Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Top Ten Music Albums from 2010

jj, Kills (2010)
Perfect for:
That moment when you’ve showed up just a little too early to a really cool party, but you’re wearing the perfect, perhaps slightly-too-hipster, outfit and everyone is just sitting around on the couches after having pre-gamed with a shot of whiskey, just chatting and feeling funny and clever and waiting for everyone else to show up and start the dancing, because that’s what you really all came for anyway.

The National, High Violet
Perfect for:
When you just got back to your apartment after a really long day of classes and maybe a conversation with a friend about a family problem, and you just want to put a cup of tea on, but really you just want to snuggle up with some pillows because putting a cup of tea on is just a little too much effort, but there is so much work to do, but you’ll get to it in a minute or two.

Arcade Fire, Suburbs
Perfect for:
That night when you stupidly had a cup of coffee just a little too late and you can’t get to sleep at all, so you call someone up and they say that he says he can’t sleep either, so you know what, he’ll be over in just a few minutes and you can put on a movie or something like that. But really you just end up going over stories from your childhood that you’ve told this person a million times before, or maybe they were even there when they happened, but it doesn’t matter because it’s so far after midnight now and telling these stories is sort of a ritual between you now anyway. And then you lapse into silence for a while and then you wonder what sort of future you’d have with this person if things had turned out differently than they did, but then he says goodnight and goes home and you fall asleep and sleep better than you have in weeks.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Up From Below (2009)
Perfect for:
When you’re sitting at the airport, because you just finished up with one phase of your life and have decided that it is high time you move onto the next, which probably involves spending some time with your family and long conversations over coffee with people from your childhood, as opposed to the weeks of hard work you just put into some project or another, which doesn’t really matter at all now, because all you have to do is wait for them to call your boarding number.

Elvis Perkins, Elvis in Dearland
Perfect for:
When you get home after being at some party where you didn’t hardly know anyone, but felt obliged to go because maybe it was someone’s birthday or some other thing you shouldn’t miss. But you went, and then felt awkward pretty early, so decided to sneak out for a cigarette and then suddenly realized that the really tall guy who has been making eye contact with you throughout the evening is standing out on the curb smoking with you and nothing really happens and you don’t get his number, but it was a nice moment anyway and you don’t really feel any regret, not even when you get home pretty early and just go to bed.

Yeasayer, Odd Blood (2010)
Perfect for:
The moment after you get off of work late at night and walk out the door to find that it’s snowing outside, and probably has been all day. You put your headphones in and trudge towards the train station, where everything is sort of slushy, but you don’t really care because you’re headed home now and you’re wearing a warm coat and a pair of gloves and you’ll be on the train soon enough. And even though it will be one of those train cars that just got tagged in the most impressive sort of way, you sort of admire the courage of the taggers, and hope they don’t get caught, ever, but also that they grow up to be businessmen who still remember what it was like to tag train cars late at night.

Punch Brothers, Antifogmatic
Perfect for:
The day you have off from work in the fall, and all of your plans for things you were going to do for the day fell through because people had other obligations and you decide that what you’re going to do is go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients you need to make about eight different batches of cookies and maybe some banana bread. And then you come home and turn on the oven and realize you have an unopened bottle of really cheap wine that would be the perfect cooking companion for the day.

B.o.B., B.o.B. Presents: the Adventures of Bobby Ray
Perfect for:
When it’s the first sunny day after a week of rain straight and you decide that all you’ve really wanted to do is get in your car and roll down all the windows and cruise around and make you’re best attempt at hitting all those lyrics because gosh-darn-it, you’re on top of the world and don’t care who knows it. Also, you might be Rivers Cuomo in another life.

Josh Ritter, So Runs the World Away
Perfect for:
Sitting in your New York apartment, surrounded by boxes because you are either moving in or moving out, and there is an open container of sushi on the floor that you keep halfheartedly swatting your cat away from. It’s springtime, and you can hear kids yelling outside on the street, and you are thinking about maybe calling up an old friend just to see how she is doing, not really any other reason, but the boxes are all over your bed and you’re not really sure where your phone is, so you’ll take a while longer to try and clean up the chaos of your apartment.

