Posted by: Captain Easychord | May 9, 2010

Free Music Sunday: The New Pornographers – Crash Years

Some weeks, the featured song here on Free Music Sunday has a way of picking itself.  Maybe I’ve been listening to something often and just want to share that or perhaps there’s great new album out that I want to highlight.  Occasionally, I’ll have a theme for a month and sometimes there’s a song that’s just appropriate (or inappropriate) in light of personal or world events.  In several of these cases, it’s easy to foresee what the landscape might be weeks or months in advance and I can plan my publishing schedule.  In fact, I could have told you what I was publishing almost every week through mid-March a few months in advance.

You see what I did there?  That’s one of the things that kinda makes the February disappearance of Free Music Sunday all the more baffling… the whole month was planned out in December!  With the Olympics taking place up in Vancouver, February was to be Canada month, where I featured four bands from the Great White North.  Instead, that never happened and maybe it would be odd for me to do that now.

But while an entire month of Canada references might seem out of place, the Vancouver-based New Pornographers [m] [w] are timely as anything, thanks to the new album that they released this past Tuesday.  The original schedule had The New Pornographers scheduled to be one of the featured artists during the Olympic fortnight, thanks not only to their hometown, but also because they’re one of Canada’s most prominent indie rock acts.  The band’s first four albums all received widespread critical acclaim, despite topping out at #34 on the US charts with their fourth album, “Challengers.”

Although the early returns from critics on the new album, “Together” has been positive, it also seems to be a bit below the high standard that the group has set for itself.  Nevertheless, the album features guest performances from members of Okkervil River, St. Vincent, Beirut and the Dap-Kings.  It also features some catchy power pop songs like “Crash Years.”  Not a whole lot more to say here… they’re Canadian, new album, catchy tune.  Sometimes it’s just that simple ’round here.

Go check out “Crash Years” courtesy of I Hope Your Ears Bleed and enjoy!

Posted by: Captain Easychord | May 8, 2010

Name Your Game: Team Fortress 2

So we all know what I haven’t been doing for the last couple months… but what have I been up to during that time?  What did I do to procrastinate?  Anything and everything is a reasonable answer to that question, but a substantial portion of the time was filled with my Xbox360 and Team Fortress 2 [w].

TF2 is a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter game pitting against one another two teams that represent holding companies (Reliable Excavation & Demolition (RED) and Builders League United (BLU)) that purportedly control the planet.  A variety of maps introduce different victory conditions.  On some maps, the attacking team has the objective of capturing the defending team’s control points in sequential fashion.  Here, the roles of each team are clear:  one team attacks, the other defends.  On other maps, both teams strive to capture one another’s capture points, necessitating offensive and defensive tactics by both teams.  Yet another game mode does away with the concept of “control points” and is played in capture the flag fashion.

As a member of your team, you can choose from nine different character classes to play.  If you like to hang back and play as a sniper, there’s a class for that!  Field medic to keep your team alive?  There’s a class for you too!  You just like to set things on fire?  You’ll love playing as the pyro.  Even though you may be playing the same maps many times, doing so as different classes with different teammates against opponents using different strategies ensures that the game always stays fresh.

The game isn’t quite perfect.  Tthere are a few technical glitches that allow players to access areas of the map that should be inaccessible (like the middle of the sky), but often these cheats are detrimental to the team invoking them and can easily be overcome by competent opposition.  Finding a good game can be a challenge at times as well.  Too often, games become naturally segregated such that there is a “good team” going against a “bad team.”  On several occasions, however, I have seen this balance of power suddenly flip when one or two players join or leave the game.

Team Fortress 2 received excellent critical reception upon its release, including several awards for art direction – ironic since the game is not at all lifelike, and in fact, it is animated in a cartoon style (which was clearly a wise choice).  That said, you can’t just go out and buy a TF2 game for the Xbox360.  If you’re looking to play, the title you will want to pick up is The Orange Box,which bundles five games including TF2.  The other games in the package, three episodes of the award-winning Half-Life series and the puzzle game Portal are all worthy additions in their own right.  When combined with TF2, it makes for an outstanding gaming bundle.  Best yet, you can pick up the whole package for under $20, making it one of the best deals you’ll find in gaming.   So despite the fact that TF2 can be a little addicting at times, I can only give it a recommendation for any and all Xbox360 owners out there.

Posted by: Captain Easychord | May 2, 2010

Free Music Sunday: Jim James & Calexico – Goin’ To Acapulco

You would think that being unemployed for over three months would give me time to get stuff done, right?  I would have plenty of time to update the blog, make substantial progress on my Netflix queue and do whatever else I felt like doing.  In theory, this is all true.  Unfortunately, in practice, I have some terrible problems with procrastination and because unemployment means that you’re always free to do things “later”, unemployment is a procrastinator’s worst enemy.

