Friday Playlist

“Rewind” – Whimsical
Some very turn-of-the-millennium shoegaze from Northwest Indiana, of all places.

“Alive” – POLIÇA
Oh, damn! This song absolutely slays.

“Bones” – Rosali
After some shoegaze and electro-pop, let’s take things in a completely different direction. It sure seems like a whole lot of shreddy songs like this come out of Philly. I think Rosali has worked with The War on Drugs at some point.

“Saw You At The Eastern Beach” – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
RBCF’s new album took a little longer to connect than their last, which I thought was the best of the career. But in time a few songs bubbled up and have been getting a lot of spins. I like how this one is slightly unhinged and dissonant.

“Having An Average Weekend” – Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet
This popped up in my Discover Weekly playlist a month or two and absolutely delighted me. I don’t think I knew at the time that The Kids in the Hall were making a return. I spent the past week watching the new season. One of the smartest decisions was to keep their classic theme song, this wacky song from a wacky band. For some extra fun, go listen to the alternate version the band calls “Having An Average Weekend ’78.”

“Are You Experienced?” – Belly
I think Stereogum had a feature on Belly lead singer Tanya Donnelly a week or so back, which included this song. I had kind of forgotten about it, but used to think it was one of the best covers of its time, with the band taking the Hendrix original and ripping it up ’90s college rock style. In the article Donnelly also shared how she’s working to get her music pulled from Spotify. The band even uses the Delete Spotify logo as their band logo on Spotify. So I felt kind of bad for streaming two of their albums. I thought about sharing the video of the band performing this on The Tonight Show, but every version on YouTube is pretty rough. Worth a look to watch their bass player bounce around. She was about as ’90s alt rock as you could get.

“The House That Heaven Built” – Japandroids
I read the other day that the tenth anniversary of Japandroids’ classic ass kicker Celebration Rock is coming up. Turns out it’s two weeks away. That didn’t stop me from listening to it Thursday. It is one of the truly great albums of the 2010s. To refresh your memories, this was my favorite song of 2012 and my #12 song of the 2010s.

Year One With An Audi

Last week was the one year anniversary of me acquiring my Audi Q5. As my car search series was immensely popular – I believe at least 10 people read it – I feel like I owe those fans a one year update.

Aside from some minor quibbles, I am still deeply in love with my Audi. It isn’t perfect, but it is still a pretty fantastic ride.

It is mostly an around town vehicle, and it handles that nicely. Indy’s roads are crap, so the suspension has taken some hits from potholes and other infrastructure failures. But it still rides nicely. It is a delight to occasionally find a stretch of newish pavement with a generous speed limit so I can enjoy the smoothness of the ride. Even after a year its speed can surprise me, and I’ll look down and see I’m going a lot faster than I thought.

The only true road trip I’ve taken in it was to Nashville last fall. Engaging the adaptive cruise control along with the other driving aid/safety features made for an exceptionally easy trip. L and I have two basketball trips coming up and I’m looking forward to driving those.

One of the biggest reasons for moving to a smaller vehicle was for improved gas mileage. I’m pleased to report that I continue to average between 7–9 more miles per gallon compared to my Tahoe or Suburban. On our trip to Bloomington last week I was getting between 31–32 mpg in the short stretches when I could get it above 70 mph. Around town I’m almost always right at 23 mpg. The Chevys checked in around 16 in the city and in the low 20s on the highway. That difference somewhat mitigates the fact I’m pumping premium fuel into it.[1]

I mentioned some quibbles. Most of those are purely personal choices which you have to deal with no matter what car you drive. My biggest frustration is with the way Audi handles technology, or at least the back end of it. The user interface for the entertainment and other electronic systems are great. But connecting to Audi’s online services is truly a nightmare. I was never able to get connected last year, as the system was down for weeks, so I gave up. When I was in for service last week the dealership couldn’t get me connected even though the system was available. I got a call Monday that I should be good. I am finally able to log in and connect my account to the car. But the features of that service are not all flowing through. Apparently this is not unusual for Audi. Hell, their main website sucks and my dealer’s is a nightmare to navigate. They make great cars but need to partner with Apple or someone to get their tech on point.

