone Rollin', Sony Music Entertainment)
12. Ty Segall “You Make the Sun Fry(from Goodbye Bread, Drag City Records)
13. Wilco “Black Moon(from The Whole Love, dBpm Records)
14. Meat Puppets “Damn Thing(from Lollipop, Megaforce Records)
15. Woods “Any Other Day(from Sun and Shade, Woodist Records)
16. Diego Garcia “You Were Never There(from Laura, Nacional Records)
17. Destroyer “Chinatown(from Kaputt, Merge Records)
18. Caitlin Rose “Shanghai Cigarettes(from Own Side Now, ATO Records)
19. Kurt Vile “Jesus Fever(from Smoke Ring For My Halo, Matador Records)
20. Mazzy Star “Common Burn(from the Common Burn single, Rhymes Of An Hour Records)

Disc 2
1. The Feelies “Should Be Gone(from Here Before, Bar None Records)
2. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks “Senator(from Mirror Traffic, Matador Records)
3. Bon Iver “Holocene(From Bon Iver, Jagjaguwar Records)
4. Elliott Smith “The Real Estate(from Live From Nowhere Near You, Vol. II, Pt. 3, Funkhead Music)
5. Deer Tick “Miss K(from Divine Providence, Partisan Records)
6. Tom Waits “Bad As Me(from Bad As Me, Anti- Records)
7. Fruit Bats “So Long(from Tripper, Sup Pop Records)
8. Thurston Moore “Circulation(from Demolished Thoughts, Matador Records)
9. Real Estate “It’s Real(from Days, Domino recording Co. Ltd.)
10. Beirut “Santa Fe(from The Rip Tide, Pompeii Records)
11. Beach Fossils feat. Jack TatumOut In the Way(from the What A Pleasure EP, Captured Tracks)
12. The Minders “Needle Doll(from PDX Pop Now! 2011, PDX Pop Now! Records)
13. Cass McCombs “County Line(from Wit's End, Domino Recording Co. Ltd.)
14. St. Vincent “Cruel(from Strange Mercy, 4AD Records)
15. Boston Spaceships “Tourist U.F.O.(from Let It Beard, GBV Inc.)
16. Crystal Stilts “Precarious Stair(from In Love With Oblivion, Slumberland Records)
17. M83 “Midnight City(from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, M83 Recordings, Inc.)
18. The War On Drugs “Baby Missiles(from Slave Ambient, Secretly Canadian Records)
19. Youth Lagoon “July(from The Year Of Hibernation, Fat Possum Records)
20. tUnE-yArDs “Powa(from Whokill, 4AD Records)

Bonus Picks:
1. Tennis "Origins" (from the Origins single, Fat Possum Records)
2. Radiation City "The Color Of Industry" (from The Hand That Takes You, Tender Loving Empire)
3. Charles Bradley & the Menahan Street Band "How Long" (from No Time For Dreaming, Daptone Records) 
4. Yuck "Holing Out" (from Yuck, Fat Possum Records)
5. J. Mascis "Not Enough" (from Several Shades of Why, Sub Pop Records) 
6. Atlas Sound "Terra Incognita" (from Parallax, 4AD Records)
7. The Caretaker "Fleeting Dreams" (from An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, History Always Favors the Winners) 
8. Dirty Beaches "Sweet 17" (from Badlands, Zoo Music)
9. Mogwai "San Pedro" (from Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Sub Pop Records)
10. Gold Leaves "Endless Dope" (from The Ornament, Hardly Art Records)

Other stuff I really enjoyed this year:

Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Diablo Cody
Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswald and Patrick Wilson