Shortly after posting a Free Music Sunday featuring singer/actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, I realized that she had a feature role in the Bob Dylan biopic, “I’m Not There.”  The film got good reviews and featured some excellent music, so I moved it to the top of my Netflix queue and on January 27, it showed up in the mail.  Last night – just over three months after it arrived – I finally got around to watching the movie.  Frankly, the film was disappointing.  Dylan’s life was recapped in non-linear fashion via six different stories where Dylan was portrayed by six different actors (none of whom were “Bob Dylan”, all of whom had different names).  The film would skip back and forth between stories and each time I did, I had to reorient myself towards who was who and what was going on.  80 minutes in, I still had no idea of what the plot was or why I should care about the rest of the film… and I didn’t… and for me, it ended there.

In any case, this isn’t Movie Review Sunday, so I’ll get to the aforementioned excellent music from “I’m Not There.”  Specifically, the tag team of Jim James [m] [w] and Calexico [m] [w] that paired up to cover Bob Dylan’s “Goin’ To Acapulco.”  Now back in high school, I worked at a Revco drug store.  One of my co-workers there was a big Dylan fan and he got me into some of Dylan’s music.  “Goin’ To Acapulco” was one of those tunes, so when I first heard it, I immediately smiled and said something along the lines of, “yeah… that’s a good cover.”  A more casual Dylan fan who may not know the original can still appreciate it for what it is, however:  an excellent Bob Dylan composition paired with a fantastic performance from artists who are perhaps more skilled in that arena than the composer himself.

So don’t procrastinate!  Go check out “Goin’ To Acapulco” courtesy of I Hope Your Ears Bleed. (… now!)   No matter what the site proprietor desires, I can assure you that you’ll only be happy with the results.  Enjoy!

Posted by: Captain Easychord | March 12, 2010

March Radness

I’ve been meaning to post some of my thoughts on my changing relationship with spectator sports, but between procrastination and the difficulties that I’ve had pinning down some of the specific points I’m trying to make, that series has yet to kick off.  Today, however, I’m skipping ahead and posting part five of the series – the bit about the one sport that I really quite like – because it’s rather timely and given my uneven publication schedule, that may not be the same when I would otherwise get around to it.  After the jump, check out the whys and hows of the one major spectator sport that I think  gets things right.

Read More…

Posted by: Captain Easychord | March 11, 2010

Dude, Where’s My Career?

About five years ago, I finished my first document review project here in DC. Document review, if you’re not familiar, is project-based work that attorneys do when they can’t find a better job. It is repetitive, low-level work that consists largely of classifying documents and doing data entry, but because the bar association says that only lawyers are allowed to perform document review (and because it typically pays well enough to cover our large student loan expenses), it’s what a significant number of young lawyers fall into. Although the individual projects are essentially temp jobs (typically lasting six weeks to four months), there has usually been enough work to go around here in DC to support what more or less amounts to full time employment doing document review.

That is, until recently. 2009 saw a slowdown in the document review market (or, more accurately, a continuation of the slowdown that started in the fall of 2008) and marked the first time I was involuntarily unemployed for as much as a month at a time. When a project that I had been on for a month ended in early December, I figured that due to the holiday season, I probably wouldn’t work again until 2010. But even with the slowdown, I never thought I would still be waiting for my first substantial project of the year in the middle of March.

My agency has called me about some projects… heck, I even worked on one. But there’s an unmistakable trend toward smaller and shorter jobs that’s taken hold. The one project that I have worked on this year employed four people for four days… easily the smallest and shortest project I have ever worked. For the last three months (and about six of the last twelve), I’ve basically been unemployed.

I’ve been in touch with a few other agencies, but they haven’t had projects for me either. More hopefully, I’ve also been seeking permanent employment doing litigation support or project management… essentially running the computer systems that are at the heart of these document review projects. Here, however, I run into two problems:

First is that I haven’t actually done this work before. Oh sure, I have all the skills that a lit support person would be expected to have: experience with the process and mad computer skillz, with some background in databases. But because I haven’t done this all at the same time, I don’t meet that magical requirement of x years in the position. Feh.

So maybe I start at a low level and work my way up the ladder, right? Wrong! You see, problem two is that many law firms really, really, really do not want to hire lawyers to do non-lawyer jobs. Presumably, they figure that the employee will just bolt once a better job (read: a lawyer job!) comes along. In so many words, I’m overqualified for the entry-level job and under-qualified for the more experienced position. Yeesh…

I’m really not certain what else I’m especially qualified to do, to tell you the truth. I don’t doubt that I’m capable of doing just about anything, but document review really gives you more or less no marketable skills beyond sitting in a chair for extended periods of time and tolerating monotonous, repetitive tasks, so it’s not like my five years of document review experience prepare me for much beyond… well… more document review jobs. And ultimately that’s a long road to nowhere. Furthermore, this money quote from a highly depressing Atlantic article on long term unemployment makes me wonder to what extent it applies to someone like me…

“as a spell of unemployment lengthens, skills erode and behavior tends to change, leaving some people unqualified even for work they once did well.”

