Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cache Valley's Small Towns, Ranked

Some of the best perks of living in Logan aren't in Logan at all.
Cache Valley is home of the best-- and the dumbest-- small towns imaginable. We've got places with canyon access and we've got places with terrible water quality. I'm not sure how many towns are exactly in Cache Valley... but here's 20 of them. And they're ranked!

Nibley is like this crappy swamp-like area crammed along Highway 165. In July 2014, residents had to use water from bordering towns because City of Nibley's water quality was too poor to drink or make use of. Yeah, screw this place.

20 Riverside
I've never stepped out of the car in Riverside, but it's got nice houses. Kinda like LA.

19 College Ward
I never knew this place existed until one summer two of my friends moved there. I'm convinced the street they lived on was the only street in town.

18 Dewyville + Garland
I don't think I've been to these places, but they have cool names.

17 Benson
Benson Dam is kinda pretty, although my experience is peppered with bad memories of an old job I had where I'd  hang out with a developmentally-disabled individual who liked to fish there. I'd just sit on a rock and watch him catch carp while he cranked up 2000's techno for 2 hours.

16 Hyde Park
You look at the side of the hill in Hyde Park and you'll see giant houses stacked on top of each other. You can actually drive to the biggest, highest house. It looks like a ski resort from afar, but I've mistakenly been in their driveway. It has a South African flag! And oh yeah, I got a driving ticket in Hyde Park before. So screw this place.

15 Tremonton
I've been here multiple times before I moved here. It's a useful rest stop beside I-84. But most importantly; It has a Denny's! You can eat there at 3:00am! Which I I've done.

14 Smithfield
The Zipf family lives here. They're pretty cool. They get ducks, owls and skunks. And the access to Smithfeild canyon is an understated green area I highly recommend.

13 Lewiston
Lewiston has a movie theatre that shows 1 movie at a time. It also has a gas station with a super ghetto bathroom. I found this town on a random car ride with Keith Jackman. That random.

12 Richmond
If you want to get a deliciously greasy heart attack, I highly recommend Big J's Burgers. They serve burgers, Mexican food and pizza at a wholesale price. And oh yeah, I seriously had a job interview to be a drama teacher at their high school when I was a freshman in college! What were they thinking?

11 Clarkston
Oddball LDS historic figure Martin Harris is buried in Clarkston. The town holds an outdoor Martin Harris Pageant every summer by their cemetery, including questionable acting and small town theatrical technique. (sigh) Gotta love this place!

10 Wellsville
Wellsville has a mountain range named after it. It also has this neat-o tabernacle building on Main Street. And the American Heritage Center hosts Baby Animal Days every year. Bonus!

9 Newton
Roommate Tyson at Newton Dam
I don't think anybody actually "lives" in Newton, but Newton Dam is borderline gorgeous. It's where I learned how to play the world's greatest sport: Watermelon Polo.

8 River Heights
River Heights has the world's coolest playground! And I have relatives buried in its cemetery.

7 North Logan
North Logan should be ranked lower. It has a terrible Wal-Mart which clogs surrounding traffic like Big J's Burgers does to your arteries. However, it also has Green Canyon! Possibly my favorite local trailhead. Just look out for bears (not a joke).

6 Paradise
Paradise has a spacious, green landscape that's great for building environmentally with giant houses that are arguably bad for the environment. But yeah, I'd live there. And it has cool abandoned buildings that are impossible to break into. Don't ask me how I know that...

5 Millville
The park in Millville
I was giving my ol' 1984 Honda Accord a winter test drive one December night when all the sudden I was surrounded by Christmas lights. I didn't see any buildings, just some quaint Christmas decorations along the telephone polls. I was apparently in Millville. Also, it's got this park placed right next to somebody's horse field. You can go and pet them, if they like you. Horses don't like me for some reason. Also, it's got a canyon entrance, notably for 4-wheelers. Also, there's a USU/government-ran wildlife center where they nurse wolves and coyotes. They'll tell you to drive off the property if you get too close. Don't ask me how I know that...

4 Mendon
Cache Valley below/behind us
Mendon Days is cutest darn summer festival you will ever see. This town also has the only access I know to enter the steep Wellsville Mountains. Great hikes there! I have a funny story about my car breaking down there. And my buddy Rob has a funny story about running into an unattended robot operation there... No, really.