With her bitterly dark character study, Young Adult, I am thoroughly convinced that Diablo Cody is one of Hollywood's most insightful, intuitive and intelligent philosophers working today (oh, and she's also a damned good writer, too!) Cody's Mavis Gary (played to icy, indifferent perfection by Charlize Theron) is the embodiment of post 1990's slackerdom, aimlessly adrift, morally compromised and self-satisfied in a world full of Facebook, Twitter and blogs (!) Convinced that she can retain some semblance of self after her recently failed marriage, Mavis (a ghost writer of a flagging tween-centric book series) returns to her small Minnesota town to reclaim the love of her high school life: Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Unfortunately for her, Buddy's happily married and a new father. Not that this, or the advice of her old classmate, Matt Freehauf (played to bittersweet, nerdtastic perfection by Patton Oswald), can stop Mavis' drunken, rambling anti-social blitzkrieg or delusion-fueled free fall from sanity. That Mavis does not change or alter herself or her managerist outlook from the beginning of the film to the end is a masterstroke of storytelling - one which Cody is obviously strongly adept at. Teamed-up again with Juno director Jason Reitman (who is fast becoming one of my favorite directors after Thank You For Smoking and Up In the Air), Cody proves to be one of the sharpest knives in Tinseltown's drawer. As one of the few women (Miranda July also had a fantastically understated film this year, by the way) making substantial waves in a sadly male-dominated sea, Diablo Cody's insights into the imperfections of the human condition are by turns hilarious, cringe-inducing and profound. I honestly cannot wait to see what this writer comes up with next.

Wriiten by Nick Attfield 

Jeebus! I remember buying this record brand new on cassette when it first came out in 1980-something-or-other. Now it gets the 33 1/3 treatment? Oy vey! I recently re-bought this album (on vinyl, natch!) when Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph swung by The Fillmore in San Francisco to play Bug (the album that signaled the trio's last incarnation as "Dinosaur Jr," by the by) from beginning to end. But that the age we live in I suppose; fresh outta new ideas, condemned to repeat our old ones (not that the soundtrack is all that, mind you). As with every other 33 1/3 book in the series, this behind the scenes tome is essential for fans that need more than a half sheet of info to sate their info-lust. It's all in there: the self-destruction, conflicting egos, indifference, and other dysfunctional behaviors this trio was infamous for. But there are also keen insights that delve directly into the making of this record, with stories culled from interviews of all three band members and principle supporting players. Essential reading, pretty much.

Show: Dinosaur Jr
Bug, the album in its entirety.
The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

What can I say? I got to this show late. I missed Henry Rollings interviewing the band before the show, and walked into venue right in the middle of "Freak Scene" (which was so sonically piercing I could actually (((feel))) it from the sidewalk on Geary Blvd). Yet despite my late arrival, this show was absolutely awesome. Bug has always been my favorite album by this band, and continues to be in my Top-25 Records Of All Time in my mind. It was honestly thrilling to watch this band tear through "No Bones," "Let It Ride" and "Budge" with little to no verbal interaction with the crowd. Even when Lou Barlow brought a glasses-toting ginger-topped audience member who looked to be all of 19 (?) on stage to completely butcher the timing of "Don't" (a song which consist simply of the phrase "Why don't you like me?" repeated over and over again), this show was still a gas. Sadly, during the encore, the band didn't play any of the B-sides that accompanied this record, most notably the frenzied version of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven." But this is gift-horse-in-the-mouth compared to seeing these legends on the same stage together, playing one of the best records that ever destroyed a band (Bug was the last record featuring Dinosaur Jr's original line-up, don'tcha know). That constant ringing in my ears was well worth it.

Shoe: Nike 6.0 Rzol Low

I've been waiting for this shoe - literally. A couple of years ago, while working for a shoe company designing knock-off Air Force 1's (otherwise know as my "season of hell"), I drew-up a mock-up of a shoe that was a sort of cross between an eS' Koston 6, a Clark's Wallabee and a Redwing boot. I had few variations (low top, slip-on, chukka, etc.) and even a company name, but regrettably no capital or interested investors. Flash-forward to last June of this year where I'm in a shoe store in some mall looking over a wall of shoes when my eyes land on the 6.0 Rzol Low's by Nike. There it all was: the toe-to-heel banding, the gum-rubber sidewall, the retro, mod-looking stylization. I was so floored, I actually dragged my wife out of Sophora and back into this shoe store to look at these shoes (she wasn't impressed, like, at all). So taken was I with these 6.0 Rzol's, however, that I actually now have two pairs of them, with my eye on a third. Seeing as how Nike seems to be phasing them out on their website at half-off sale prices, a pair of the 6.0 Rzol Low Premium's should prove easier to obtain. I augmented my second pair with a set of hiking boot laces I bought at Safeway, and they look pretty fuckin' nifty (see picture above for proof of lack-of-life). Cha, cha, cha!

