We've now suffered through the two most intense years of my life, as I see it. Let's lighten (and shorten) it up a bit, so I can catch up!
As the year started, it became clear to me that I was going to end up moving to Eugene. I still hadn't declared a major, but I knew it would be one of the "liberal" arts, of which there were plenty at U of O, so the transfer would be an easy process. Thus begain the term of school and period of my life where I took the most "personal" time and sort of let everything else fall by the wayside.
One of my classes that term was "relaxation"- a sort of meditation and breathing class that was technically a PE credit. I skipped it a couple of times. I deliberately scheduled late classes- sometimes the co-op lunch bell would wake me up for them. I wore sweatpants often. We stayed up late every night playing Mario Kart and eating quesadillas. We packed dinner with us and played 36 holes of disc golf (at two different courses!) a lot of days. And then Dane bought a recording device for his laptop, and things happened.
I can't remember how it started- I guess Kevin must have been playing around on a computer making a beat or something, but somehow 4 or 5 of us ended up recording a joke rap song. We laughed a lot, and then laughed some more, and then Kevin and I got a crazy look in our eyes and decided it might be worth trying to make one or two more. Not long into it, we realized that the only real way to go about things would be to create a full album, that had to be ONE HOUR in length.
And so we did.
Dr. Yahweh totally absorbed the rest of the spring. Kevin and I had the same schedule as fledgling Psychology majors, so we skipped them, and holed up in the co-op (and occasionally in the OSU recording studio with the deft assistance of Matt J), producing, writing, recording, and repeating. The ideas flowed. Acoustic improvisation happened. We sort of went berzerk and just let the power of whatever it was we were doing take over us. Most people around us thought it was funny- I'm sure some hated it.
Kevin and I are not skilled, really at anything involved here. He made all the beats on a crappy laptop. Any live instrumentation is me on guitar or bass. Matt J provided two actual beats for us (and sang choruses on those songs), but otherwise it's just us and our horrible marblemouths rapping and singing about the dumbest stuff imaginable. 3 of the songs are me picking up an acoustic guitar and improvising lyrics, getting lost in laugher in the process a couple of times.
I was about to walk through each track one by one, but I wanted to say so much about each. Every song is a story in itself, and I'm just so unabashedly proud and embarrassed of every second. More than A Feeling stands out as an example, not of quality, but of ambition. Rather than sample the song, we record an entirely acapella VERSION of the song, and then sample that and use it as a backing track. My mind is still blown.
This song is a made up story about ninjas and an old lady on a bus.
To me, it's the ultimate reminder of what can happen when you are open to absurdity and let creative energy take over. It's so shoddily written and recorded- annoying at best if you don't have the nostalgia for the process- but it's still maybe my favorite piece of art I've ever created.
Here you can play or download any of the songs.
It's all really bad, but if you like me and want to enjoy something that I put my heart and soul into for months, listen to the damn thing.
And then I was done, and it was time to move to Eugene in search of greater glories. I had a really hard time leaving the comfort of all of my friends, but I also knew that this was going to be best for me in the long run.
Two albums absolutely define that summer for me.
Kyle had previously turned me on to Architecture in Helsinki's initial release, Fingers Crossed, which I forgot to bring up in my 2004 article. Largely a subdued sort of twee tuba and acoustic guitar affair, it was a perfect soundtrack to a rainy day alone. This left me totally unprepared for the sonic overload of their followup:
In Case We Die is a masterpiece. Each song is like 4 songs in one. The frantic (yet catchy) songwriting and variety of instrumentation are mind boggling, and every song hits me like a ton of fun bricks. From the opening bells of "Neverevereverdid" to the closing horns of "What's In Store", this is truly one of my perfect albums. Sometime around that Spring, my CD wallet was stolen out of my Ford Bronco II. Most of them were burned, but it was my livelihood at the time, and it was a bummer. I re-started my collection again with this. We played the hell out of it. If you came over to our house that summer, we definitely danced to "Do The Whirlwind".
If you spent time with us alone, however (you didn't, we were alone), you would have heard the other perfect album of 2005- The Sunset Tree. Our true introduction to the Mountain Goats and our gateway to all of their work forward and backward in time. I had heard a few songs from All Hail West Texas in high school- I got a few laughs out of "The Best Ever Death Metal Band out of Denton", but there just was never a time when I was able to try out any more. We were able to see The Mountain Goats that June, just before the album was officially released. It had leaked on the internet though, and being the savvy consumer I was, we had already become completely consumed by it. So many words have been spilled on the internet about this album, so I won't add to them. Just listen to it, for christ's sake.
Those two albums were my summer. I was listening to a little Jurassic 5, and Cody had just introduced me to Mum, but really I didn't need a lot more. I was looking for a job for the first month or so- kind of dreading it and not trying very hard at it. I had two interviews for jobs I didn't get- one at a Hollywood Video (I failed when they asked me to try and sell popcorn to them role-playing a customer), and another at a candy store in the mall.
In the meantime, I was also growing a mega beard.
Eventually, I found someone who would have me. McMenamins was in search of a dishwasher / prep cook, and I was the man for the job. My first month or two were hellish. The first REAL days of work in a kitchen for anyone I assume are a nightmare. Everyone is stressed out, it's hot, no one has time to explain to you what to do. The dishes piled up so bad that the manager had to stick around after closing for an additional hour while I made it through the pile. Eventually I got awesome at it, but those first months were filled with so much pre-work dread that any day that I had before my shift started was kind of wasted.
I liked the people there fine- eventually we became close but never really got it together to hang out outside of work. In the prep kitchen and eventually on the line, we had to mutually agree on what to listen to. This was my first experience of what I would later learn is universal- kitchen people like jam bands.
Specifically, the Greatful Dead. God, I couldn't believe / stand it. I could stand it, actually, but I gave them a lot of crap and never ever had the desire to put it on myself. I don't think any of their music rubbed off on me this year. I was still mostly in the dish pit, where I was able to rig up my own stereo and help get myself through. I listened to a lot of Cake still, and tried to keep my work listenings at a level where they didn't totally alienate the people around me.
I was short on CD's at this point in my life, but my luck would change come October, when I got my first iPod for my birthday. Emily had one in the dorms, and I was jealous. I was tired of lugging around my discman in my cargo short pockets while riding my bike to work, not to mention the need to bring multiple cds for it. This freed me up to have a constantly changing arsenal of tunes for work, the bike, the bus to school / between classes, and generally any time it was remotely socially acceptable to have headphones on.
That fall, Against Me! followed up the majesty of "As The Eternal Cowboy" with the aptly titled "Searching For A Former Clarity". Not quite a concept album, but the songs all have a lyrical theme of frustration with the music industry, the punk scene, themselves as people. It's a tonal shift, for sure, and some of the songs feel like misses to me still, but it's certainly not without merit. This was the beginning of a series of 3 releases that would be dissapointing followups to the landmark albums of 2003, and the shift toward the end of yet another musical phase of my life.
I also briefly (as I can't come up with a lot else to wrap up this year) want to comment on my slow and jumpy introduction and digging back into "classic" music from the 60's and 70's. It usually went in waves. By this point, I'd done stints with Bowie, The Police, and certainly The Clash. This was probably around when I started listening to the Talking Heads a bit as well. I'd always kind of been agnostic to the forefathers of the music of my era- it was so much more exciting to listen to bands of the moment, to see them live at their peaks and enjoy the time when it seemed like they could go anywhere. But largely thanks to Emily and my new co-workers, I was at least becoming competent or cognizant of the people who made the modern music era possible.
Up Next-> Kind of A Rough Year.