3 Avon
Floating bondfire at Porcupine Dam
Avon is officially the middle of nowhere. It's home of Porcupine Reservoir, where I was introduced to cliff jumping and floating bonfires. Both epic, by the way. It's also an entrance to this sketchy dirt road that swerves through some mountain/tundra terrain which leads you to Weber County. Apparently you can hunt moose and elk around there.

2 Hyrum
Hyrum! Home of Hyrum Reservoir! A great place to hang-glide, eat pizza, or take a pee break! This is also where I've seen a hokey fireworks show every 4th of July. Main Street has some great Christmas decorations and some dude who lives there used to have a bison in his yard. Bison are always cool. This is where USU holds Big Band Swing dances, which are fun, 50% of the time.

1 Providence
Providence is as close as Cache Valley gets to Mayberry. It's where my gramma Kay Empey grew up as a child. I've found her old street corner, which probably looks just as quaint as it did back then. In preparation for my first half marathon, I eventually ran every street in Providence. On Saturday mornings, elderly folks would wave at me from their front porches. There's a nice canyon entrance that marks the halfway point of my 10-mile route. Perhaps Providence is my #1 due to my personal, biased, intimate connection with all its streets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Running: Is This The End?

Here's something that occupies much of my life but I've never blogged about: Running.
Yeah, I run. Pretty consistently. And I love it.

The Humble Beginnings
I first ran cross country as a freshmen at Linden High School back in California. I grew up playing soccer and always started on defense. But I didn't make the high school team.

On all accounts, it was a smart move by the coach. I spent my previous summer drinking tons of Snapple and watching tons of Family Matters reruns. My favorite hobby was requesting songs on the local radio stations. My main exercise was jumping on the trampoline with my sister. It was a great summer! But physically lazy. And by the time I went to soccer practices, my body was shaped like... something different. I've always been skinny. And I was skinny then. Only then, my body was shaped like a pear and I had little spaghetti arms. After realizing I just wasn't that athletic, I tried making a team nobody gave a crap about: Cross country. How did try-outs go? They didn't have enough people, so they just added me on! It was great!

I wasn't very fast. I always finished at the tail-end of JV races. Due to lack of team participants, I once ran a Varsity race! I finished dead last. But I'll never forget running that race. The Amador High School mascot (some guy in a buffalo costume) was blocking my path when he thought all the runners had passed him, so I pushed him out of the way. Turd.

Jerome XC
My sophomore high school fall season was spent playing soccer for Jerome High School in Idaho. I started JV defense and even got some Varsity playing time toward at the season's end. I just assumed I'd be  playing Varsity when I came back my junior year. I made some good friends on cross country team, so I was going to both soccer and XC practices for about a week. My soccer coach found out about it and made me practice with JV. He said I could either stick with soccer and play Varsity, ot I could do both sports and play JV soccer. That was the last soccer practice I ever attended.
So I took a risk and chose the sport I was historically bad at. I ran some JV, ran a little Varsity. It was worth it to me because I was getting better. The top 7 runners make Varsity, and I finished 6th for the team at the District meet. There was hope for me!
My senior year began all too familiar to my senior year. I always finished with the 7th or 8th best time for the team. I once won a JV race! I won a race! But it was JV. And I was a senior. I took my cookie and walked away. I remember getting my PR at a Jerome race later, which was temporarily exciting. Everybody else got theirs too. And I found myself back on JV. I had to run a JV race on the Twin Falls golf course in the canyon. I felt like I hadn't been running to my potential. I had something to run for. So this time, I did something I had never done before: I competed.
The race had a couple hundred runners and I got 6th place. I beat my PR. I moved up to Varsity with the 6th best time for the team! Next race? I crushed that PR and entered the 17:00 range! I stayed up with our best runners for the rest of the season, which included my best run at the state championship meet! I got 3rd for the team and top 50 in the race! Since I was on such an ascent, I decided to run track that spring. On our first meet, I ran the 1600m in under 11 minutes and I even made the paper. I was improving! But I quit the team entirely to focus on the school musical and the Advanced Speech team. Respectively, some people called me a quitter. But I kept running...

JHS XC, State Academic Champions!