Bike: Urago (reconditioned)
Purchased at Edible Pedal, Sacramento, CA

This Urago 10-speed was originally going to be my camouflage bike, since this bike was functional, yet so damned but ugly (honestly, this bike was so haggard and weather-beaten, it looked like it would have given you a staff infection just looking at it. A new matte black paint job and augmentation with new and NOS parts (Godspeed hubs, Velo Orange handlebars, a used Brooks B-72 saddle, etc.), and this is how that old French-made Urago appears today. And it rides even better (it still need a front break caliper, and I want to get some Brooks grips and a pump for the downtube). Honestly, there's nothing like refurbishing an old bike. Give it a try!

That's it. See you 2012!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Duck & Cover: The Shins

Photo via
So, it's been a while since James Mercer and his whimsy-infused band, The Shins, released any new material (it's been about 5 years since Wincing The Night Away came out, by the by). At the rate he's been covering other musician's songs, however, Indierock's Tim Burton has proven to possess great taste in music. Witness...

1. "Strange Powers" (Magnetic Fields) mp3
2. "Baby Boomerang" (T. Rex) mp3
3. "Breathe" (Pink Floyd) mp3
4.  "We Will Become Silhouettes" (The Postal Service) mp3
5.  "Goodbye Girl" (Squeeze) mp3
6.  "Taste Of Cindy (Live)" (The Jesus and Mary Chain) mp3

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Elliott Smith, Undusted ...Again.

Hot on the heels of his posthumous Grey Day Records Outside In compilation appearance, yet another unreleased Elliott Smith ditty sees the light of day. This song, "Misery Let Me Down," dates back to Smith's 1997 live appearance at WMUC-FM, a student run radio station at the University of Maryland, College Park. At the rate these rare gems are popping up, don't be surprised to see another Elliott Smith unreleased rarities compilation album somewhere down the road (like, say, the one I made below... )

Elliott Smith Grand Mal
1. Misery Let Me Down
2. Suicide Machine
3. Cecelia/Amanda
4. Mailman Thinks Me Dumb
5. No Name #6
6. Miss Misery (Piano Version)
7. Stick Man
8. Division Day
9. Trouble
10. Mr. Good Morning
11. Grand Mal
12. Dancing On the Highway
13. The Enemy Is You
14. I Don't Think I'm Ever Gonna Figure It Out

Bonus Songs 
1. "Jealous Guy" (John Lennon cover, live)
2. "Don't Fear the Reaper" (Blue Oyster Cult cover, live)
3. "Moonshiner" (unreleased, live)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guided By Voices: Won't Stop Now

Hot on the heels of their year long reunion tour, Guided By Voices recently announced (via their website) the upcoming release of their brand spankin' new record. The original lineup of Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell have recorded 21 beer-soaked ditties that will go under the title Let's Go Eat The Factory, and will be available January, 2012. If it's anything like this line-ups' last GBV recording together (Under The Bushes, Under The Stars) this new album's going to be epic… in a rawkin’, lo-fi way, of their of course. 
Needless to say, I am one happy camper: a new record and inevitable tour. Fuck yes! I'm feeling like King Shit of the Golden Boys over here.
Here's the tracklist:

Laundry And Lasers
The Head

Doughnut For A Snowman


Hang Mr. Kite

God Loves Us

The Unsinkable Fats Domino

Who Invented The Sun

The Big Hat And Toy Show

Imperial Racehorsing

How I Met My Mother


My Europa

Chocolate Boy

The Things That Never Need

Either Nelson

Cyclone Utilities (Remember Your Birthday)

Old Bones

Go Rolling Home

The Room Taking Shape

We Won't Apologize For The Human Race

Friday, September 23, 2011

Throwing The Netflix Out With The Bath Water

In some future historic compendium of corporate blunders that will invariably include the Potiac Aztek, New Coke and Windows Vista, Netflix' marketing and customer service decisions of 2011 will most have its own chapter. The video rental service that bested the once dominant Blockbuster Video behemoth by providing a seemingly inexhaustible selection of DVD rentals at reasonable prices with absolutely no late fees has recently been making some of the most perplexing and miscalculated steps. How did this Internet-based company - which seemed to have a business model that not only satisfied but also predicted their customers demands - fumble the ball in the end zone of their own stadium?

