Well, I'm mortified to be posting my top ten list (hint: it's almost nothing but pop punk) so soon after The World's Most Embarrassing Hobbit Review, but Lord knows I'm not about to develop better taste in music just so I have more "cool" cred. I never had any to begin with.
Also, not all of this came out in 2012. Enjoy.
1. Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds. So here’s this guy that writes this hilarious Bad Sandwich blog, which is by turns smart and tender and stupid and disgusting. Take this, his musing on being bad at moderation: “Like, how I’ll eat a few buckets of deep fried beef hearts and then go a week only drinking beet juice, or I’ll fuck an entire special ed class and then spend the rest of the year just teaching them the lessons I’m paid to teach them. You get the idea: Binge and purge.”
And, in a following post about having kids: “My intent is to explain the key difference between parenting (which is a chore on par with being a prison guard, and is soul sucking in the relentlessness of its temporal totality and necessarily killjoy-esque mindframe) and being a dad (which is really, truly one of the most rewarding, joyful things you can possibly experience on this earth).”
I learned in a high school English Lit class that we should judge writing by whether it reveals fundamental truths of the human experience, and goddamn does Brendan Kelly fit that bill whether blogging, Tweeting or playing some of the best music ever. Besides his extensive work with bands like Larry Arms, he also put out a record in March that I have played a zillion times this year. It transcends punk rock into something complex and dark and sexy and awesome. I want to go listen to it again just thinking about it.
He also retweeted the link when Grant Geiger wrote a review of I'd Rather Die than Live Forever for my blog Missoula Punk News, which indicates that stupid blog for a moment registered in Brendan Kelly’s consciousness, which brings me no end of vain joy. I’m going to go listen to "Ramblin’ Revisited" for the thousandth time right this second. Ten out of ten drunken makeouts.
2. Mean Jeans. I’d heard a couple of this ultimate-pop-punk band’s songs before I saw them open for Nobunny in a Portland basement in March, and even through a super tired fog I was like “holy shit,” and now I have both their full-length records and I’ve played them to death. A perfectly stupid, party-happy good time counterpoint to all the serious sad-sack stuff I’ve listened to this year. Mean Jeans are infectious. I was up front and center for their set at The Fest in Gainesville in October, and I could see Mikey Erg and the Dopamines were watching from the side. That’s how you know a band is legit. And Come Toobin is the perfect summer song ever. Six out of six pogo dances.
3. Dear Landlord. WHISKEY AND RECORDS AGAIN! Their entire discography of angry, desperate and driven punk rock accompanied me through some really weird shit I dealt with for the first part of this year, and now that I’m in Missoula and basically the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, I still have them on my shuffle because it’s all still so good. Their Florida Theater set at Fest was fantastic, and then when I saw the guys later hanging out in Durty Nellys after Off With Their Heads, I went up and pestered them to tour to Montana and they were totally nice and talked about how Bozeman is cool. (Mikey Erg and the Dopamines were there too. It was surreal.) Also, Dear Landlord is comprised of really attractive dudes. Five out of five ladyboners.
4. Joyce Manor. So, I experience music in a way I can only describe as textural. Like, when I hear a really good tune it’s like a tasty, crunchy bite that my brain wants to eat. When I’ve heard a song too much, it loses its crunch. Joyce Manor haven’t lost that crunch for me yet, and I have yelled and clutched my steering wheel singing to “Constant Headache” dozens of times this year. FEELINGS. AND CHUNKY GUITAR RIFFS. Their set at Fest was scheduled for 3 in the afternoon in the cavernous Florida Theater, and I’ll be damned if it was not fucking packed with people who went apeshit as soon as they launched into, “Stretching out cheap cotton over your thick skull...” As one dude next to me remarked, “I thought me and nine other people liked this band!” Joyce Manor play such great minimalist rock with stabby riffs and throaty heartfelt vocals I would have loved but not understood when I was 17. They blasted through their Fest set, looking dead serious all the while and barely talking in between songs. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Ten out of ten crushes on boys who will never love me. (Stream Joyce Manor's self titled album here.)
