The first half of the year is uneventful, life wise, so lets just recap a lot of the music I was grooving to. There was a ton.
In early 2006, Guitar Hero came out and our roommate Mike jumped on it. We played it a ton, and my favorite thing to do was to bypass the butt-rock for the random bonus tracks. Specifically- the song "Even Rats", by the Slip.
This was the Guitar Hero song closest to what I would listen to in real life, and it grew on me enough to check out the only Slip album I could find, 2002's Angels Come On Time. My favorite tracks from this album, and from this year all share a common experience- my nightly bike ride home from work through Eugene after a long shift in the kitchen. I loved putting new unknown albums on my ipod and putting it on shuffle for the ride home. Yes, there was a lot of song skipping, but it helped me discover some of my favorite songs in the best way possible. There's nothing as satisfying as being captivated in the moment by a new song you've never heard before, and a dark starry or rainy bike ride late at night is a special time for it to happen.
This was largely how I fell in love with The Books. Emily had shared The Lemon of Pink and Thought For Food with me earlier, but they hadn't worked their way into my heart yet. Lost and Safe came out in spring of 2005, but the door didn't fully open up to me until a late night ride when "Owl With Knees" came on. This is one of my favorite songs of all time, from one of my favorite albums.
I eventually expanded out to the rest of the album, and the whole discography. I got to see them at the Wow Hall for the first time that April, and their live show (with intermixed videos) is still one of the most engaging I've seen.
Speaking of favorites, it's also probably a little late to mention Sigur Ros's 2005 masterpiece Takk. After falling in love with Staralfur earlier, I had a hard time fully connecting with the other songs on Agaetis Bryjun or the moody heaviness of (). Takk is my true gateway to Sigur Ros, and to this day still the place I go back to the most. When Emily would be working late nights and I had morning shifts, I'd spend my evenings walking around our neighborhood listening to this album. It's truly the most beautiful album I've ever heard, and means a lot to me.
Rainy spring had a fairly subdued and contemplative musical mood, but as the sun started to come out, things energized.
In April, The Flaming Lips released "At War With The Mystics". I'd been a fan since I got into Yoshimi in 2003, and since then had gone back to find perfection in both the fuzzy rock of Clouds Taste Metallic and the pop perfection of The Soft Bulletin. I mentioned previously that this was a year of mediocre followups to favorite albums, and while AWWTM doesn't quite fit this bill, it's sort of the beginning of a weird mostly downward spiral as the Flaming Lips get more experimental and less pop focused. It opens up amazingly with the Yeah Yeah Yeah song- the pump up song of that summer for sure- but lags a bit in the middle. I have lots of nostalgia for it, but I'm way more likely now to put on an earlier record.
In July, Andrew WK "released" a collection of songs in Japan only called "Close Calls With Brick Walls". It's insane, and despite some real love for what he's going for at times, not that great. This was also a weird time to be an Andrew WK fan in general. No one really has the full story, but for whatever reason, there was a ton of confusion going around about whether or not AWK was an individual person or a "character" created by the record industry with multiple actors portraying him. He (again, for unknown reasons) spread most if not all of the rumors himself, and my inclination is to believe that the whole thing is just a weird art stunt with a meaning beyond what I could grasp. In any case, this super weird album played into that hype a bit, but we did get some new songs.
And then in August we got new releases from The RX Bandits and the Mountain Goats. Neither of these are true failures or disappointments. I can chalk up most of my reservations about RXB's "..And The Battle Begun" to the fact that my musical tastes had changed a lot in the past 3 years. That, along with an insurmountable level of nostalgia / expectation, led to me not quite getting all the way on board. The day it came out, I remember having a "listening party" at our house with Kyle and Cody, and I felt like we were on some levels all trying to talk ourselves into liking it.
Similarly, The Mountain Goats released "Get Lonely", the album of theirs that I listen to least to this day. It has some great songs, but overall is a little too somber to overcome the sparse instrumentation and feels a little bit like nothing to me. My guess is that I will get into it in a few years for some reason. Love this song though:
But new tunes kept popping up. One late night on Conan, I fell in love with Regina Spektor. Similar to the recent sensation of Future Islands on Letterman, it was so refreshing to see Conan's genuine reaction to the song aftewards. I can't help but agree. Note: I love that I've gotten to the era that I can find things on Youtube.
