Animal Chin: The Ins & Outs Of Terrorism!


I went to high school with vocalist/guitarist Jamie Woolford, and another high school friend, Josh Steinbauer, gets writing credit, so no review, just the song notes and song ratings.

  1. Seven – ska influence
  2. Heir To The X-Fortune – hardcore. fast.
  3. Have You Seen Him? – instrumental
  4. Time-Out – probably the Animal Chin song
  5. The Top Contender – almost reggae in parts
  6. Not Like You

Mix: “Have You Seen Him?,” “Time-Out”
Really Like: “Heir To The X-Fortune,” “The Top Contender,” “Not Like You”
Like: “Seven”
Filed Between: Tori Amos (Abnormally Attracted To Sin) and Animal Chin’s All The Kids Agree


[Sister-In-Law] Christmas CD Mix 2012

Reviewing a mix my sister-in-law made for me is kind of like reviewing a friend’s CD; not gonna do it. So here are some notes on the songs for my reference.

  1. The Once And Future Carpenter – The Avett Brothers – Love the line, “If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.” This is very good, but it doesn’t quite stand up to repeated listens.
  2. Still Fighting It – Ben Folds – Amazing lyrics. “Everybody knows it hurts to grow up/And everybody does/It’s so weird to be back here/…/And we’re still fighting it/You’re so much like me/I’m sorry.” Totally sums up how I feel about my dad to me to my elder son. Powerful. Man, Ben Folds is mostly trite, but this and “Smoke” are just killer. Killer!
  3. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot – Brand New – I don’t hate it but it doesn’t do anything for me. And I dislike aspects of it.
  4. I Will Survive – Cake – Sounds much better in headphones. And even beyond that it sounds better with earbuds instead of overear phones. It’s the rhythmic interplay between the guit in the left channel and the vox in (mostly) the right channel. I appreciate them trying to unfunk this one, and they do a good job of it, but the ennui affect wears on me after a while. Except if I get that earbuds effect, that’s pretty sweet.
  5. Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth – The Dandy Warhols – Now this one I hate. Downright annoying.
  6. Can’t Help Falling In Love – Ingrid Michaelson – What a great song. This and #4 are bold, bold covers.
  7. Honey And The Moon – Joseph Arthur – pretty lame but not bad. Wish it had more dynamics…too static.
  8. Go Your Own Way – Lissie – Another bold cover. Much better than the original, but I really don’t like the original, so (i) that sets a low bar and (ii) there’s only so much you can do with what’s bad source material.
  9. Leave The Lights On – Meiko – sexy voice. Pretty good. I want to hear more of her. But this is a bit too fey and predictable to be full. Wish she’d stay in the sultry zone more. Nice drum (machine) beats. We’ll make it a full heart in the hopes that that will help me remember to listen to more of her.
  10. Banditos – The Refreshments – How do I know this song so well and yet I had never known the band or song name? The only thing I can think is that in 1996 I must have just heard it in the air. Best song ever.
  11. California (Tchad Blake Mix) – Phantom Planet – Nice enough. But the strained vox are a bit played.
  12. Reasons Why – Nickel Creek – Wow this is boring. I can only imagine that the appeal is in the lyrics, but I’m too bored by the song to listen. Can’t stand their voices, either. Is this Christian rock?
  13. Catapult – Operator Please – Only an open heart on prior year’s mix. But I was being picker about full hearts then. This is def a full heart.

– “Still Fighting It” (Ben Folds), “Leave The Lights On” (Meiko), “Banditos” (The Refreshments), “Catapult” (Operator Please)
– “The Once And Future Carpenter” (The Avett Brothers), “I Will Survive” (Cake), “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (Ingrid Michaelson), “Honey And The Moon” (Joseph Arthur), “Go Your Own Way” (Lissie), “California (Tchad Blake Mix)” (Phantom Planet)
– “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot” (Brand New), “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth” (The Dandy Warhols), “Reasons Why” (Nickel Creek)
Filed Between: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (Now I Got Worry) and Janis Joplin (Pearl)

Woodpecker!: Thanks Anyway

I think I’ve managed to drive away enough of my readership so that the three or four people who are reading this, with the possible exception of one, all know the background of Woodpecker! and me.  Woodpecker!’s lead singer, Josh Steinbauer, and I were in the same graduating class at our arts high school.  He’s a good friend and I have been a big fan of his bands since I first saw him perform with Loin Groove.