5. Leonard Cohen. Sneaking his way onto this list after I'd already written it, I got a hold of Old Ideas, his album that came out in January, and deeply regret not having listened to it all year. He's got the greatest old-man voice of all time and he knows how to use it. While nothing on Old Ideas is the new "Bird on a Wire" or "Chelsea Hotel," it's smooth and sexy and wistful and lovely. Listen to Crazy to Love You.
Stay tuned for part 2!
A version of this post appeared on Missoula Punk News.
So, this punk distro guy in Houston called Vinyl Junky's been having this blowout sale, which seems to be over now. I did some rather uncharacteristic December self-focused purchasing, and I feel kind dirty about it, so I'm waiting to listen to most of the records as a penance. But it was cheap (he had some classic godheadSilo!) and I got some gifts too.
Anyhow, among the things he was selling was the Humpy/Lopez split 7" from around 1995 or '96. While I've vowed to never be as annoying as the babyboom generation talking about seeing CSNY (or whomever), I will talk about some of the bands that made me first start to get and appreciate underground punk rock and hardcore. At the top of that list is Missoula's Humpy, who just re-united real satisfyingly for one of VTO's Residency shows at the VFW. They were satisfying in a lot of ways that sometimes a punk fan struggles with in Missoula: they were aggressive, and didn't really ever let up and do ska breakdowns, ever. They had great lyrics, and didn't ever have the word "oi" in a chorus. They raged, covered Heart (mostly) unironically, and brought the kind of no compromises approach of hardcore to a small town, and (almost) nobody gave much of a shit.
From one side of things, it's kind of sad to see a great record by a Missoula band as good as Humpy on the the internet for only a buck, but look at it this way: this is a great record, and for a buck plus some postage, you could've gotten it, played it, and had some classic hardcore songs that are only available on youtube. And if obscurity isn't your thing, well, know that it's a good record by two great northwest punk/hardcore bands, and one of the kind of limited number of such things from the inland empire. Lopez (originally from Wenatchee, WA) raged in their own right, kind of more punk rock than Humpy, and Tom went on to sing for Black Elk. Keep watching that Vinyl Junky Distro site, it might come back up.
Meanwhile, if you're cool dropping $3 and some postage, you can get the even better Beer City 7" Humpy did. That's available here. It erroneously says they're from Madison. They weren't. they never really even left Montana.
Ultimately, this isn't just about encouraging more overconsumption, but if you're a record collector, and fancy yourself anything of an, err, locofile, I don't want to hear about how your collection doesn't have any Humpy, man.
I suspect The Lord of the Rings film trilogy heyday coincided with the lonely, horny and awkward adolescent years of many nerds who are now twentysomethings. I try not to think about my teen years, but my old bedroom at my parents’ house is still plastered with more Legolas posters and memorabilia than I care to admit.
Oh, the hours spent memorizing character genealogy. The hours spent waiting for LOTR forums to load on dial-up internet. The hours spent starting flamewars with Harry Potter fans. The hours spent cutting pictures out of expensive, shiny fan magazines. Instead of getting into trouble with friends and fooling around in cars, I spent most of my teenage years buried in a fantasy world, trying in earnest to learn Elvish.
Lord of the Rings is now tainted with remembering what an enormous, unhealthy obsession I had with it. Many of the people I’d talked to about The Hobbit trilogy said they had low expectations, but for no reason that I could determine. I suspect that many of the negative vibes toward The Hobbit are from people who, like me, are trying to suppress memories of those embarrassing years.
So when my sister asked if I was coming with her to the midnight opening, I might have hesitated for a moment. But there I was, at the movie theater at 11:30 p.m, maybe even wearing my necklace with a medallion inscribed with the One Ring poem in Elvish. For complicated Fandango-related reasons, we went to the Village 6. I’d expected lines of costumed nerds, but the theater was about a quarter full. We spotted one guy in a cloak, but he took it off quickly after sitting down. We were definitely among the faithful, though, because once the lights went down, that was a damn quiet audience.
Coming away from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I feel assured that I will not plunge down the Unhealthy Level of Fandom tunnel, and that Peter Jackson and his merry band of New Zealanders are doing right by the beloved story. Thank the baby Jesus that Jackson signed on to do these films. If you loved Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit feels exactly like entering that glorious vision of Middle Earth again. The casting is perfect. The costuming and artwork intricate. The sweeping views of plains and snow-capped mountains (which look remarkably familiar to a Montanan) are epic.