I’ve had some of the electronics flake out on me a couple times. Once, while driving, all my doors unlocked, the windows rolled themselves down, and the warning indicator for every electric system came on. I could still drive normally and safely, but the central display kept scrolling through those warnings without pause. When I found a parking lot, I pulled off the road, turned the ignition off, waited a few minutes, then turned it back on. Everything came back on normally. I guess I just needed to reboot. I wonder if it runs on Windows 95 or something.

I’ve had the automatic braking system slam my car to a halt twice. Once it was when a car pulled in front of me from the neighboring lane at a red light. I saw the car coming but the system engaged the brakes before my foot hit the pedal, which was great. Another time it engaged while I was making a left hand turn and there was no traffic or other obstacles in my way. That was concerning. I’ve also found that system checks out if it is raining too hard. Which makes sense. If it can’t get a good signal you don’t want it stopping you because it thinks sheets of rain are another car.

I hate that you can’t check your tire pressure at any time. The car will only send you a warning if it believes a tire is low. And if someone servicing it doesn’t reset the system, it will throw a warning at you a couple days later. That happened last week on our way to Bloomington. Between games I went and bought a pressure gauge and checked all the tires. They were fine. Because the dealer had failed to tell the system the pressures had changed after rotating the tires, the computer thought at least one of them was low. Super annoying.

I turned off a few of the safety features, notably lane assist. I found it to be far more aggressive than the one on my Chevys. Where the Chevy system would ease you back to center if you got close to a lane marker, the Audi yanks you back. Worse, in conditions where lanes widen out and markers disappear, at an exit ramp for example, it can get confused and fight you from keeping your intended path. I don’t think it’s actually dangerous, but it feels dangerous when it fights you.

I’ve had some issues with the rear lift gate. The dealer told me the struts that brace the gate needed to be replaced. The repair is under warranty, which is cool. What is not cool is that the parts have to come from Germany and may not be here for weeks.

Speaking of that, I certainly got my Audi at the right time. I did not know that car carrier that sunk in the Atlantic a couple months back was carrying 4000 Audis. The sales guy I talked to said he had a client who had been waiting a year on an e-tron and it was now sitting on the bottom of the ocean. Then they had another ship go through a terrible storm last month that damaged over 40% of the vehicles it was bringing to North America. I read a couple weeks back that Audi is also delivering some vehicles without certain features because of the microchip shortage. I know these problems aren’t unique to Audi – well, losing cars in the Atlantic isn’t universal – but it is still nice to have one rather than be waiting on one.

My girls would tell you they wish the Audi was a little bigger. The back seat is wide enough, but the hump created by the drivetrain makes whoever sits in the middle really have to squeeze in if they are sitting three across. We solve that by usually taking S’s Grand Cherokee if all five of us are riding together.

All relatively minor issues. One year in the Q5 remains my favorite car I’ve ever driven.

  1. I refuse to complain about the price of gas because I support the freedom of Ukraine. I also love how fiscal conservatives suddenly fall out of love with the supply/demand tenants of capitalism when gas gets expensive, and whine about the government needing to do something about it. But government shouldn’t do anything to help poor people or make health insurance more affordable…  ↩

On the iPod

You may have missed the news because of more important things, but Apple officially retired the iPod line of music players last week. That’s not exactly true, as the iPod Touches that were discontinued were more iPhones without a cellular radio than anything resembling the classic iPods. But, still, Apple no longer sells a dedicated portable music player.

There have been plenty of odes to the iPod in the tech media. I liked this piece on The Verge, with their writers sharing some of their iPod experiences.

Our memories of the iPod

I had forgotten about the accessories we used to enhance our iPod experiences. Silicone cases. The do-dads that you fed into your car’s cassette player, or the snap-on transmitters so you could hear your music on a clear FM radio frequency we used before most cars came with AUX headphone jacks.

I fell in love with the iPod when it was released. However, as it was Mac-only at the time and I had yet to enter the world of the Mac, I could only lust from afar. When I began traveling for work, I got a Creative Labs Nomad Jukebox 2, which looked more like a Sony Discman than an iPod. Getting music onto it was a true nightmare, usually requiring an afternoon of work to prepare for a trip. But I was able to load it up with songs to listen to on those flights from Kansas City to the west coast.