The Acorn, No Ghost (2010)
Perfect for:
When you had just a little too much to drink and are sitting on a couch with someone who would let you put your head on his shoulder if you wanted to and everyone else has left except for maybe a friend or two who are maybe asleep or in the kitchen doing dishes. And you are in that little place between falling fast asleep and waking up and dancing again all by yourself with your eyes closed, but really you don’t do either and you just end up tracing slow circles on the arm of the person sitting next to you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Things First

Woken, I lay in the arms of my own warmth and listened
To a storm enjoying its storminess in the winter dark
Till my ear, as it can when half-asleep or half-sober,
Set to work to unscramble that interjectory uproar,
Construing its airy vowels and watery consonants
Into a love-speech indicative of a Proper Name.

Scarcely the tongue I should have chosen, yet, as well
As harshness and clumsiness would allow, it spoke in your praise,
Kenning you a god-child of the Moon and the West Wind
With power to tame both real and imaginary monsters,
Likening your poise of being to an upland county,
Here green on purpose, there pure blue for luck.

Loud though it was, alone as it certainly found me,
It reconstructed a day of peculiar silence
When a sneeze could be heard a mile off, and had me walking
On a headland of lava beside you, the occasion as ageless
As the stare of any rose, your presence exactly
So once, so valuable, so very now.

This, moreover, at an hour when only to often
A smirking devil annoys me in beautiful English,
Predicting a world where every sacred location
Is a sand-buried site all cultured Texans do,
Misinformed and thoroughly fleeced by their guides,
And gentle hearts are extinct like Hegelian Bishops.

Grateful, I slept till a morning that would not say
How much it believed of what I said the storm had said
But quetly drew my attention to what had been done
—So many cubic metres the more in my cistern
Against a leonine summer—, putting first things first:
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.

W. H. Auden

Monday, October 4, 2010

It Was Winter

by Czeslaw Milosz

Winter came as it does in this valley.
After eight dry months rain fell
And the mountains, straw-colored, turned green for a while.
In the canyons where gray laurels
Graft their stony roots to granite,
Streams must have filled the dried-up creek beds.
Ocean winds churned the eucalyptus trees,
And under clouds torn by a crystal of towers
Prickly lights were glowing on the docks.

This is not a place where you sit under a café awning
On a marble piazza, watching the crowd,
Or play the flute at a window over a narrow street
While children’s sandals clatter in the vaulted entryway.

They heard of a land, empty and vast,
Bordered by mountains. So they went, leaving behind crosses
Of thorny wood and traces of campfires.
As it happened, they spent winter in the snow of a mountain pass,
And drew lots and boiled the bones of their companions;
And so afterward a hot valley where indigo could be grown
Seemed beautiful to them. And beyond, where fog
Heaved into shoreline coves, the ocean labored.

Sleep: rocks and capes will lie down inside you,
War councils of motionless animals in a barren place,
Basilicas of reptiles, a frothy whiteness.
Sleep on your coat, while your horse nibbles grass
And an eagle gauges a precipice.

When you wake up, you will have the parts of the world.
West, an empty conch of water and air.
East, always behind you, the voided memory of snow-covered fir.
And extending from your outspread arms
Nothing but bronze grasses, north and south.

We are poor people, much afflicted.
We camped under various stars,
Where you dip water with a cup from a muddy river
And slice your bread with a pocketknife.
This is the place; accepted, not chosen.
We remembered that there were streets and houses where we came
So there had to be houses here, a saddler’s signboard,
A small veranda with a chair. But empty, a country where
The thunder beneath the rippled skin of the earth,
The breaking waves, a patrol of pelicans, nullified us.
As if our vases, brought here from another shore,
Were the dug-up spearheads of some lost tribe
Who fed on lizards and acorn flour.

And here I am walking the eternal earth.
Tiny, leaning on a stick.
I pass a volcanic park, lie down at a spring,
Not knowing how to express what is always and everywhere:
The earth I cling to is so solid
Under my breast and belly that I feel grateful
For every pebble, and I don’t know whether
It is my pulse or the earth’s that I hear,
When the hems of invisible silk vestments pass over me,
Hands, wherever they have been, touch my arm,
Or small laughter, once, long ago over wine,
With lanterns in the magnolias, for my house is huge.

Berkeley, 1964