It’s hard to make judgments on Unexpected Journey since this is only part one. Towards the end, a dramatic sub-arc is created and resolved to give some semblance of a stand-alone plot, but this is fundamentally just a long introduction to the next two-thirds of a lengthy movie. To really get a handle on how I think Jackson interpreted and paced the story, check back with me in 2014. Jesus.
Deer Sister Killdeer may look like another quiet folky Americana band on the outside. “Oh, another girl playing the violin with some acoustic guitar accompaniment and light percussion. I’ve seen this every other night at the Top Hat,” you’ll think to yourself.
Then they start pounding your living room floor with their feet and shaking loose the support beams of your house.
Their haunting voices rise in unison to grab you by the face and make you listen. If they stopped there, that would be a worthwhile experience. But then, the one you thought played drums stands up and grab’s a guitar and begins to play a frantic Chuck Berry riff while screaming like Black Francis at you. Deer Sister Killdeer is a cathartic dirge for the long dark night of the soul.
Colin Post: Guitar/Drums/Vocals
B.J. Soloy: Guitar/Drums/Vocals
Julie Rouse: Violin/Guitar/Vocals
Origins of the band:
B.J.: Basically, Julie and I got married. And then she started picking up the fiddle and I had played in a number of old-timey bands before. So we started playing old-timey things. We played a show and knew Collin outside of music, and he was like, "We should play sometime" and so when he came in we kinda slowly and steadily became—
Collin: A Bruce Springsteen cover band?
B.J.: Yeah, we switched from old timey to all Bruce, all the time.
Origins of the Name:
B.J. Well, we’re both, (B.J. and Julie), bird dorks, and the killdeer is a bird that is uh, pretty fascinating because its whole thing is to ward off predators attacking its babies. It fakes an injury. It takes its wing and acts hurt, like it’s limping, and then predators will chase it. It seems like something totally maudlin and depressing … like the way that old songs are totally maudlin and depressing.
Julie: And we’re all poets.
Collin: So we’re into weird shit.
Desert Island Music Picks:
Collin: Born in the U.S.A.
B.J.: Any record made out of something… edible and long lasting. I don’t know if there is like a beef jerky collection of Prince’s Greatest Hits, but I’d go for the beef jerky version.
Julie: I don’t know. I think it would be something bizarre and atonal and 190 minutes long, so that I could keep getting new things from it.
Favorite Pizza Toppings:
Collin: Sun-dried tomatoes.
Julie: Basil and garlic.
B.J.: There is a place in Des Moines that had the weirdest shit. They had a baked potato and Dorito pizza that was surprisingly good. Something there.
Collin: Only Budweiser obviously.
Collin: We all love Bud-Lite.
B.J.: Yeah, we’re big Bud-Lite fans. And we hear they’re loaded so if they’re reading or hearing this, uh… We’re available.
Collin: To revise the question about why we started the band, we started to get a Budweiser sponsorship.
B.J.: I’ll drink to that.
The lights shining down were so bright I was beginning to sweat. I was alone, pouring my heart out on the stage of the University Theater during the annual production of the Vagina Monologues. As my monologue reached its climax and just as I was reaching my epiphany I saw the light… of a cell phone.
A young woman, whose mop of curly blond hair hid her identity from me, was texting in the front row.
I lost my focus. I was pulled out of character.
I pulled it together and continued, but in retrospect I was appalled at the crassness of this person who sat close enough for me to watch them metaphorically slap me across the face with her smart phone.
Most productions have a stage manager, the director or even an actor in character that announces rules and etiquette, such as silencing cell phones and no flash photography. Online Broadway theater outlet nytix.com suggests audience members unwrap cough drops and candies before the show starts, take a shower before attending a show and refrain from giving your own rendition of popular showtunes.
“It's tempting sometimes, we know. But if you want to sing on Broadway, then you're gonna have to audition like those people up onstage did. Your fellow Broadway fans paid the big bucks to hear the professionals flex their vocal muscles, not you. Save your sweet singing for post-show karaoke,” reads rule number eight.