Speaking from personal experience, Netflix arrival on the video rental scene couldn't have come at a better time. A used and abused customer of Blockbuster Video, I had sworn off the chain completely after not only getting dinged for a late rental return, but also having said return reported to a credit agency (complete with a phone call from a debt collector). And in a completely Kafka-esque turn of events, that very same credit report ding also banned me from renting videos at any Blockbuster Video outlet anywhere ever for several months. This wouldn't have been so bad if Blockbuster wasn't the only game in town, practically wiping all of the independent mom 'n pop off the video rental map (ah, the follies of corporate monopoly!)

During that black-ball period, if I wanted to watch a new VHS or DVD release, I had to actually purchase a physical product, which at nearly $20.00 a pop became a very expensive habit. And if the movie sucked, tough shit; an open product with a receipt will only get you a fraction of the money you spent on it at. By the time my Blockbuster ban was lifted, I was soured on the company and never returned.

Then came Netflix. No muss, no fuss. Your rental - delivered by mail no less - was yours for as long as you wanted it, returnable in a prepaid envelope. With a ton of movies just a couple of mouse clicks away - and at a pricing structure that fit your budget - going "outside" to rent a movie was a thing of the past (goodbye getting in the car, driving to a store and milling about for hours looking at empty boxes indicating the rental you wanted was "out"). Netflix' business model gave long-suffering Blockbuster customers/victims exactly what they wanted: convenience, selection and - above all - respect.

Eventually, the Netflix brand became so successful that they started taking considerable chunks out of the 'Busters' wallet (so desperate to keep up, the lumbering Blockbuster even copied Netflix rental by mail model). Netflix' success eventually led to the shuttering of several Blockbuster stores across the nation.

So, given their success, how exactly did the once promising Netflix go from that intuitive company to short-sighted corporate clod so fast? In a word: stupidity.

When Netflix introduced its streaming video-on-demand service a couple of years ago, it heralded what some in the industry saw as the death knell for the physical video rental model. Augmenting their DVD rental service, Netflix added supplied streaming content in the form of movies and television shows. Download some software from the company's site and you're good to go. Easy, right?

Well, yeah, it was for a while. Then things like bandwidth restrictions, slower loading speeds and limited content started to become an issue. Add to this Stars (the cable TV distribution company which supplies Netflix with nearly half of its streaming content) and several major Hollywood studios signaled that they were pulling away from the online rental retailer at the end of this year. But in a counter-intuitive move that seemed to only compound Netflix woes, the company sent it's subscribers an email in July detailing a two tiered price increase (one for DVDs and one for streaming content, effectively double prices) starting in September. This cost shift was so cost substantial that the company might as well have gone door-to-door and slapped its customers in the face individually.

It was right then and there that I decided to cancel my subscription. And judging by Netflix plummeting stock index numbers, I wasn't the only one.

Taking stock of their severe marketing miscalculations, Netflix co-founder and CEO, Reed Hastings, sent its former (and numerous) customers an apology email outlining how mistaken he felt  the company's price increases were in a sort of rambling, long-winded mea culpa. But with his "apology," did Hastings take this opportunity to announce a scaling-back of those price increases and persuade Netflix former customers to return to the fold with better products?


Instead, Hastings unveiled Netflix' latest blunder: Qwikster, a seperate online DVD rental site that looked remarkably like Netflix, but with an annoyingly misspelled name reminiscent of Internet entities from the early Aughts (Napster, Friendster, etc.) That's right; now if you want to rent physical DVDs, you simple log on to a separate website. Yes, unlike Netflix old rental system, where you could toggle between the DVD and streaming tabs on your queue, you now have to go to two separate sites, and pay accordingly. It's kind of like going to a coffee house and being told pastries are sold across the street. Mildly inconvenient, but still inconvenient, nonetheless.

