Friday, March 27, 2009

Five Songs, Five Minutes

You know how certain seasons remind you of certain songs? Like, maybe there will be a rainy spring day -- one of those where the rain falls in a calm and constant tap-tap -- and suddenly a song pops in your head and you're right back to that one tiny space in time. That nostalgia grips me when I'm still savoring the first blush of new weather, and spring, especially.

[Tap Tap]

To me music is memory -- and when paired with weather, it's suddenly a powerful form of time travel. Now that it's late March I should be having one of those moments, but it's cold and spring is still hiding its head in its impotent shame. But, even this disappointing weather is already shaping my memory, I'm sure. Because of that, I thought I'd document the songs that are stuck in my head by making a playlist of the first five songs I thought of in five minutes. No thinking -- just going with what first comes to mind. These are those songs:

Ladyfinger (ne), "Bones" (from Dusk)
Why I love it:
I know I've already talked about these guys before, but DAMN! I still love their album. My favorite songs at first were "Plans" and "Little Things" (and I still love them) but now I've moved onto "Bones." There's something about the longing this song communicates that compels me in a big way. The drums, bass, and guitar so perfectly translate that feeling of desire. The chords take you right to that place and don't let go, and the the low groan of the vocals drive it home. Ladyfinger doesn't disappoint in that way, kids.

[Ladyfinger (ne): Rockers, taco enthusiasts]

The lines that get me:

I want to trust my body / I want to bring you close / A little voice said softly, "I want to get you home."

I've got someone waiting / And I think that shows / I know it's only dancing / So one, two we go

Hold me close / Right in your hands / Till we go, I'm your man

Bloc Party, "On" (from A Weekend in the City)
Why I love it:
I've been consuming Bloc Party at alarming rates ever since the first peek of spring. That band has a ridiculous power to make me purse my lips and shake my head around in the stupidest way, no matter where I am. Yep, I'm that stupid chick you see "car dancing"™ on your way to work. It's stupid. It's awesome. But anything that can put me in a good mood driving to work deserves a healthy and sincere car dance.

[Bloc Party's Kele Okereke: Risking cavities to open your beer. What a gentleman.]

The line that sticks in my head:

You make my tongue loose / I am hopeful and stutter-free
Even though I'm 99% sure this a love letter to cocaine (which isn't my deal) I feel like that line captures how I feel right now. When I'm randomly feeling happy and like things are going just right, those are the words that echo in my head.

The Life and Times, "My Last Hostage" (from Suburban Hymns)
Why I love it:
This is a Kansas City band that I saw at The Slowdown and immediately loved. They put on a great live show -- like, I'd never heard them before, but right when I got home I downloaded their album on iTunes (their brilliant marketing team didn't have any to sell at the merch table -- wha??). It's rare that I instantly like a live band I've never heard before -- so when it happens I know it's gold.

[The Life and Times: Being awesome is exhausting. So is patriotism]

The Life and Times has a sort of ambient sound but with a strong driving-rock-anthem undercurrent. They have the kind of songs that you can settle into -- then rock out on.

Favorite line:
I don't have one yet. It's pretty much just the whole song that I dig. It's one of those that wraps its arms around you and lets you rest your head on its chest and hear its heart beat fast. Do you really need a favorite line when a song feels that way?

Lily Allen, "Who'd Have Known?" (from It's Not Me, It's You)
Why I like it:
Yep, I'm getting into this album. I love listening to it, even though I'm compelled to constantly evaluate whether Lily Allen is a bitch. But hey, her snarkiness is what makes everyone love her. And she's 23, so she gets a pass I guess.

I'm not sure why I picked this song. I guess it's a little different for Allen in that it's kinda mellow and shows her soft side -- the one she so desperately hides from the paparazzi. It's nice to see her lose the cutting wit and just settle into a song she might actually be feeling. No more characters on this one.

[Lily Allen: Too cute to be a bitch.]

Come to think of it, this song is kind of stupid. But, perhaps it recalls the 23-year-old in me. Whatever, I chose it so I'm sticking to it.

The lines I like:

I didn't know where this was going / When you kissed me

And today you accidentally / Called me "Baby"

Love songs are cheesy. That's pass #2, Lily.

Ryan Adams, "Magik" (from Cardinology)
Why I love it:
I got really into the new Ryan Adams record even though his voice sounds different on every track. Maybe it's because he's sobered up and pulling a "Bob-Dylan-Found-Jesus-And-Made-His-Voice-Sound-All-Weird." The first several times I listened to the record I heard Neil Young, David Bowie, and Willie Nelson. But "Magik" is the purely Ryan Adams track. This is one of those songs that simply makes me smile. The lyrics are more or less frivolous but this is alt rock at its best. The song asks the listener to "let your body move / let your body sway/ listen to the music play / it's magik." Mission accomplished, dude.

[Ryan Adams: Trying to sound like Willie Nelson. Don't question his methods; he's an artist.]

The line that gets me:
Why list one line when the whole song makes you smile? Lyrics don't matter here.

[Ryan Adams as Philip Seymour Hoffman = Not Magik]


My guess is these are the songs that, years from now, are likely to jog my memory and take me right back to this time and place.

[John Sloan's Spring Rain (1912), Courtesy of the Delaware Museum of Art]

Hopeful and stutter free,

The Shut-In.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Goodbye, Old Friend

Today I mourn the loss of a dear friend. Old Style Lager was good to me, and I'll always love it. But my drinking buddy is leaving me.