Hero-to-Zero (to hero again)
I spent that summer at Redfish Lake, where I learned the painful joy of mountain running. I'd usually just run 4 miles or so, but I knew I could do more. When I started attending CSI (junior college in Twin Falls), I decided to run the Perrine Bridge 10k. And I won! The run felt great and even though there was limited competition, it was a notable achievement.

Won the 10k with a 39:43

Everything after that race sucked. I ran less and I ran poor. I then served a 2-year LDS mission where I only ran 5 times within those 2 years. Slowly, I became a consistent runner after my mission. I knew it would be a good way to beat out my stress/anxiety/whatever. It was spring semester 2013 at USU where I started making it my reality. I would park my car in the snow and run 4 miles at the indoor track at USU. And it didn't suck. I spent my summer experimenting running in the neighborhood. You ever been to Logan? People live on the side of mountains. So I'd check it out up there, on foot. My fall semester had some lengthy, spirited runs. By 2014, I decided I'd try my very first half marathon.

My 2013 running selfies were relentless

The Magic Era
My half marry training during spring semester 2014 is a glorified period of my life. I would just run for miles everyday. Like, in the friggin snow. Against the wind. And I felt perfectly fine. 0 pain. I could legitimately run 10 miles whenever I wanted and it would just feel like a normal day. This is what people on the actual USU XC team were doing. Mind you, I was just making up a training plan off the top of my head. 3 weeks before my race, reality hit my body like a train. My knee started giving out on me. I ran with a knee brace for the next 3 weeks. Did short jogs. My doctor said my training plan was a bad idea. When the race day came, I was nervous. I knew I could be a contender. What could make my knee better all the sudden? Adrenaline. Last-minute adrenaline.
I ran the Striders Ogden Half Marathon. It was in the Hunstville/Eden area in Ogden canyon. I figured it would be a small outing. This race was so much huger than I imagined! They were sending multiple bus-loads of people to the starting line! They left no empty spaced, either. I remember sitting over the bus wheel (arg!) crammed next to some old guy who couldn't tell that I really didn't want to talk to him. So there are hundreds of people there... and I ran perfectly fine. I finished 17th place! I ran 81:04! The top 20 got medals! I got 2nd place in my age group! Everybody else who beat me was older than me! Which could only mean-- to me, at the time-- those people will be me some day! Only a couple years and I myself could win a half marathon! It only makes sense, right?
Wrong. In fact, my running habit since then deserves its own running metaphor. Since that race, it's all been very slow... and all downhill.

Not too shabby!

All Downhill From Here
A half marathon is 13.1 miles. I was in 12th place for the first 11 miles. I was getting consistently passed at the end of that race. My run as a whole that day was great, but I definitely didn't finish strong. I was dying those last 2 miles. And I've died on many runs since then. I had many cases of shin splints that summer, and running suddenly was no longer fun. I ran the Redfish Memorial Day half marathon in 2015, Finished top 10, but there weren't a lot of other runners (top 3 got medals). And I felt like crap the whole time. I pushed through that summer with some difficult mountain runs, but my stage management major took over my life when I got back to school. I still had the perseverance, but not the time. I'd run 8 miles on Monday afternoon, run 8 miles Saturday afternoon, and call it good. I wasn't training smart enough to do a half marathon this year, so I settled for a 10k this year. I got 4th (top 3 got medals) and even though my performance was just fine, I felt like crap.
The $90 specialty shoes I bought in March have plenty of arch support, but the outside has been deteriorating all summer. I took all of July off from running since nothing felt right. I've had a couple okay runs this month, but nothing over 5 miles. And I still take walk-breaks more than usual. It hasn't been pretty. To cap it all off, I sprained my ankle tonight in a pickup game of basketball.
Oh the humanity! The moment it happened, I knew it was bad. I took my shoe off a couple hours ago and my ankle has inflated to the size of a grapefruit. And growing. I'll have to rest for at least two weeks. With this injury, plus how mediocre/bad my runs have been this month, I can't help but wonder: Is this the end?
I love distance running. It eases my stress. It's where I've come up with my best, clearest thoughts. It gets me feeling confident, strong and dedicated. But lately, I feel like I've been clinging on to something old. I have a show to stage manage next semester. Could this be the end of my running days? My "good" running days? Is there really such a big physical difference between being 23 and 25? I'm taking a hyperfit class next semester, but will that do the trick? Do I need to start at square one next year? Or quit all together? Is this the end?