I immediately sought out her newest album "Begin To Hope" as well as the precursor, "Soviet Kitcsh", and songs from each worked their way on to mix tapes for the next year.
That summer I also got the chance to start playing music again. We had always played randomly during parties at our house- keyboard, acoustic, and djembe never too far away- but Kyle and Cody had moved into a new place where they could have a full-fledged setup in the basement. We hadn't played together in a long time (or much at all as a trio), but we fell in like the old friends that we are. It helps that we all have similar tastes and musical histories / ambitions.
As they are wont to do from time to time, a lot of bad things happened this summer. Mostly not directly to us, but around us that made for a kind of crappy time. I don't want to get into them really, so I'll just move on to the bad thing that happened to me.
I noticed a little bump on my pinky one day that I took for a spider-bite. When it didn't go away in a week or so, I went to the doctor to have it looked at. Turned out it was an infection! They gave me some antibiotics and sent me on my way. Another week went by, and it didn't go away, and started hurting a lot more. I probably ignored a few warning signs, but then one day I fell asleep on the couch and was sort of hallucinating / in a daze when I woke up. Emily rushed me to the hospital, where they quickly upgraded my infection to MRSA- an infection resistant to the antibiotics they had given me. It ate away at a lot of the tissue of my pinkie, and they had to keep me in the hospital for two nights where they pumped a very powerful antibiotic into my heart.
They also installed a port in my arm so they could administer this same antibiotic twice a day to me (at the hospital) for a month. This meant I had to spend about 2-3 hours a day at the hospital, doing physical therapy trying to regain motion in my stiff finger and sitting there watching tv while the IV did it's magic. At the time, it was awful, and in retrospect, it was awful. I took it in stride, sort of trying to keep out of my mind the question of how close I actually was to letting the infection get to my heart, but it lead to a pretty intense end to my summer.
I just found the mix that I had in Emily's Chevy Malibu each morning on the way to the hospital.
I feel like I did a good job of keeping my morale up through the hard time, as was mostly able to forget that it happened once my time at the hospital was over. It's had some longer lasting effects on my mental state that pop up from time to time, but I have full range of motino in my finger and luckily, very little other consequences from it. I got the drip line taken out literally the day before I got to join in on a Davis family tradition- the Strawberry Music Festival in Yosemite.
Strawberry is a very special time. Admittedly, it's the overall vibe that attracts me more than a lot of the music. I found more enjoyment walking around late at night listening to bluegrass jams than I did in most of the main stage day acts, but I've certainly also found fantastic new music there. Mostly it's about the location, the people, and the family communal vibe that is created. We spent a lot of time catching up with old friends and listening to the live radio stream of the stage from camp. This was sort of my real introduction to modern bluegrass and folk, which would eventually become a lot bigger deal to me.
With the bad summer over, we returned to Eugene and started to settle into our last terms of college. I had enough credits to technically finish up after winter term and spend the spring just working. As the rain came back, so did the mellower tunes. That winter I listened to a lot of Ratatat, Caribou, and TV On the Radio, as well as Thom Yorke's first solo project, The Eraser. This song will forever be a rainy ride home from work.
I also had a handful of hip hop songs that I was obsessed with- digging back into De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, the modern era with the Blue Scholars and Maroons (AKA Lateef and the Chief), and this all time gem from ex-Pharcyde alum Fat Lip. One of the greatest videos of all time.
The final album worth mentioning from this year is the Yo La Tengo landmark "I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass". It walks a fine line (often alternating song to song) between slightly noisy jams and very smooth pop, but in that way that only Yo La Tengo can. This is one of my favorites:
To cap off this long year, Emily and I took our first trip to New York to visit our good friends Becky and Jason who had moved there that summer. I have no musical connotations for this, but it was great. And now I have to go to sleep.