When I bought my first Mac in the summer of 2004, I tried to jump on the iPod bandwagon immediately. The first click wheel iPods had just come out, and I found a discounted third generation model – that had the cool, light up buttons – and tried to split the cost between a gift card and my credit card. Something about the transaction failed, and by the time I called to try to get it worked out, all the old models were gone. So I went to my local Apple Store and bought a click wheel model. Which was really the smarter move.

Thus began a long run of iPods. I have no idea how many I owned. I moved up to a fourth generation model after my father-in-law found one in a parking lot somewhere. It was scratched up and the battery was drained, but once I charged it up, it worked just fine. I know I had a Mini, a Nano, and a few Shuffles along the way. They were my constant companions on my drives around Indiana covering high school sports. Nothing was sadder than realizing I hadn’t synced it to iTunes before I left the house and a new album or playlist had not gotten copied over.

I kept an old iPod around until about 18 months ago. I used it to listen to podcasts as I fell asleep. When it’s battery started to fail, I finally switched to using my iPhone with Bluetooth earphones for my falling-to-sleep pods. It may still be sitting in a drawer somewhere.

My girls know what an iPod is – they all had one at some point – but I’m not sure they really understand the impact on society those little things had. Or how amazing they seemed to us when we first encountered them. It was the product the turned Apple into a business juggernaut. Most importantly, it paved the way for the iPhone, which changed the world’s concept of what a cell phone should look like and function, and had an even greater impact on both the world and Apple. All because people wanted an easy way to listen to music privately without being restricted to a single tape or CD.

Weekend Hoops Notes: B-town

L finally got back in hoops action this weekend. The tournament her team was scheduled to play in in Indy got cancelled because of lack of teams. Our coach scrambled and got us into a tournament in Bloomington.

Which is nice since they’ve been working on the main highway between Indy and B-town approximately since I moved to Indiana. There was a long stretch where there were barrels blocking one lane and the speed limit was 45. A vote against IU for me in M’s college search.

L’s team went 2–0 on Saturday, playing sloppy but beating two bad-ish teams by 20+ each. After the game we took the girls to IU student and alum favorite Nick’s for lunch. It was, unfortunately, raining sideways at the time so we didn’t get to wander around campus or downtown at all.

L looked rusty after a couple weeks off. She scored three in the first game, four in the second. She seemed a step slow in both games and a little unsure of herself. She had a couple nice assists in each game, though.

There were only four seventh grade girls teams so the Sunday tournament began with a rematch with the squad we beat by 23 Saturday. I should note they hung with us pretty deep into the pool game until our best player scored nine points in about 90 seconds and broke their wills. But they played solid D and did some nice stuff on offense.

Naturally on Sunday they jumped out to a 9–2 lead, and led 19–10 late in the first half. Our girls made a nice run – including a sweet dime from L to a teammate in traffic for a basket – and cut it to 21–20 at halftime.

We took the lead pretty quickly in the second half and dominated the first 11 minutes or so. With three minutes left the parent sitting by me asked an important question: “Have they only scored one point this half?”

I looked at the scoreboard and, indeed, we were up 34–22. Quite the turnaround!

That was a big-ass jinx, though, as our girls fell apart a little, let the lead shrunk down to three, before they closed it out to win 38–35. L’s team runs hot and cold shooting, and this was definitely a cold game. They were 0–12 from 3 and 4–25 from the line. This totally felt like KU playing an 8 or 9 seed in the round of 32 and bricking their way out of the tournament.[1]

I was SO impressed with the opposing coach. He took what he learned from playing us Saturday and had his girls attacking our weak points and stymying us on D. What I really liked was he was intense, loud, but always positive. I never heard him yell at a player for doing something wrong. Each time I heard him raise his voice, he was telling his girls how to avoid the foul they just got called for, or how to prevent the turnover they just committed. Travel hoops is full of crazy coaches who tear down more than build up. It kind of made my whole weekend to see one who was the opposite.

Onto the championship game. We were playing a team that had a lot of size. I jokingly told other parents we wouldn’t get a single rebound the entire game. The girls proved me wrong by getting one just a minute into the game. We had a 3–0 lead, but it was all downhill from there. We trailed by nine at the break and kept it respectable in losing by 14. This was a better team that really knew how to play. Our girls battled but they looked tired. This was not a team they could beat playing tired.