 It's gotten bigger since I took this photo. At the time, I downloaded this photo to a desktop so I could upload it to my blog. Now? I cannot even  walk to that desktop due to the pain.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Everything Reminds Me Of Everything

Hey Man, Slow Down! Idiot, Slow Down!

Half of my readers recognize the statue pictured above from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The other half will recognize the whole picture from the leaflet of Radiohead's OK Computer. Well, it's both. I've recently learned that Thom Yorke wrote a few songs in SLC and came to this statue for a place to refocus. This album was released in 1997. It was musically adventurous and the production was the sound of the future. But hey, I didn't hear it all the way through until I was, like, 18, 19. I bought this album in November of 2009. And today, it is extremely difficult for me to listen to it. 
Now as I said before, the music here is great and it still sounds like it came from outer space. Lyrically, this is straight-up depressing. Anxious. Bleak. Dismal. All too real for those who have suffered from mental illness. When I bought this album, I was unaware of my own mental downward spiral. And my immediate love for this album didn't help. 
I remember talking to a counselor in 2010/2011-ish who told me that General Anxiety Disorder was like playing a broken record in your mind. There are tons of negative phrases you repeat to yourself often. Now, it's not like I was haunted by Radiohead lyrics while I was on my LDS mission, but I've always since thought Thom's lyrical approach on this album was him releasing some of his broken-record-anxiety thoughts. "Fitter Happier" in a nutshell. Any time I try to visit this album, I kinda get taken back to my anxious 19-year-old self. I consider it a classic record and I enjoy playing individual tracks occasionally, but I haven't listened to this whole album in nearly 2 years. 
However, OK Computer seems like the pivotal album that reminds me of bad times. But I still think that "jet airline to Jesus Christ's thoughts" picture is awesome. And there are plenty of albums that remind me of GOOD times!

I've Been Wanting To Make This Graph!

I wrote this blog post in May where I claim I was finally learning to live in the moment again. Some of you must be thinking: "Scott, have you had struggles with living in the moment?" Actually, my adult life has been a psycho-emotional experience I can never fully grasp with words. So now-- ladies and gentlemen-- I present to you: The Scott Hall Adult Life Mental Health Line Graph! 

Exciting, isn't it! People can look at this and be like, "I met Scott when he felt super happy about himself! Nice!" Or perhaps, "I met Scott when he was going through a rough time! Oh shoot..." 
Mind you, the scoring system is all based on my own current opinion. I don't really score my mental health with some kinda government-funded testing on a regular basis. Although that low score for "Late 2010" can be backed up by some old paperwork from LDS Family Services. 
I spent a lot of time in the mid-low sections of this graph trying to relive past emotions. I've learned that such a mindset is doomed to fail. So I've been increasingly living in the present, trying not to think too much about my past or my future. And it works! I started feeling familiar and new feelings of happiness, relaxation and creativity! Then something happened to my present: I moved to Jerome, ID. I haven't lived in Jerome since I was a teenager.  

Summer 2016: Everything Reminds Me Of Everything!

This summer has been the ultimate test for me to live in the moment. I kicked it off with that blog post I cited earlier, feeling confident and positive. So I go back home... and everything I do reminds me of something I did a long time ago. 
-I ride my bike by my old high school, I feel like I'm in high school. 
-I listen to "Paranoid Android," I go back to my early anxiety days. 
-I listen to Sufjan Stevens, I suddenly go back to my best summer ever. 
-I listen to music from 2013, I feel like it's 2013. 
-I eat some dinner my mom made, I recall the first time I ever ate it. REALLY, ANYTHING.
Trying to collect the many eras of Scott this summer is worthy of its own roller coaster line graph. I present to you: The Scott Hall Summer 2016 Mental Health Line Graph!