[Thanks for the liver damage, pal. I'll never forget you.]

Me and Old Style spent many days together, many, many more nights, and more than a handful of early mornings. We traveled, we made friends, we even had an elicit relationship in high school. But now, my beloved beer is slipping away right in front of my eyes.

Okay, Old Style isn't dead, but it's undergoing some life-threatening changes. Parent company Pabst Brewing Company recently announced that they're changing Old Style's formula back to its original "fully krausened" recipe, which basically means they add fermenting beer to the already fermented brew.

[The New Style]

This is supposed to make it taste better (Old Style was brewed this way until the 90s, so technically my first taste was from this same recipe), but from what I can tell, it doesn't. It seems bitter and just, somehow, unsatisfying. Let me take a sip right now -- nope, that's not my Style.

[The Taste Test]

[Acceptance? Bargaining?]

[Anger. Depression.]


I'm sure I can get used to the taste. But the new price? That's going to be a problem. Just because the new Old Style has the same price point as Budweiser doesn't mean it IS Budweiser. Don't they realize that Old Style drinkers aren't Bud drinkers? Nor do they want to be.

Merely a month ago you could get a case of Old Style for under $14. That's a little over 50 cents a can. Now a 12 PACK will run you 11 bucks. That math isn't hard -- it's almost a dollar a can. Can I pay twice as much to hang onto my pal?

I can, but I can't buy into the new marketing campaign, which, as I predict, will be the death of Old Style.

Pabst's main angle seems to focus on community. The new can reads, "In your neighborhood since 1902" and the new slogan is "Think Local. Drink Local." Somebody seems to have forgotten that Old Style's community consists of people who bond over their pride in drinking a cheap but tasty beer.

[My man would wear these.]

Worse, as part of the new campaign Pabst Brewing Company plans to hold Old Style block parties. I'm not sure I even get that. The last time I checked, the target 20-something market hunkered down in dive bars, rather than getting permits from the city to block off streets on which they don't own homes.

[My kind of block party.]

Instead, they should have taken a cue from Duffy's and held "Dad's Beer Nights." Back in college we drank Old Style tall boys for a dollar a piece on Tuesday nights. The trash cans would literally be overflowing with empty Old Styles, which won out every time over all of the other "dad's beers." If Pabst wants to sell some beer they should keep the price and focus on what every kid wants -- a beer nabbed from that basement fridge.


The other day I walked into a bar and asked if they had Old Style, to which the bartender replied, "No. They raised the price a bunch so we're not carrying it." That was a sad day because, as much as I'm disappointed in Old Style's misguided rebranding, I'm loyal to my brew. I'll probably make the leap, pay the extra cash, and get used to the taste. Hell, I don't even know HOW to buy other beer when I go to the store. But when bars and beer drinkers opt out of their Old Style love affair, and Old Style's market starts to dwindle, my beloved beer will be facing a terminal illness. And then I'll have to say goodbye forever. The saddest thing? In Pabst's attempt to make Old Style more marketable, its death will be their own fault.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's the little things...

Oddly, I've had a terrific Monday. Like, probably the best Monday I can remember in easily the last year or more. One of the little things that made my Monday great was finding out that a Juice Stop is coming to my neighborhood. Before today, I would have had to make a suburban road trip to get there, which is pretty rough when you're facing urban sprawl and miles to go before you sleep off the hangover.
The Juice Stop is just your basic smoothie joint, but with one perk: they sell fresh wheatgrass juice, of which I'm a huge enthusiast for two reasons:

1. Wheatgrass tastes like freshly mown grass smells. That turns a lot of people off, but to me it's just lovely and refreshing. But hey, if you don't like the taste, the shots are only one or two ounces. So if you can stomach shots of booze at the bar, wheatgrass will be no prob.

[Mmm, lawn in your mouth. You know you want it.]

2. At the risk of sounding like a total alcoholic, wheatgrass is the best hangover cure I've ever discovered. When I lived in Lincoln during college I lived pretty close to an organic grocery store called Open Harvest.

At the time I was doing my fair share of college-age boozin', and, even though I had my age on my side, I still dealt with hangovers here and there. When I was facing that dry-mouthed, head-plagued, rot-gutted demon I crawled my way to Open Harvest, where I'd literally be leaning on the counter, three feet from death itself, trying to tolerate the loud grind of the juicer and the slow service of the staff. I swear it took them about a thousand hours to produce an ounce of juice. Didn't they realize I was mere moments from death?

Finally I'd take my shot and crawl back out the door, nearly missing foul-haired but good-hearted hippies, cursing that 25th gin and tonic, now not-so-proud of my reign as the quarters queen. But after that shot, miraculously, 30 minutes later I'd be back to my normal self, bounce in my step and all. Heck, drinking wasn't so bad. Man, drinking is good! I'm totally ready to conquer!

Rinse and repeat.

[The 25th gin and tonic: Thanatos.]

Wheatgrass is a natural detoxifier and reportedly has a whole mega-bunch of chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and super life-saver, anti-death juice. It's been said that one ounce of wheatgrass has the benefits of at least a pound of vegetables. That hasn't proven to be true, but anecdotally I can tell you with 100% confidence that it will save your life AND improve the performance of your love life.*

So you can see why this is an important addition to my neighborhood. I may not be able to crawl to the Juice Stop, but at least I don't have to wade through traffic and mini-vans and gin-induced fog to get least for a few miles.

*This number is not scientific, but is supported by gin-induced confidence by the Shut-In.