Today, artists are reaching out to include the community, and as live theater becomes more accessible to audiences the rules aren’t as black and white. Audiences at the university are filled with both those who attend many shows and students who decided to take Intro to Acting to kill off their General Education “Expressive Arts” course. For those students and others, this is the first time they have ever attended a live theater production. They are easy to spot. They are the ones in sweatpants.
“The time when people dressed up in their furs, and their pearls, and their tuxes to go see a play, that world just doesn’t exist anymore,” said Erin McDaniel, of UM’s School of Theatre and Dance. “If you come and you’re quiet when you’re supposed to be quiet and you’re attentive, that’s really all we can ask.”
McDaniel has been involved with theater since she was six and has worked as an executive assistant for the School of Theatre and Dance since 2005, a job she said is like being a company manager for a theater except she handles a cast of over 200. While she said she has yet to witness any horror stories herself, the worst have become legends within the department.
Two years ago during a theater-in-the-round performance, where the audience sits on every side of the stage, a graduate student was performing a monologue during the final dress rehearsal when she heard a clicking sound. When she looked, she saw an audience member clipping her fingernails.
“The grad student told me she stopped the show and turned and said ‘when you are finished with your personal hygiene, we’ll start the show again’,” McDaniel said.
She said theater etiquette includes the things you could do while watching something in the comfort of your own home that you should not be doing in public in front of other people, like bringing your own snacks.
“You would not believe. Cokes, milkshakes, sandwiches, random things, not just water or a cookie you get at the concession stand that you are supposed to leave in the lobby,” McDaniel said.
The evolution of cell phones into smart phones has created a huge problem, McDaniel said. Before, when all a phone could do was make and receive calls, cell phone use could be controlled. Now people think that because they aren’t making any noise they aren’t bothering anyone, but McDaniel said it’s just like a flashbulb going off in the audience.
Monks On Fire is a hard band to describe. They are like some weird mutant cross between Captain Beefheart at his most coherent, and Rush.
Ed Wrzesien, Dylan Foley and Ross Peterson all have played with each other in a few other bands before starting M.O.F. They found Michael Richter on craigslist and have been rocking out ever since. Their songs range from 3-to-10 minutes on average, traversing a vivid and dynamic soundscape. These guy’s are in love with the 1970s and they wear it on their sleeves like bleeding hearts.
There is nothing else quite like them in Missoula.
Dylan Foley: Drums
Ross Peterson: Bass/Vocals
Michael Richter: Guitar/Vocals
Ed Wrzesien: Keys
Origins of the Band:
Dylan: After we were done with our last band, At Home In The Cosmos, there was probably about two months where things were up in the air as far as how we were going to approach them.
Ed: I don’t even think we played for a couple of months because we didn’t have a place to play.
Ross: We had this craigslist guitar player that will remain unnamed, but he said one day, direct quote, “I don’t do that chord shit.”
Ed: I think it was at that point that I began advocating not even having a guitar player and just being a three piece.
Dylan: We found Michael (Richter), and really started to solidify a lot of our songwriting and the directions that we take.
Origin of the name:
Dylan: That was actually my ex. She had been reading a lot of books [by David Émile] Dirkheim and she just said on the off-shot: Why don’t you call yourselves Fire Monks, or Monks on Fire, and I thought that was pretty good, so we ran with it. Dirkheim was a sociologist and he said that there was something pretty messed up about a society when the monks are setting themselves on fire.
Does Missoula have break out artists? I dunno. I've been living here for three years and in that amount of time I've been privileged to see the evolution of a number of "bands" subvert the general consensus of what is and is not possible in a live act. It's refreshing. To put it another way: you might not be someone like me. If you are, you'll get ecstatic about a band when they do something really dumb to the audience. Maybe they're covering you guys in glitter. Maybe they're forcing you to watch a replay of some 60s NASA while playing one song in 45 minutes. It doesn't matter. They're fucking with you. It's the punkest you could possibly be. A couple bands really did this. I don't think you'd think they were punk at all.
If there was any trend I could pluck out of the music scene this year, if there was any one trend I could isolate and identify, it would be that 2012 was the year you guys started to make peace with the Weirdness. Punk should always be Weird. It's gotta stop being the place that drunk people go. Here's some Weird bands that make living feel strange.
Something happened to this band. I have no idea what it is. You'd think some nerds might settle you. They might. But then there's a movie off the side of the stage. Something kicks in like a soundtrack and 'en whoops, you just started listening to Modality. The movie starts shifting itself into other movies but you're still watching. You're still listening to Modality.
I don't think people really realize they're listening to this band even when they are. They've been geniuses at appearing innocuous while playing a ton of killer shows, insinuating that the scene is only a recent accident. Modality's been here the whole time.
Riley Flynn stopped sounding like other people and finally played himself. You might have enjoyed Germ Hunk. That was Riley too. Something has gotta be said for the kid that can stay home most every night and pull off such engaging feats of songwriting. Don't even worry about genre. If you like music. Plainly, you're going to enjoy Better Tennis.
I've yet to see a true noise band in Missoula. I'm beginning to feel like the art in that is a dead form. No matter. Every thing evolves and Burke Jam's one-man-guitar-onslaught is one of most engaging performances I've had the opportunity to witness in this town. While Missoula is lucky to have a Modality, we're even luckier that Winter's Forest sticks around, continues to quest, and keeps driving squares out the bar.
Divas on a mission to touch more butts.
There's more to come, Missoula. "Best of" posts are a plague that besets good blogs everywhere. Don't let the fever make you think 2013 isn't gonna be the coolest year in Montana. It's gonna start pretty soon.
Missoula hip-hop artist Traff the Wiz released this new music video recently, filmed by Austin Valley and featuring Ruthi Data. The song, "Negative Gold" is from his album Traffghanistan. It's full of sharply delivered rhymes and chill beats and plenty of the Missoula streets.
"Negative gold is what mining exposed me to, a promise to shine, but it won't do what it's supposed to do."
The song might be called "Negative Gold," but the music's gold-plus.
Well, Colin Meloy certainly has come a long way from playing Missoula venues dressed as a pirate with Tarkio. The frontman of The Decemberists will appear with his band on Sunday's episode of "The Simpsons." It's just the latest milestone — and arguably the coolest — for the Montana native.
The episode is titled "The Day the Earth Stood Cool," and it also guest stars Patton Oswalt and Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen. It airs at 7 p.m. in Montana.
While you adjust your DVRs and Sunday evening plans accordingly, the news prompts an obvious followup question: What other artists with local ties would you like to see animated on national television?
This First Friday there are several exhibits we're curious to see because they're just a little offbeat. So yes, we'll be at The Brink Gallery for Tim Thornton's cool movie poster exhibit, the Brunswick for new works by Leslie Van Stavern Millar and Kristi Hager and we'll check out the Dana Gallery's Holiday show, among other hot spots. But here are the one's we're going to attend just to quench our thirst for answers.
1) Betty's Divine hosts local artist Amber Prouty for the exhibit In Our Neighborhood. It features multiple pieces representing a neighborhood, but in the year 2021. "The roles between people and animals have blurred in the evolution of their bodies. Life has become more like a science fiction film, humans have become more animalistic in communication, and the animals are our neighbors." This sounds both frightening and wonderful. We're in, not least because there will also be Bernice's snacks and wine. 5 to 8 PM. 521 S. Higgins.
2) In a strangely similar vein, MCAT will host a music video showcasing make-up effects that create animal/human creatures and zombies with a "strong message about ethics in eating." We know it'll be entertaining because it's brought to us by one of our favorite MCAT film artists Christian Ackerman and his brother Chad Ackerman. This is all part of Chad's solo career under the moniker Veil. Of course. 5 to 8 PM. MCAT, 500 N. Higgins.
3) Frontier Space is already mysterious, what with being located in an alley and all. To compound their elusive reputation, the gallery isn't even going to tell us what the exhibit is. You just have to go see for yourself. Anonymity. Silence. Coyness. We're suckers for that kind of game. See you there. Off Higgins Ave, between Spruce and Pine. 5—8 PM. Free
Way to go, Barb and all. A life of its own. Well begun, well continued…