Everything I wrote on there is true. The bad days at work, the owl, the headaches, the pizza, whatever! I really hope people don't worry about me when they see this. See, all those little things like the decline from "pizza" to "headache?" That's all temporary. True, but temporary. The numbers here throughout the summer stay relatively high. But yeah, lately... everything reminds me of everything! And it's as cool as it is annoying!
This whole graph-filled blog might just be my outlet trying to explain the high points and frustrations of my summer. It also might have just been a way for me to show off my Radiohead critique. Either way, I go back to Logan in one week. My days have been, mentally, perfectly fine. The whole overload of nostalgic feelings? I've decided it's kinda funny. And also considering my situation-- living with my parents again and all-- it's kinda normal. Beyond this point, there's no reason to overthink my mind-boggling (but overall, pretty good) summer. I have bigger fish to fry. 
As long as we're living in the moment, we're gold. 
Moral of the story. 
Time for some "Exit Music (For A Blogpost)." 
Cue corny movie credits music. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Value of a Memory

Every summer, both the good and the bad, I go through a "mid-summer crisis." I get this irked feeling inside like I'm not doing my summer the right way. Where are the good times? Where are the long summer nights? Where are the memories?
I've had a few forces against me this summer. I had a lot of good friends in Logan, but I left them all to save some money by living at home with my parents in Jerome. Compared to the classic college town Logan, there aren't too many people my age around here. Also, I was starting to get migraines consistently towards the end April. Unfortunately, this hasn't stopped for the last 2 months. I guess I'd be pretty justified to complain about my 2016 summer nights spent in my parents' basement with a proverbial anvil pushing against my forehead. But I digress. My mentality this summer has one thing that has both been killing me and keeping me alive: Memories.
As I mentioned earlier, memories of summers past leave me wanting more and bury me in a mid-summer crisis. But I've also developed a more positive perspective. I look back and smile with the corniest sense of nostalgia as I remember my favorite songs and favorite friends from those summers. I have hope that this summer will be perfectly fine, whether or not I make new memories. And even if I tried to create my very own "night to remember," moments like that cannot be forced. They kinda just happen.
The best summers of my life (so far), I just so happened to be closely surrounded by some of the nicest, most influential people possible. I've learned to be grateful for all those, what I've learned from them, and the experiences we shared. Here are some examples.

2008 Jerome, ID
I was really shy during my first summer in Jerome (2007), but I did meet some great people during that time. I kinda did the math and decided to increase my time spent with them in 2008. This particular summer, I had high school buddies hang out with. I was also in a local play, The Laramie Project, where I built some new friendships (as most plays do). I fell in love with late nights. I remember listening to tons of Beck and R.E.M, and watching Phineas and Ferb after part-time shifts at Ridley's.

2009 Stanley, ID
My first summer at Redfish was so good, I worked there 2 more times! I was 18, freshly graduated and this was my first summer away from home. I romanticize this summer a bit much, but I admit the first 3 weeks were rough for me. I shared a cabin with an underage drunkard and a compulsive liar (I never knew they were real!), yet eventually learned to love the heck out of them. I would've stayed in my shell that summer if it wasn't for the hard-working Clegg family, the ever-positivist Jodi Crozier and the cabin of super nice girls who lived next door. I also made great friendships with my alcohol-drenched and marijuana-stench co-workers, who shared my taste in music. I remember discovering new heights in the Sawtooth Mountains and constant listens to Illinois and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

2011 Langley, BC
By all means, I could leave this one out. I was on anti-anxiety meds (respectively) the entire time. But I was blessed with great companions and a bunch of outgoing missionaries who lived nearby. Our district was always tight-knit. We were all super different, but always somehow got along; making memorable P-Days and keeping track of each others' work. I guess it also helped that the only LDS temple in British Columbia was in my church parking lot. No musical memories will be shared for this summer, for they were later dubbed "irreverent" for mission standards... 

2013 Logan, UT
Ah, yes, my first summer in Logan! I probably wouldn't have had a lot of my best memories if it wasn't for always being welcome at the Rob Owens/Andrew Sieggen apartment. Many other friendships spurred from that friend-base. I remember pulling through with terrible jobs at call centers and factories. I had many listens to the new Daft Punk and Vampire Weekend albums. I had no idea I was living what I would later refer to as "the good old days." Things were so much better than I had believed at the time.

Which brings me back to this summer. Sometimes I get caught up in the science of making a memory. Sometimes I've thought all these summers were kinda based around me having friends who were more social/outgoing than me. I guess at the end of the day, it's all about attitude, optimism, living in the moment... to be grateful in any circumstance. This summer, I won't let my health or my change of scenery bring me down.
With the choices you make, you are either building something to look forward to or something to look back on. The risk, the cost of making a memory is based on your own willingness to act; to do! The remaining value is priceless.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Music Mid-Year Report: "meh."