Fast forward 14 years to Fourth of July 2007 and Josh e-mails me Woodpecker!’s F-hole.  I go so apes**t over the thing that I break my longstanding rule to not review the work of friends, leaving it just shy of five [clowns] due to imperfect sound.  Over the past five years I’ve repeatedly come back to that album and been re-wowed by it, at least once even being so moved to write to Josh again to profess my love for it.

Which brings us to Memorial Day 2012 when Josh sends me Woodpecker!’s latest, Thanks Anyway, a very different album.  I’ve been processing it for the last six weeks, and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it was appropriate to break my rule for F-hole but not for Thanks Anyway.  So I won’t be reviewing this album, though I will be describing it.

The title, a sarcastic remark dripping with bitterness borne from impotence, and the cover art of middle-aged hands reaching up for rescue, which is nowhere to be seen, from drowning in the ocean set the tone of this album immediately.  Thanks Anyway is a 33-minute long sigh.  There are moments of acceptance (“If You See Something,” “GH1 With A 20mm Pancake Lens And Whatever Else We Lost That Day”) and even a positive-light song (“Matt & Ben”), but through it all is a theme of exhaustion, both satisfied and dis-, wrought from diligently working through our inexorable journey through time.

It’s an honest, unflinching, though not altogether negative, look into the thirty-something experience.  There’s identification and appreciation of what’s good, but also a yearning for what was, both in the recent and distant pasts.  And it feels like not even a yearning for the good times as described, but almost for the inability to know and understand what was good then or what is good now.  In “Old Photos Of Coney Island In The Queens Museum V. Coney Island This Afternoon,” Josh, amid being perplexed about those who came before him, asks for understanding and forgiveness from future Joshes:

Did the modern age get fixed in post
Is the way we proceed dignified if it’s so cheap
So is the heart of a scene in the past
That has lasted (that’s still stands
In front of your eyes)
If everything dies?

“Married To The Movies” captures another dichotomy and stubbornly holds it up for you to wrestle with, refusing to tip its hand.  The lyrics are a celebration, albeit a subdued one, about a relationship that fits, even if in a way not celebrated by our cultural media.  (“You sit next to me every night of the week/And we chew our way through another movie/…/It just hasn’t come up where I could pull you from a pool of piranhas/But I would.”)  However, the music, even the melodic line, belies the levity and acceptance of the lyrics, as if to taunt a self-delusion.

In addition to the larger discussions of God, faith, death (both of loved ones and strangers), Woodpecker! still gives us several songs in the vein of F-hole.  At least four seem to be explicitly about the dissolution of particular relationships, and this album replaces “Mankato” with “Matt & Ben” as the song inspired by Josh’s childhood.

And it’s that latter song that brings me back ’round to why I’m not reviewing this album.  A song for the unsung, “Matt & Ben” is a sentiment I could have written for a few of my friends, including Josh himself.  It’s always been a powerful, mysterious experience to me that these friends have made some of the best art I’ve experienced in my life.  I’m not talking like top half or awesome-considering-the-circumstances, I mean legitimately holding sway as my ultimate favorites for years–decades–at a time.  Matt Marka and Ben were that to Josh, so here’s their shout out.  The theme of the album pervades with the palpable, dull disappointment of half-fulfilled dreams, but Josh pulls up out of it at the end, his head coming up above the surface to shout to us, “Let the CD-R releases stacked on our shelves/Remind ourselves that we make music for our friends.”  And so, to me, this CD isn’t so much a CD, it’s a reminder.

Filed Between: F-hole and Wu-Tang Clan (Wu-Tang Forever)