L didn’t score in either game Sunday. She had some more nice assists, and played a ton in the second game because she was working hard on defense. She was sore afterward, which I told her was good. Saturday she was upset with herself for not scoring more. Sunday she realized that the shots weren’t there, at least in game two, and took some pride in her defense. She told me she didn’t think a couple of her teammates were working hard once they got behind. I told her that’s why she played so much: coaches see effort and reward it.

Next week is our first big roadtrip: four games in Louisville. Unfortunately we have some girls who have a track meet Friday night and our first game is scheduled for 5:45, so we may have to forfeit that if we can’t get them to reschedule for later.

With two weeks of school left I gave L the assignment of coming up with basketball goals for between now and when fall ball starts. I have ideas, too, but I want to see what her thought process is.[2] Next week when we are driving back from Louisville we’re going to talk about her goals and think of the process to get there. We plan on spending a lot of mornings at the YMCA over the summer.

Playing and driving to-and-from Bloomington dominated my weekend. Not really sure what the rest of the family did. Check their socials if you want insights on them.

  1. The University of Kansas basketball Jayhawks won the men’s Division 1 national championship this year. In case you hadn’t heard.  ↩

  2. I think we need to do a lot of shooting, work on her overall ball handling but especially her left hand, and spend time in the gym getting her stronger.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Better Days” – Liam Gallagher
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Gallagher brothers’ post-Oasis solo/group efforts. But this song is solid. And I hope that Liam is right that the better days we’ve been waiting for eventually get here.

“Nowhere At All” – Young Guv
Nobody is better right now at making hazy, summery, jangle pop like this than Ben Cook.

“Hearts Underground” – Tallies
More fun, jangly sweetness.

“American Teenager” – Ethel Cain
We’re on the back end of prom season. This sounds like a song that could soundtrack a movie with a prom scene in it.

“Lucidity” – Tame Impala
This track is 12 years old. It still cooks.

“Friday the 13th” – Misfits
I couldn’t resist. Beware!

“Head Rolls Off” – Frightened Rabbit
Make tiny changes. RIP Scott.

Things to Read: On Creed Bratton

I just can’t seem to get on a regular schedule for sharing fun things I run across in my internet travels. So I’ve decided to scrap the periodic link-heavy posts and move towards sharing interesting pieces individually, as I run across them. That means more content for you, dear readers!

Let’s kick it off with this wonderful profile of Creed Bratton. In recent years I’ve learned plenty about his life. I don’t think I knew anything about his “real” life until well after The Office ended its run on NBC. As I’ve learned more about his life, it’s fun to watch reruns and see how many aspects of his character come out of his true experiences.

He’s lived three lives, had five names. At least. He’s most well-known, of course, for playing the seedy, scheming octogenarian, with whom he shares a name, on the American version of the television show The Office. He turned a non-speaking background role into a cult-favorite character on one of the most successful comedies of all time, but that’s not the story. So much came before that.

Creed Bratton Has a Story to Tell

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 73

Chart Week: May 5, 1979
Song: “Music Box Dancer” – Frank Mills
Chart Position: #3, 15th week on the chart. This was the song’s peak.

Songs like “Music Box Dancer,” complete outliers to everything else on the pop chart at the time, fascinate me. It makes no sense that this track spent over four months in the Hot 100 and climbed as high as number three. Even for the 1970’s, a decade loaded with bizarre records that landed in the top ten, it seems strange.

What else was on American Top 40 that week? The Disco era wasn’t officially over, but it was drawing its last breaths. Still there were at least twelve songs in this week’s countdown that could be categorized as Disco. The late 70’s were when what we eventually called Classic Rock reached its peak. There are at least six Classic Rock tracks amongst this week’s Top 40. The AM Radio Gold sound was fading like a bad radio signal, yet three artists that owed their success to that genre were in the countdown. There were two Beatles (Paul McCartney’s Wings and George Harrison) and two of the biggest artists of the New Wave era (Blondie and The Police).[1]

And then there was this, an instrumental track written to mimic the sound of a music box. It didn’t have a connection to a movie or TV show. Mills wasn’t famous for other things, bringing a built-in audience to his music. He wasn’t coming off a previous big hit. He wasn’t riding the wave of a departing fad or leading the charge of a new one. The track wasn’t part of a promotional campaign. This was about as random of a one-hit wonder as you can get.