Now, I'm not in marketing, but if you were going to go this split-up-content route, wouldn't it have been better to keep the name of the platform your customers have become acquainted with with the actual company name they've become familiar with (Netflix=DVD rental)? And that name change: Qwikster!?! God, I'm so tired of misspell-hip! If the company insisted on going down that beaten path, why not call their streaming site something like, I dunno, "Instaflix" and their DVD rental site as Netflix? I mean, I know Netflix will convert to an all-streaming format eventually and they want to keep their brand-recognized name, but c'mon! They already broke their boat in half. Why not christen the end that isn't sinking as fast with a new and more appropriate name?

Am I glad I cancelled my Netflix subscription? Yes I am. Even before the price increase was announced, I was already settling into Netflix fatigue - having felt that I've already exhausted those movies and TV shoes I hadn't already seen before, and that there was really nothing new on the site that was really worth watching. And for a while there, I was just going through the motions, re-watching movies I once loved as a teen (The Terminator for example), that now seemed quaint in their old age and stop motion special effects. I was tired of simply looking for something to watch, much less actually watching something - anything. Besides, there's a a whole big world out there that we haven't completely destroyed yet, and I'd like to see it before it finally gets blown to hell.

With the money I'm now saving from my monthly Netflix subscription, that should be easy to do.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Does It Feel To Get Rid Of CDs? It Feels Great!

I'm the opposite of a hoarder; a "consolidator," if you will. I seriously can't stand clutter. If stuff has been sitting around my house and collecting dust, I'll most likely sell it on eBay, take it to a local consignment store, pawn it off on friends and family, or just give it away.

Case in point: outmoded compact discs.

At one point in my life I had something like 1,000 CDs. A modest number (especially compared to DJ and hardcore music collecting friends of mine), but weighty all the same. Looking over the the stacks of albums, import EPs, singles and promo copies lining the Ikea CD cabinet next the desk where my iMac sits, it dawned on the-late-adopting-of-tehnology-me that I could simply load these discs to my iTunes, free up some floor space and score some walking around skilla for the upcoming honeymoon my bride-to-be and I will be going on in October. 

Chief among these dust covered CDs where those I collected in the mid-to-late 1990's and early Aughts, mostly of the "alternative/indie-rock" persuasion (ex. Ride, Slowdive, Pixies, The American Analog Set, The Boo Radleys, Thee Headcoats, Swervedriver, etc.) Now having most of the long players on remastered and expensively-obtained vinyl, having a "spare" copy on CD seemed, well, tedious. Burned to iTunes and posted to eBay these CDs went.

As for the singles, EPs and rarities recordings? I made playlist files for them in my iTunes, whipped-up some "cover" art using band-appropriate images from the Internet and sequenced the songs into an non-album album format before selling the original copies on Meg Whitman's former employer's website.

Anyhoo, here are six of my favorite Frankenstein compilation creations:

Pixies Eat Your Rouge
1. Weird At My School
2. Santo
3. Build High
4. Bailey's Walk
5. Manta Ray
6. Make Believe
7. Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf)
8. Dancing the Manta Ray
9. Theme From NARC
10. Evil Hearted You
11. Winterlong
12. Velvety Instrumental Version
13. I've Been Waiting For You
14. The Thing
15. Into The White

Lush Beside
1. Mannequin 
2. Starlust
3. Falling In Love
4. Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
5. God's Gift
6. Astronaut
7. Outdoor Miner
8. Love At First Site
9. Sweetie
10. Cat's Chorus
11. Half And Half
12. The Childcatcher
13. Whitewood
14. All This Useless Beauty
15. Girl's World
16. Rupert The Bear

Ride Today Forever
1. Unfamiliar
2. Sennen
3. Beneath
4. Today
5. Going Blank Again
6. Howard Hughes
7. Stampede
8. At The End Of The Universe
9. Let's Get Lost
10. Slave
11. Don't Let It Die
12. Nothing Last Forever
13. Rolling Thunder #2
14. A Trip Down Ronnie Lane