It's been hard to follow the music scene this year. It's been a year of "meh." Whatever my vote is for Album Of The Year, it will come in the second half of this year. At least I hope so. Because yeah, I've heard some good and great albums so far. But nothing beyond that. I'm still waiting for the big one.
If anything is interesting in the music world this year, it's where the best music is coming from. In February, two of the most entrepreneurial artists from last decade (Animal Collective + Kanye West) released albums in the same week!
...And they were both "meh."
When the underground experimental icons Animal Collective become irrelevant and the beat-making machine Kanye West becomes lazy, we know something's awry in the music world. But let's judge what the music scene's like by looking at some of my favorite albums of 2016 so far.

The Old Guys Strike Back
Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool 
Age of average band member: 46.8. I didn't think I'd be a fan of a new Radiohead album. Everything's felt like an electronica-flavored downhill slope after In Rainbows. Yet Johnny Greenwood's recently taken to composing symphonic movie soundtracks, which shows on every track on this album. The production from Nigel Godrich sounds as up-to-date as ever. Thom Yorke is an old fart now and can no longer vocalize paranoia like he used to. Here, he instead plays a sentimentally existential narrator. The album may seem boring to some, but I hear aging music prophets admitting that they've considered giving up (love? music? life itself? something). Backed by some of their most complex harmonies yet, it fills a missing space in their catalog.
Sturgill Simpson A Sailor's Guide to Earth 
Age: 38. A major-label country album? On a Scott list? Say it ain't so! I'll admit, this album is as corny as it is wise. An unlikely favorite. It's a concept album based on Sturgill's letters to his wife and son while he was serving for the U.S. Navy, based in Japan. The strings sound nostalgic and the horns sound raw throughout the album. He gives an album full of life lessons while making references to Kim Jong-il and Nintendo 64. The album's center-pieced by a Waylon Jennings-esque cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom," which flows remarkably, strangely natural with the album in both theme and composition. Then he wraps up the album with an old-man rant about the media where he violently sums up all the beautiful life lessons he's given us: "The bullshit's got to go!" 
David Bowie Blackstar 
Age: 69 (deceased). I had a hunch this album was gonna be good with its two lead singles "Blackstar" and "Lazarus." The album did not disappoint. Now when we listen to this, it's hard not to think about his death that closely followed its release. Almost every song on here talks about death. Dying between a Sunday night and a Monday morning, we now have the only logical (and prophetic) interpretation of the lyric "Where the f*** did Monday go?" And even without his death, you can't deny that Bowie worked his butt off on this album, which contains his most consistently exciting work in years. This might be my favorite album of the year so far.
And that's what's wrong with 2016. Upon first listen, I imagined this song making my top 10 list at the end of the year. But #1? We still have 6 months...

Hip-Hop, etc
Anderson .Paak Malibu
R&B songwriter Anderson .Paak showed up on last year's Dr. Dre album. If he didn't have a proper follow-up album, his name could be easily forgotten with time. But Paak delivers a different story track-after-track on Malibu. The music is R&B, but the beats are hip-hop. Frank Ocean hasn't released in album in 4 years, so this might be as close as we're gonna get.
Kendrick Lamar untitled unmastered.
It's no surprise that Kendrick Lamar is on this list. What's surprising is that this is what his music sounds like when he's not even trying! 34 minutes of demo tracks, and it's still the most quality jazz instrumentals and straight rapping I've heard all year. Without any glossy production work (or even song titles), Kendrick shows versatality in his songwriting with his least commercial release yet.
Chance The Rapper Coloring Book
I've always passed Chance The Rapper off as "meh." I've loved a couple tracks by him, but he hasn't kept me invested for an entire album until now. These songs are beautifully textured with gospel and jazz elements. The production is top-notch, especially on "No Problem" and "Angels." I guess that out of all 14 tracks, there are a couple duds. But the high moments are glorious; themed around family, memories and praise. Actually, this album might be my favorite album of the year so far.
And this is also a problem with 2016. The actually "rapping" on here is easily beat out by Kendrick, among others. But if anything, the aesthetic of this album is possibly this year's most colorful. Chance The Rapper could respectively be renamed Chance The Producer. I guess with so many "scene" rappers trying to make their own Dark Fantasy, it's nice to have a Coloring Book.