And that’s what fascinates me. Somehow, in the midst of everything else that was being played on radio in 1979, this single triggered something in people that prompted them to call radio stations to request it and to walk into record stores to buy copies to play at home.

All that success is even crazier when you learn that “Music Box Dancer” was never supposed to be a single.

Mills first recorded the song for a 1974 album. When Polydor Records released a new single from a later Mills album in1978, they slapped “MBD” on as a B-side. A DJ at Ottawa’s CFRA radio didn’t view the A-side as a potential hit, and flipped the record, thinking Polydor had made a labelling mistake and “MBD” was the intended single. He was wrong about the labelling, but he still liked the track. He added it to the CFRA’s playlist, and by late June, 1978 it was their number one song.

That success soon spread across Canada, which led to a US release. The American record sold one million copies. A LOT OF FREAKING PEOPLE LIKED THIS SONG.

I remember “Music Box Dancer” well. It might be the first song I ever heard on the radio that I knew sucked. I don’t know whether that was my own opinion, formed from hearing it splitting up songs I liked on the radio, or one I came to after hearing older kids suggest it was trash in school bus conversations. Still, I knew it was awful.

Four decades later it remains tough for me to evaluate because it still does not sound like a pop song. While Mills never had another hit single in the US, he had placed an album in the top 10 of the Easy Listening album chart before “MBD”’s run. This song should have stayed in that realm and never wandered into the Hot 100.

I don’t know whether his piano playing is inspired or insipid. I hate the cheesy-ass strings that accompany him. The beat has always seemed like something a person who knows nothing about modern pop music would come up with in at attempt to modernize a sleepy Easy Listening song for younger crowds. Credit to Mills for taking advantage of a moment when pop music was in flux. But the song still sucks. 2/10

  1. These classifications are all pretty fluid – well except for who was/was not a Beatle – thus the lack of definitive counts.  ↩

Weekend Notes

A lighter weekend around our house.

No basketball for L’s team, which was good as she was still recovering from her injury. She’s much better and is headed back to practice tonight. She should be good-to-go for this weekend, although the tournament they were scheduled to play in got cancelled so she may get another weekend off if the coach can’t find us a replacement.

M had her second tennis match of the year last week. She again played JV #1 doubles. Unlike her first match that was close throughout, she and her teammate got trounced 6–0. She plays her last match of the year tonight. A combination of a huge team and lots of rainouts means she only got to play three times. But she still enjoys it, even if she’s not had much success.

C had her last track meet of the year, the freshman City championship meet, Saturday. We were expecting your normal, long-ass track day since it was the City championship. But the whole City/County split for Indianapolis/Marion County schools is always weird and there were only five schools there, and three of the schools had less than 10 total athletes. That meant the meet zipped by, especially since all the distance races were single heats with boys and girls running together. That was a bonus since it was still chilly and breezy Saturday morning. It was, hopefully, the last time we’ll need coats and blankets for a youth sporting event until next fall.

She ran the second heat of the 100. I still haven’t seen official results so don’t know if she was second or third; the finish was very close. Then she ran the third leg of the 4×100 relay. They were only racing against one other school and they won easily. CHS had a big lead when C got the baton and she stretched it out before she passed to the anchor. They were so far ahead that I couldn’t really track her progress vs the other third-leg runner. But her teammates said she blew it out. Which was a good way to end her season.

Cathedral won both the boys and girls titles. Had they not it would have been a massive upset, since they had probably as many kids as the other four schools combined.

It was fun to hang out with some St P’s parents who have kids at other schools for the first time since last spring’s CYO meets.

A little later it warmed up so we were able to spend some time in the yard. We’re having another round of landscaping done next month, so this was more trimming and evaluating how last year’s plantings made it through the winter.

We were able to watch the Kentucky Derby out on the back porch. Always nice to be able to spend time out here (I’m crafting this post on the porch Monday morning).