Guided By Voices Potion-Controlled Nanobytesized
1. Intro
2. Big School
3. Do The Earth
4. (I'll Name You) The Flame That Cries
5. Chocking Tara
6. Running Off With The Fun City Girls
7. Matter Eater Lad
8. Father Sgt. Christmas Card
9. Sensational Gravity Boy
10. Of Mites And Men
11. The Top Chick's Silver Chord
12. Draw(In)g To A (W)hole
13. June Salutes You
14. Now To War (Electric Version)
15. It Is Divine
16. I'll Replace You With Machines
17. Dragon's Awake (Groggy Version)

The Clientele Nothing Here Is What It Seems
1. George Says He's Lost His Way In This World
2. That Night, A Forest Grew
3. The Fire
4. Girl From Somewhere
5. Your Song
6. Minotaur
7. Retiro Park
8. As The World Rises And Falls
9. Jerry
10. Strange Town
11. Paul Verlaine
12. No. 33
13. The Green Man
14. Nothing Here Is What It Seems

The Shins Think You're Wrong? Think Again! (B-Sides & Rarities, 2000-2010)
1. Eating Styes From Elephant Eyes
2. Those Bold City Girls
3. The Gloating Sun
4. My Seventh Rib
5. We Built A Raft And Floated
6. When I Goose-Step
7. Sphagnum Esplanade
8. My Seventh Rib (Live)
9. New Slang (Live)
10. We Will Become Silhouettes 
11. Mild Child
12. Whoa, Trish!
13. Gone For Good
14. Baby Boomerang
15. They'll Soon Discover
16. Taste Of Cindy (Live)
17. New Slang (Live, w/ Iron And Wine)
18. Little Boxes
19. Strange Powers
20. Australia (Peter, Bjorn and John Remix)
21. It's OK, Try Again
22. Sleeping Lessons (The RAC Mix)
23. Split Needles (Alt. Version)
24. Plenty Is Never Enough
25. Wipe My Butt
26. Nothing At All
27. Turn On Me (Clint Mansell Remix)

Well, How About That...?

From time-to-time I still like to venture out into the retail world and see what's going on in the shoe market. It's always refreshing/horrifying to see what shoe designers are coming up with, and I always see at least a pair or two of new kicks that make me giddy and force me to fork over my hard-earned skrilla. On my latest trek out, however, I didn't expect to see a pair of shoes I have wanted for quite some time. 

...Or should I say, have wanted to design, like, forever.

Upon a trip to our local mallgaloplex, I stopped into a store named Zumiez, a proto-skateshop/lifestyle endeavor presumably for kids too timid to brave the jaded barbs of employees at real skateboard shops. Perusing the floor-to-ceiling wall of new skate shoes by the likes of DC, DVS, Lakai, Vox, adidas, and Fallen, it was a particular brand of Nike 6.0's that caught my eye: the "Rzol."

I couldn't believe what I was looking at. This shoe looked so insanely similar to the "Lo-Fi" shoe I designed for my pie-in-the-sky footwear company, Mashugina Shoeworks. Just like the kick I detailed on this very blog, the Nike "Rzol" features a low, light profile, full-wrap banding and a gum rubber sole. It was like looking at a dream come to like, but with a Nike "swoosh" on the side instead of a Mashugina sidewall patch. 

Sketches from my Moleskin notebook, circa 2004.
Originally called "The Eccsame" after the Lilys album, "The Lo-Fi" simply sounded much better.

Needless to say, now I seriously want a pair of these Nike shoes. They're super light, comfortable, and at $70.00 a pair, not a bad deal (maybe I'll buy two!) But damn if I wish I'd gotten my shoes out to market before these came out (great minds, aye?) Just goes to show ya: if you have an idea and dream to make it come true, you really owe it to yourself to see it through.

"Just Do It," indeed.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chicago, You're Critical Mass Is Being Sponsored By Urban Outfitters ...And Levi's!

I woke up this morning to an e-mail from Urban Outfitters ( buy one pair of shoes six years ago...) that I couldn't help but feel was a couple of project coordinator's well-intentioned, yet somewhat clueless attempt at cross promotion.

