Every day I tell myself that I'm getting to a year that I can just blow through and can catch up easily, but that has yet to be the case.
2007 is the true end of an era. The first half of it was spent in Eugene, wrapping up college and saving up money for a summer of travel. Though we graduated in spring, I was actually done with school in March or so at the end of winter term. Modest Mouse had just released "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank", and we were all grooving to their angry sea shanties. I remember specifically walking to my last final, listening to this album.
My introduction to Modest Mouse was, like most things, from Emily. She had put a track from the Lonesome Crowded West on the initial mix she gave me. It's interesting coming into a band so late in their progression- you kind of have the choice of ignoring history and just choosing what album speaks to you the most, rather than letting it be cluttered up by your expectations and personal experiences. To me, the clear winner is 2000's "The Moon and Antarctica."
A near perfect album and a great distillation of the best of what Modest Mouse has to offer. It will always be an album that reminds me of Eugene.
Right around the same time, Arcade Fire released their much anticipated followup to Funeral with "Neon Bible", a sort of concept album that swung for the fences and succeeded on a lot of levels. Some of it was a bit heavy on the message and light on the music for me, but we got a few songs like this, so I was fine with it.
The end of my last class was punctuated by a family reunion trip to Emily's grandma's home in Big Bear, CA. I made a 5 disc spring break mix. It's sort of a perfect summation of the last few years of music for me, and includes a number of artists I can't believe I hadn't talked about yet: Ted Leo, Mates of State, The Weakerthans, The Old Canes, The New Amsterdams, Sufjan, etc!
The other music of the spring was some new stuff I was picking up from co-workers. Most importantly, I'm referring to my introduction to Ween.
This was the first of two kitchen jobs I had, both of which were staffed with a bunch of people who really liked Ween. I have to admit, it took me a while to figure it out, if I ever truly did. But without question, I was attracted to a lot of elements of "The Mollusk", the first album I could wrap my head around. It came out in 1997, when I was just a lad, but there is no way this would have ever reached me wherever I was when it hit. A sort of sea-based concept album, with trademark genre-shifting weird pseudo jammy folk, the Mollusk is the most approachable Ween album just due to the sheer fun of it. I'll have a bigger / stronger connection in a few years, so lets just leave it there.
One other McMenamins musical anecdote- one of the kitchen dudes had a brother who came in and washed dishes a few times that spring. I don't think he kept the job long, but the only day I really remember him being there he had brought a tape in from his car and was rocking to it in the dish pit, like I used to do back in the day. It was nothing I had heard before, but sounded like a ton of stuff I loved. As it turns out, he was listening to "Let It Be", by the Replacements.
I got to see them live for the first (and I'm sure last) time over this most recent Labor Day, and was grinning ear to ear when they played this song.
Otherwise, Emily was wrapping up her final term, and we spent free nights trip planning, drinking beer and playing skip-bo.
In June, we left Eugene for good and spent a few days in Portland, celebrating Noah and Emma's wedding at their house with them before heading back to see my family in Baker for a week. Then we drove from Eastern Oregon down through the desert and forest to Glen Ellen, where we spent a little over a week preparing for our trip and generally just relaxing. Finally in July, we boarded a train in Sacramento that took us to New York, where we flew to Europe and criss-crossed around for a little over two months through most of the countries. That's about as short as you can make the story.
To me, the spirit of our trip is summed up by one song that I listened to a lot on trains, airplanes, busses, and all across this great world of ours.
This was from an album that Emily had introduced me to, really before I had any other connotations for either Wilco or Billy Bragg. Both Volumes I and II were on fairly heavy rotation in college, but a few songs always stood out, this one especially. I would end up getting deep into both artists, but Mermaid Avenue really was a perfect introduction to both of them.
There are a number of random specific musical memories that I have from the summer. Briefly:
Leaving Eugene, I couldn't wait for the official release of Architecture in Helsinki's "Places Like This", since I knew I wouldn't have a way of getting my hands on it while travelling, so I pirated it and made sure to get it on my ipod before the trip started. It wasn't quite as majestic or life changing as the previous album, but you can't argue with songs like this:
In California before we left, I picked up the newest Against Me! album "New Wave". I remember buying it in Santa Rosa days before we left and trying it out in the car with Emily as we drove back to her house. This song shares dual memory with that day and another, later in the trip, riding a bus down into southern Croatia.
In Lisbon, we spent one night in a hostel that didn't have room for us the next night. We found a cheap hotel with a semi-clean room, got a cheap bottle of wine, and spent the afternoon laying around playing cards and listening to this song.
Of course, the biggest musical event of the trip was our stop in Nimes to see Bjork play in an old Roman colliseum.
It wasn't the focal point of our trip, but it was sort of the first thing we put on the calendar when we knew we were going and we structured some of our travel to make it work. Emily had always been a huge Bjork fan, and I feel like I probably should have expressed more Bjork in the 2004 entry, but in any case, this was a big deal. She was touring behind "Volta"- an album we liked but didn't love (if I can speak for both of us). The show was fantastic, despite an annoying dude in the crowd and a pretty awful opening set by M.I.A., and was well worth the detour.
In Prague, we stayed at a cool hostel in an old stone building, which had a little basement cafe that music was always playing in.
This was where I first heard the band Stars. I don't know if we heard this song there, but it's my favorite one by them.
In Amsterdam, our hostel had a van service that picked us up from the train station. I remember this song playing in the van, and specifically asked the driver what it was and made notes in my joural.
Those are the specific instances I remember, but if there's one overarching musical memory for the trip it's falling asleep each night listening to Amiina. Amiina is a very mellow offshoot of Sigur Ros (they started as the touring string section) who released their first full album in 2007. A lot of nights were spent in bunk beds in group hostel rooms, headphone splitters in with long cords running from the top bunk to the bottom bunk as Amiina soothed us to sleep.
When it was all over, we trekked home and tried to make sense of what was next. When we were in Prague, I had submitted an application for a dishwasher / prep cook position at a vegan restaurant that ended up turning me down but giving me a call back a month later when I was still in Baker. I went to Portland the next weekend, interviewed, and promptly began my new position at the prep kitchen for the Blossoming Lotus.
That fall, Wes Anderson introduced me to the depth of the Kinks with the soundtrack for the understated "Darjeeling Limited". Most of the soundtrack was selections from "Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround: Part 1", and the travel spirit of the movie forged associations with my own trip and the music to create severe nostalgia for our travels whenever I hear this song:
Otherwise, I feel like I was mostly just living off of the music of past years, so I'll just finish off the post with the album I closed out my 2007 with, Radiohead's "In Rainbows". To be honest, this was the first Radiohead album that really connected with me. I "appreciated" past albums, and certainly enjoyed songs here and there, but the simple clean guitar sound of most of these songs make it one of their most approachable and still one of my favorites.