More Than "meh." 
--Beyonce's Lemonade is actually pretty memorable. I'm glad popular artists like her are getting more personal. But on the other hand, where's the commercial love for Benji? Everybody in America wants to know who "Becky with the good hair" is, but nobody asks about "the girls at Panera Bread." 
--James Blake's The Colour In Anything is way too long, but if you like James Blake, it's worth it just to hear his voice for 75 minutes.
--Car Seat Headrest's Teens Of Denial proves that they're more than just some middle-of-the-road indie rock band. The songs are musically epic and lyrically intriguing. It's growing on me.
--Parquet Courts' Human Performance is their best in 3 years. It's not scrappy minimalist punk by any means. I'd say the guitars sound "cold."
--Swans' The Glowing Man would fall under the "old guys" category, but I have so much to write about it, I can't help but be overly brief: It's scary.
--King Gizzard & The Lizard's Wizard Nanagon Infinity has the most random shtick any album's ever had: The beginning literally loops with the album's end. You can hit the CD repeat button a CD player and there will be no hiccup between listen 1 and listen 2. I mean, the album itself is pretty good. Some violent, weird, psych-rock/garage-rock. Not sure what it all means though...
--David Cobb gets various country artists on his Southern Family compilation concept album. All songs written and produced by Cobb, we hear artists like Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert present individual members of a southern family.
--Death Grips' Bottomless Pit sounds like a Death Grips album.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Me, Myself + 69 Love Songs

I bought The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs a couple weeks ago. I've heard some tracks on here multiple times, but never bought the album because I never thought I'd have enough time to hear the whole thing. I had done it before, but admit I'd get a headache about 90 minutes in. But now that I have it on-hand at all times, I can listen to it however I want. And it's made all the difference.
It's hard to say what makes 69 Love Songs so amazing. For me, the only way to explain it is to dig somewhere extremely personal. So let's go there.
About one year ago, I posted about this album on facebook: 
"I don't know why this album always makes me cry."
I know darn well why I cry to this album. It has to do with the way I think. The way my mind has always worked. As far back as I can remember. The one thing that's always made me feel hard to relate to other people. Something that makes me hesitant to be too open with others. The main thing I've always thought made me "different." I feel like I'm never being 100% myself to others because I hide this from everyone. I feel weird trying to explain it, but here I go...
Every day of my life, at least once a day, I make songs. In my head. As far back as I can remember, I've made a song for everything at least once in my life. It's hard to literally "write"songs, especially with such an overload of ideas. And it's not like I remember all my song ideas. They're countless. And I don't even like everything I come up with. I say the one thing holding me back from sharing my music all these years is that I don't even know where to start! It's just the way I've thought out things throughout my life and I don't have a lot to show for it.
I could come up with a song right now and it'd be easy. It would sound at least okay. I could improvise a song for you now, and it would sound conventional, direct and prepared. Song ideas are on my mind constantly. When you see me staring into space, there's a chance I could be in the process of coming up with a new one. I still don't know what it means after all these years.
Maybe this is all too much info for you guys... but in the meanwhile, this is how I intimately relate to the giant musical mix-bag that is 69 Love Songs

When I hear this album, I'm convinced that there's somebody else in this world whose brain functions like mine does; coming up with songs constantly, automatically. And the
n this brilliant bastard got his band together and for once, decided he'd record as many of them as possible. Songwriter Stephin Merritt took on every OCD-songwriter's nightmare here: He wrote and recorded 69 love songs. 
Merritt says: 
"69 Love Songs is not remotely an album about love. It's an album about love songs, which are very far away from anything to do with love." So not all these are "I love you" songs. There's plenty of intriguing song topics spread throughout the album. 
And as much as I love ambitious albums, I can't just like an album because it has 69 songs on it. That was my issue at first; I questioned whether all 69 songs were actually good. The music can be pretty goofy and the lyrics can be stupid. On my most recent listen, I listened to disc 3 first and it sounded much better to me. I'd say there are only a couple songs that rub me off wrong, but I'm amazed at how different each song sounds from another! The fact that he actually wrote all of these is amazing. It's all so lovably dry, written by a man who literally only wears shades of brown. No song is instrumentally or lyrically uninteresting. They're sung between 5 different lead singers, male and female. Merritt himself sings some songs, and personally accounts for contributing over 60 different instruments! Some songs are written from homosexual and bisexual perspectives. Merritt is openly gay, which can bizarrely catch folks by surprise in some lyrics lyrics.
The production is hard to compare to anything else. It mostly sounds dinky. I love the stuff I've heard from The Magnetic Fields' early work, yet only a few songs on 69 Love Songs remind me of their previous work. Sure it's from the 90's lo-fi label Merge Records-- and it sounds lo-fi-- but it doesn't remind me at all of Superchunk or Neutral Milk Hotel. These guys try to cover so many genres on these 69 songs, it can be either laughable or overwhelming.