The cross promotion in question is (sub)Urban Outfitters team-up with Levi's to promote the jeans maker's new 511 Commuter. As seen in the video below, Levi's put a ton o' gimmes into these jeans to make them appealing to the ever-present stationary fixed gear rider with a warehouse/projector set-up:

Judging by the comments on YouTube, this promotional video has indeed generated the "I want 'em!" buzz the brand was looking for. However, as several female commentators noted, these jeans are being marketed only to guys - which makes sense, since Levi's is strictly making the 511 Commuter for dudes. As one of these commentators also noted, any female urban bike rider looking to utilize the wondrous attributes of these jeans will have to buy the men's size small (a brilliant bit of irony, given the trend a couple of years ago of skinny fellas buying girl's jeans - NATCH!)

Now personally, I'm not a fan of the oh-so-skinny 511's. I tried on a pair once and honestly, couldn't peel them off my leg fast enough. There's just something about looking like you're in a denim ballet that doesn't appeal to me. The looser, yet slightly more dignified skinny-cut 513's are more my speed (Hear that Levi's? Why not extend the Commuter brand across your other "urban" jeans platforms?)

But the Levi's jeans end of this promotion wasn't what was giving me the arshole. No, it was UO's cross country, town-to-town free bike tuning promotion that made me groan through my eyes-closed-shaking-head-back-and-forth guffaw.

While the "Custom Levi's Commuter Tailoring," "DIY Bike Bag" and the "And More" sound slightly appealing, it's the "Bike Tuning With An Expert Mechanic" that ultimately elicits a "tsk, tsk." I mean, I can see where, in Urban Outfitters' mind, that this promotion makes total sense (since UO has their own line of fixed gear bicycles, and all), but looking at the tour stops (seriously, Asheville, but not Davis, Baltimore or Seattle???), I'm going to venture to guess that most - if not all - of these cities have at least (!) one bike shop. Imagine how pleased these bike shop's proprietors must be to know Urban Outfitters and Levi's are doing their jobs ...FOR FREE! Slap, meet face.

(Wait! New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Portland? They have a small cadre of messenger bag manufacturers, right? Hey, they'll be pleased with Urban Outfitters x Levi's traveling swiping-food-from-mouth show, too!)

Anyhoo, if you're looking to "get in the saddle" and take your LBS for granted - or if you're a LBS owner in one of the cities listed above looking to meet the brains behind this fabulous event - here's where Urban Outfitters' and Levi's semi-free (I mean, you're still gonna be buying these $78 jeans, right?) events will be:

New York City
Friday, 8/5
Ace Hotel 20
West 29th Street

Sunday, 8/7
Ace Hotel
20 West 29th Street

Thursday, 8/11
UO Center City
1627 Walnut Street

Friday, 8/12
UO Headquarters
5000 South Broad Street

Washington, DC
Saturday, 8/13
Dupont Circle
Massachusetts Avenue

Monday, 8/15
UO Asheville
15 Haywood Street

Wednesday, 8/17
UO Poncey-Highland
1061 Ponce DeLeon Avenue

New Orleans
Friday, 8/19
Esplanade and Frenchman Streets

Monday, 8/22
UO UT Campus
2406 Guadalupe Street

Thursday, 8/25
UO Wicker Park
1521 North Milwaukee Avenue

Friday, 8/26
Critical Mass Ride
Dearborn & Washington Streets

Sunday, 8/28
UO Uptown
3006 South Hennepin Avenue

Tuesday, 8/30
UO Saddle Creek
745 North 14th Street

Thursday, 9/1
Pearl Street
1795 Pearl Street

Salt Lake City
Saturday, 9/3
Washington Square

San Francisco
Monday, 9/5
Levi's Plaza
Lombard & Battery Streets

Santa Barbara
Wednesday, 9/7
Stearns Wharf
State & West Cabrillo Streets

Los Angeles
Friday, 9/9
Bicycle Film Festival

Saturday, 9/10
UO - Space 15Twenty
1520 North Cahuenga Boulevard

Thursday, 9/22
Ace Hotel - The Cleaners
1022 Southwest Stark Street

Friday, 9/23
Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA)
1241 Northwest Johnson Street

Saturday, 9/24
Chris King Factory
2801 Northwest Nela Street