Monthly Archives: October 2012

i was once a loyal lover

The release of Ben — sorry, Benjamin — Gibbard’s excellent solo album last week got me thinking about how much I used to love Death Cab for Cutie. Not just love — like, LOVE love. (In case it wasn’t clear from that eloquent proclamation, this love blossomed most brightly during my freshman and sophomore years of college.)

I wore out my digital downloads of Transatlanticism tracks, gobbled up Plans as soon as it was released, saw them on tour, and then… things just kind of fell off.* When Narrow Stairs debuted in 2008, I was mildly obsessed with epic eight-minute-plus single “I Will Possess Your Heart,” but I didn’t really care for the other singles, and when a friend lent me a copy of the entire album I just kind of shrugged and the music rolled off, not leaving any sort of strong impression, good or bad.

By the time Codes and Keys came around last year, it was the same story. I liked “You Are a Tourist,” but NPR’s advance stream of the entire album left me cold. I didn’t even bother seeking out a copy until last month, mostly out of guilt at my fairweather fandom. During that same transaction, I also finally got myself The Open Door EP, which I had heard about and wanted to acquire upon its release but for some reason just never purchased.

Wracking my brain for reasons as to why that could be — after all, I had already heard a couple songs off the tiny tracklist and liked them a lot — I looked up the release date, and then realized that its early April 2009 debut was smack dab in the middle of my harried completion of a soul-sucking, time-thieving magazine prototype production project at grad school. So, of course, some things were bound to fall by the wayside, right? I mean, I was barely sleeping, spending hours upon hours in the computer labs staring at slapdash layouts, even making arts and crafts projects in my failed attempt to be a creative art director while also making my life even more difficult than it had to be.

Honestly, sometimes I think my membership in the music fan club should be revoked. Yes, I was beyond busy, but I knew about this EP’s existence, and should have made more of an effort to acquire it. It would have come in handy to have on my Zune for all those long hours in the lab, and probably would have provided a nice respite from the craziness swirling around me, if only for those five tracks.

Rather than regret my musical transgressions, I’m just going to enjoy what I have now — and boy, am I ever. As the chorus goes in this post’s title track: “You can’t even begin to know how many times I’ve told myself, ‘I told you so.'” I still may not be a very loyal fan (I can think of many other bands against whom I’ve committed similar sins, and for that I am sorry), but I’m trying. In this age of  overstimulation and distraction, digital or otherwise, sometimes “better late than never” is the best that you can do.

*Many people will note that I could never have been a true Death Cab fan in the first place since I sort of ignored their earlier releases, which apparently all the cool kids think are really their best work. Fair point. But to give me back some credibility, I do have a handful of illegally downloaded tracks from Something About Airplanes, The Photo Album, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes, and You Can Play These Songs With Chords, and even LIKE some of them. But I’m a simple girl with simple tastes and if I don’t care for music I move on, no matter how much I love the band in question. Sorry.

squirrel! or, how to question your sanity in one easy step

As anyone who’s spent multiple weeks unemployed can attest, the long stretches of free time afford you a unique opportunity to become intimately familiar with your couch. Spending so much quality time with my sofa has led me by extension to grow accustomed to the parade of wildlife visible outside the couch-adjacent sliding glass doors to our balcony.

It’s not like I spend all my ample free time idly staring out the windows (is it sounding like the lady doth protest too much?), but it’s hard not to notice the wide variety of various critters that frequent the nearby trees and telephone poles. I’ve seen cardinals (Indiana’s state bird), blue jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, carolina wrens (who do NOT, by the way, say “cheeseburger” or “teakettle,” no matter what the internet claims), and so many chipmunks — who thoroughly enjoy scampering back and forth across the balcony for seemingly no reason for hours on end — I’ve lost count.

But the animal that has me most intrigued is one that’s both familiar and mystifying: a squirrel. Now, before you start laughing at me and my fixation on a creature that most correctly write off as commonplace, boring, and annoying, consider that this specific squirrel is easily the size of a small cat — not including its mammoth tail — and therefore the largest such critter I’ve ever seen. The first time it materialized, it shook the neighboring tree branches so severely that I thought it was a much bigger animal on the prowl. I can spot it a mile away by the telephone wire vibrations it causes as it bounds along.

This squirrel has become so familiar that I’ve started to mention it to others, which is where my sanity can (and perhaps should) be called into question. When my parents came to visit last week, I almost-proudly pointed it out to my dad while we chatted out on the balcony, and just yesterday I saw it out my neighbors’ window while we were playing Mario Kart, and they smiled politely (and most likely uncomfortably) while I told them how often I spot the not-so-little guy. It wasn’t without some sheepishness that I realized that my penchant for distraction when it comes to this creature can best be compared to a lovable if dim dog.

Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I’m hoping that the subsequent shame that follows this revelation about my nature-watching habits can help me shake my preoccupation with this damn animal. Sure, it’s freakishly large and amazingly ubiquitous, but in the end, it’s just a squirrel. It would do me well to continue channeling Dug and his less-than-affectionate opinion of these creatures. I don’t exactly wish this one dead, but I do wish him to stop demanding so much of my attention. After all, who else is going to spend quality time with my couch?

i need you right now

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, adjusting slower than I’d like to my new life as a Midwesterner. And as I’m still without gainful employment, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to contemplate my inner conflict, and thus have been taking every and any opportunity to distract myself, devouring pop culture with a voraciousness I haven’t felt in years.

Enter Howler.

Thanks to stumbling upon a recommendation from Paste, I decided to seek out their debut album (which, yes, came out waaaay back in January, I’m late to the game, blah blah, etc.), and I couldn’t be happier that my wasting time on the internet led me to this band. Mindless link-clicking can be good for the soul, kids.

In the week since America Give Up entered my life, I’ve listed to the album countless times (okay, that’s not entirely true, thanks to’s diligence), and its third track has inspired me to hit “repeat” on more occasions than I can recall. I’m not sure the last time I was this obsessed with a single song — maybe December 2008? Either way, I am seriously in love with “This One’s Different.”

It’s difficult to put into words what exactly it is about this track that has me so transfixed. Maybe it’s because the guitar and bass hooks are buoyant and infectious, the delivery is snappy, and the lyrics are dripping with clever turns of phrase, like the narrator declaring that in writing a song, he’ll “put the pen onto the page, let the ink scream along.” I also really dig the Replacements reference in the following couplet:

Paul said, “I could live without your touch if I could die within your reach.”
I say that damn line way too much, like it’s something I have to preach.

Other standout tracks include back-to-back-to-back trio “Told You Once,” “Back of Your Neck,” and “Free Drunk,” though really, the entire album is worth your time (and clocking in around 31 minutes, it’s certainly a short journey to take for such a big reward). I’ve read several reviews comparing these guys to The Strokes, an observation I think is apt, especially when considering their vocal stylings and penchant for fuzzed-out melodies. I’d also venture to say they’re taking some influence from Weezer and the Beach Boys (in addition to the aforementioned Replacements) with their affinity for surf rock, straight-up rock, and tight harmonies, and I am totally on-board with them further exploring that sound on future releases.

As frontman Jordan Gatesmith croons on “This One’s Different,” “When the feeling is there, it’s there.” For me and Howler, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.