All of this is to say that my professional career feels like it’s at a crossroads. I can maybe keep doing what I’m doing, but after five years, that’s starting to become unsustainable and if I’m still doing it five years hence, I’ll basically still be in this same position. On the other hand, I can try to find something else, but that might require some very good fortune, a significant change in the legal corporate culture or both. Despite the difficulties, I think that there is a clear right answer here, but I’m rapidly approaching the point where it needs to happen very, very soon.

Posted by: Captain Easychord | March 2, 2010

So… Who Killed the *Video* Star?

For 10 or 15 years, music videos were arguably the dominant force in the music industry.  From Michael Jackson’s pioneering work in “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” up through sometime around when Blind Melon introduced us to the Bee Girl in the “No Rain”, videos did a lot to drive recognition and recollection of the songs that they accompanied.

As MTV weaned itself off of actual music videos, the impression that they have made has plummeted.  Other than the Internet, I’m not sure where they might be showcased anymore… does MTV have its own version of The Ocho?  Even the Internet usually requires some conscious effort from a would-be viewer… and if you don’t know that there’s a smooth new video out, how will you discover it?  Nevertheless, bands are still out there making videos anyway.

OK Go is one of those bands.  They solved the problem of discovery by making a video so spectacularly awesome that it can’t help but get a bunch of buzz from all quarters of the Internet.  Their video for the title track from their most recent album, “This Too Shall Pass”, was filmed in a single shot and features a massive Rube Goldberg machine that simply has to be seen.  No really… head over to Youtube and bear witness.  It’s incredible.

Posted by: Captain Easychord | February 28, 2010

Vancouver Olympics Recap

What do you mean, “February?”  OK, OK… Between gawking at colossal snowfall here and then by 24/7 following of the Vancouver Games, I’ve been “busy” over the last month.  The Olympics always captivate me.  I just love ’em.  Every Olympiad, they grab my attention pretty much full time from Opening Ceremony to the Close, and every time I imagine just how great it would be to participate in the greatest sporting event that mankind has.  All the world coming together for sport… and not just any sport, but the gold standard (literally) for high achievement in so many sports.  Over the Olympic fortnight, there were just so many great stories and memorable moments.  After the jump, check out my extensive sport-by-sport memories that I’ll take away from these Games.  I tried to keep it relatively brief, but there’s just a lot out there… and I didn’t even mention Joannie Rochette, Apolo Ohno, the gold medal winning “Night Train” bobsled team and probably about ten others that aren’t coming to mind at the moment.  Anyway, check out what I’m taking away from the 2010 Winter Games. Read More…

Posted by: Captain Easychord | January 31, 2010

Free Music Sunday: Bill Callahan – Too Many Birds

Bill Callahan [m] [w] is perhaps more widely known as Smog, the stage name that he used for a good 15 years or so.  However, Callahan’s two most recent releases, including 2009’s Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle have been under his own name.  Callahan’s most recent effort was quite good and will probably prompt another look at the Smog catalog for folks like me who are new to his work.

“Too Many Birds” is a track that I’ve been really enjoying as of late.  Maybe it’s because the themes of being displaced and having nowhere to go resonate with my recent bout with unemployment.  Maybe it’s the quiet instrumentation and the staid, disconnected lyrical delivery that seems to perfectly match the melancholy mid-winter weather we’ve seen here in DC.  Maybe it’s just because it’s a fabulous tune.

But don’t worry, while “Too Many Birds” is an excellent mood piece, it isn’t going to bring you down too far.  No really… go head on over to Heavy Soil, check out “Too Many Birds”, and see for yourself.  Enjoy!

Posted by: Captain Easychord | January 24, 2010

Free Music Sunday: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Heaven Can Wait

Free Music Sunday isn’t intended to be survey of hot-off-the-press new music.  More often than not, tracks that I post will have been out for at least a few months, if not a few years.  But the new year has kicked off with a bunch of noteworthy releases that have caught my attention.

This week,  Charlotte Gainsbourg [m] [w] is in the spotlight as her album IRM is released in the US on Tuesday.  While she may be more well-known thanks to her acting career or her famous parents, Ms. Gainsbourg’s music career is starting to stand on its own as a noteworthy endeavor.  IRM was largely inspired by events surrounding a cerebral hemorrhage and subsequent treatment that Charlotte endured, including time spent in an MRI machine (hence the album’s title, which is how the French refer to the device).

The themes of life and death that run through the album are explicitly clear on the first single, “Heaven Can Wait.”  This delightful little track also features a guest performance from Beck, who also wrote and produced the album.   Anyway, go check out “Heaven Can Wait” over at IndyMusic and enjoy!

Posted by: Captain Easychord | January 22, 2010

So Always Have A Weapon

In honor of Conan O’ Brien’s final appearance as host of The Tonight Show, it’s time to take a step into the wayback machine and check out some sage advice that Coco received from another giant in the talk show biz:  Space Ghost.  Eerily, not only does Space Ghost predict the reason why Conan “won’t make it in television,” he also prompts Conan to suggest that “for all these people know, my show is…  a cop show on Fox or something.”  So whaddya say?  Come September, will we be treated to a Conan-Space Ghost buddy cop show on Fox?  Because that would be awesome.  Check out the relevant clip here:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »