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Top Records 2016: Underappreciated Gems

I'm doing something different this year for my top list. I want to cover records that have not gotten appreciation or coverage that much, so I have devised a list that pulls from all genres without the usual suspects. However, a few might still make it because there are so many lists. This means that many records that would normally make my overarching list will be missing, yet I hope to cover them in short posts throughout next year. One goal is to do more "Track This" entries, as well as more reviews of my favorite stuff. I have noticed over the last few years that many lists are samey, and there are always records that slip through the cracks to put certain artists in high spots. I honestly admit that many of my choices also trend in certain directions. In recent years, I have a strong affinity for Americana and metal, while less attention has been paid to punk or indie. I've looked at a few lists this year for those genres and was at a complete loss. Also, I tend…

A Brief Interlude

It snowed a lot this weekend. Safely ensconced in the house, I spun records and created my annual weird music Christmas mix. It was just the break I needed, neglecting student papers, dissertation rewrites, and the outside world. I drank a few beers and brass monkeys, while getting down to the business of distraction. Here's to the new year! It is certainly on its way.

Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas-"Ain't No Hole in the Washtub"

Bob Dylan's "Things Have Changed" and the Virtues of Musical Discovery

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Oddly enough, Bob Dylan's songs on the Wonder Boys soundtrack marked a watershed moment for me as the 90s blended into the 2000s. I started going back to college in 1999 after a two-year break where I mostly worked and listened to records. My first attempt at college had been unsuccessful due to deep depression and homesickness that I did not realize was happening at the time.

The period for me was full of change. I was trying to figure out who I was in an adult world, figuratively and musically. I was shifting between genres and personas like a man possessed.  My high school musical interests ran the gamut from 70s punk to melodic hardcore to Indie rock, but I had fallen away from most "alternative" music as I reached that age in a young person's life where I felt like I needed to be defined by a "style." Needless to say 90 percent of my listening tastes were firmly entrenched in punk circa 1999-2000.

While I never gave up the punk rock and indie rock of m…

Fear

Do you ever fear a knock on the door? I often do. Insular, I slide back inside myself, closing the door and pulling the covers up tight. I hide from the world and myself, floundering, foundering, trying not to rock the boat or any boats.

Most of the Time: A Cliched Tale of My Recent Adventures

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When I was younger, I always had a lot of optimism, despite my penchant for periods of morose pondering. I fretted and worried about everything, yet I always had the belief that everything would work out as I envisioned. As I get older, I'm not so sure that I even want things to work out quite the way I planned.

I've spent a number of years in academia pursuing my PhD in Film and American Literature, and I am extremely close to defending my dissertation. The entire document is now in the hands of my committee. My dissertation director and former professors have all been an immense help in this process. Soon I will be editing the final manuscript and preparing for the defense, which will hopefully be in February or March. Then, I can start the interminable process of revising chapters for possible publication. Right now, I also have a chapter to finish for upcoming publication in an edited collection.

This year I also took a position as a full-time instructor back in my old st…

Still Alive Out Here

I'm still plugging away on my dissertation, which keeps getting moved back but will surely be defended by this spring. Then, I hope to return to a regular schedule of blog posts. I am currently teaching five courses and trying to finish up, as well as work on revisions for journal articles, etc. Life is busy.

Blurry Pictures, Blurry Mind

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I've been trying to write more. For the past year, I have mostly been working on my doctoral dissertation on true crime and little else. Every once in a while I work on the ongoing novel or a poem or a short story. I write a daily to-do list that always contains a blog post along with job applications, abstracts, and the perpetual expected pages of revision. I seldom get to it, but I usually finish about half of my list.

Today I am working on procrastination by listening to a live Drive-by Truckers set from Charlotte in 2004. It is pretty damn good in short. Maybe I will get around to reviewing it one of these days. In preparation for this post, I looked through my pictures because I hoped that I could blog about some outdoor photos I took. No such luck today. A shortage of funds and time has kept me indoors, slaving away over text I wrote a year ago and sending in abstracts to journals that will undoubtedly reject them. But that is the life. I will be posting some pictures soon a…

Folklore and Fakelore: Paul Bunyan and the American Past

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When I was a kid, we would often go for dinner at Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I marveled over the large slices of white bread with butter, the tin cups filled to the brim with milk and water, and the manufactured ambience of the old lumber industry that covered the walls. I loved that place and still do; there was something about it that dredged up old memories, remembrances of a past that never existed merging with a real past.

The lumber industry was a major part of American history as the demand for timber rose in parts of the country that had little access to giant timber. At its peak, in 1900, annual production of lumber reached around 35 million board feet and the Midwest was depleted of much of its virgin timber. Major industries, such as railroad and coal mining, depleted resources as the nation entered a period of expansion and technological development after the Civil War.

Lumberjacks maintained a sense of identity and traditional pride even as the…

Trucker Songs: A Current Obsession

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I haven't been blogging much or doing other writing because I am currently revising my dissertation and feeling the gloom of being in school for so long with no glimmer of light at the end. I've been in a perpetual dark hallway, bumping and bouncing off the walls, feeling sicker than ever as I look for academic jobs, while trying to get published. Many days I feel like I have zero skills, zero prospects, and zero opportunities. I'm not getting any younger, and there are times when I feel like I have made some very regrettable mistakes. Yet I also know that this is what I want to do, so I'm going to finally get the dissertation done. Then I can think about paying back student loan debt and moving on into the light.

Music has been my saving grace as always. Coming off of a two week sinus infection, I reloaded my MP3 player and put it on shuffle only to be hit with a barrage of old country songs, mostly of the trucker persuasion. I have been spending tons of my time list…

Top Records of 2015: 6-1

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6. Baroness - Purple (Abraxan Hymns)



Savannah, Georgia's Baroness returns with another intricate record that relies less on experimentation and focuses more  on tuneful songwriting than most of their earlier catalog. Their two guitar attack is clean and tuneful, and John Baizley's vocals hit a sweet spot between hardcore growler and 90s indie singer. Equal parts metal, indie rock, prog, and (dare I say it) hard rock, are all present in an inventive mix. "Shock Me" stands out with its tight drumming, clean guitars, and tasty phasers. The brilliant guitar solos and innovative arrangements are proof that Baroness is getting more interesting and dynamic with each new release. While they are rooted in metal, they continually push the boundaries of the genre, bringing in disparate elements from all over the musical landscape.  Purple relies more heavily on melody and  power, and Baroness effortlessly mixes its influences to create the last heavy musical home run …