If there's any other reason for my crying to this album, it's the fact that most of these songs are actually really sad. Simple in nature, but usually have depressing story-endings. There's a bunch of background story to making of this album, but I'll leave the mythology and legend-seeking to you guys. I just have a lot to say about the actual product. So I made a list of my favorite songs on it. My 33 Favorite Songs from 69 Love Songs! Not a short list for a not-short album. I added some occasional commentary.

33 Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Begett  
^If campfire songs were written by the nerdiest people in the world, they'd sound like this.
32 World Love 
31 Busby Berkeley Dreams 
30 Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long 
29 When My Boy Walks Down the Street 
28 Time Enough for Rocking 
27 Kiss Me Like You Mean It 
26 A Pretty Girl Is Like 
25 Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin 
^"Love is like a bottle of gin, but a bottle of gin is not like love."
24 How to Say Goodbye 
23 I'm Sorry I Love You 
22 Acoustic Guitar 
21 Meaningless 
20 Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits 
^You know what this song is about.
19 No One Will Ever Love You 
18 (Crazy for You But) Not That Crazy 
17 I Shatter 
16 The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure 
^Apparently among the most influential linguists of the 20th century.
15 Sweet-Lovin' Man 
14 A Chicken with It's Head Cut Off 
13 Epitaph for My Heart 
12 Absolutely Cuckoo 
11 Come Back from San Francisco 
^This song makes me cry the most. I think it's based on a true story. 
10 Long-Forgotten Fairytale
9 I Think I Need a New Heart 
8 Yeah! Oh, Yeah! 
^Not a love song.
7 The Way You Say Good-Night 
6 I Don't Believe in the Sun 
5 Papa Was a Rodeo 
^As funny as it is sad. There's a twist at the end!
4 The Book of Love 
3 I Don't Want to Get Over You 
2 The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side 
^She's the girl every guy wants. You're ugly. But you own a convertible. Wanna go for a ride?
1 All My Little Words 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Personality Factor Test Results

These are results from a lengthy online personality test I took via Personality Factors ( The website takes your answers and estimates the impact each of their 16 personality factors have on your life. They're estimated in percentages (not adding up to 100%, just on average). I've presented them in order of lowest percentages to highest. I also added literal definitions of the personality traits. I can only assume you see those words at the bottom and you automatically think of me. hehe...

Distrust 4
the feeling that someone or something cannot be relied on


Emotionality 21
the observable behavioral and physiological component of emotion, and is a measure of a person's emotional reactivity to a stimulus


Anxiety 42
a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome


Orderliness 50
associated with other qualities such as cleanliness and diligence—and the desire for order and symmetry, and is generally considered to be a desirable quality

Assertiveness 50
the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive


Reserve 54
refrain from using or disposing of (something); retain for future use


Emotional Stability 63
refers to a person's ability to remain calm or even keel when faced with pressure or stress

Friendliness 63
the quality of being friendly; affability


Imagination 67
the ability to form new images and sensations in the mind that are not perceived through senses such as sight, hearing, or other senses

Gregariousness 67
fond of the company of others; sociable 


Intellect 71
the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract or academic matters

Sensitivity 71
the quality or condition of being sensitive


Warmth 79
the quality, state, or sensation of being warm; moderate and comfortable heat

Dutifulness 79
Careful to fulfill obligations 

Self-Reliance 79
reliance on one's own powers and resources rather than those of others


Complexity 83
the state or quality of being intricate or complicated