Sunday was nice and warm. Two nephews came over and took advantage of the pool being open. When I checked the pool this morning the water had gone cloudy. Those first couple weeks of the pool season are always fun, as you’re filtering out all the crap that settled into the water over the winter and working to get the filter running properly and the water’s chemistry locked in.

We had the furnace running Sunday morning. Based on the forecast, I’m pretty sure the air conditioner will be on by Tuesday afternoon. That means we can kick the pool heater off, which is nice. Spring in the Midwest!

Friday Playlist

“Do You Pray?” – Tess Parks
When artists are described as “Psych rockers” it can go several directions. I like the direction Parks takes that description.

“Falling Apart (Right Now)” – Wilco
Wilco has had a hell of a journey through their nearly 30 year career. They’ve meandered all over the soundscape, had various levels of success, had lineup turnovers, personal strife, and eventually became elder statesmen of American rock. For their upcoming, double album, they are apparently falling back into the Uncle Tupelo alt country roots the band grew from. This sounds a little more classic country than anything they’ve ever done. Because it’s Wilco, though, there are plenty of little twists and surprises that keep it from being a pure country song.

“Patience Etc…” – Caroline Loveglow
The sound and title of this track seem perfect for how the weather’s been this week. Cloudy, rainy, dreary. But if we have patience better days are ahead. Like next week when it’s 90°.

“All Comes Crashing” – Metric
About 10 years ago Metric was one of the biggest things in the indie rock world. They’re still around, banging out solid music every few years. Like this, their newest, latest.

“Come True” – Suburban Living
This band is very hard to Google. Results were more focused on stories about suburban voters in recent elections than the band. Maybe that’s because the album this song comes from is six years old. It sounds closer to 20 years old; I would have said this fell squarely in that early 2000’s blog rock scene. Their album cover also had floppy disks on it, which would make it seem even older. I was hipped to it via Spotify’s Discovery playlist. I kind of like when it throws old(ish) tracks at me.

“Rain” – The Cult
As I said, it’s rained here all week. The grass is super green, but all our low spots are filled with water, meaning a mosquito infestation is to come. I’m not sure if I had ever seen this video before a few months back. It is wild. I’m really not sure why Ian Astbury is fellating his microphone, but I’m sure he had a good reason to do so back in 1985. I love that they had backup singers who were basically female versions of Astbury. Or maybe he was a male version of them.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 72

Chart Week: April 26, 1980
Song: “Cars” – Gary Numan
Chart Position: #22, 11th week on the chart. Peaked at #9 for three weeks in June.

It has always bothered me that Gary Numan never seemed impressed with the biggest song of his career, 1980’s “Cars.” I’ve read several stories in which he speaks of it dismissively. On the song’s Wikipedia page, he is quoted as calling it “a pretty average song.”

Pretty average song?!?!

Numan is one of the giants of electronic music, an artist who helped to create and popularize a sound that, when applied to pop music, dominated the early MTV era. He is still active and has always been focused on pushing the art form forward.

So, I guess based on that, maybe it makes sense that his only song that was ever a true pop hit might grate on him.

Although that is odd, because his stated goal when he began writing “Cars” was to craft a song that had could be a hit.

He set out to write a hit and did exactly that. Yet he gives it no love.

Artists are strange.

The song has its roots in a road rage incident. Numan once had an altercation with motorists in another car. When they jumped out and attempted to attack him, he locked his doors, pulled onto the sidewalk, and fled the scene. Afterward he realized that our mentalities shift when we get inside a car. The protection of the enclosed space and the power of the vehicle emboldens us to do things we would not otherwise attempt.

I could have, and maybe should have, written more about that, and how Numan’s music – which was often cold, brittle, and impersonal – was a metaphor for the adverse effects of technology on our lives. Spiritually, his music was a blueprint for Radiohead’s OK Computer, among other music that would drop decades later.

But I can’t get past the fact that he doesn’t think the track is any big deal. It was mind-blowing to eight-year-old me, sounding like it was from distant planet that was far more advanced than ours. While I think he meant the song’s layers of synthesizers and staccato drums to sound bleak and industrial, they combine to fill the room in a way that gives the song a sense of warmth. Even after listening to it for about 42 years now, it still sounds groundbreaking and unique.

A much younger me wasn’t the only person who loved it. “Cars” is a Mt. Rushmore song of electronic music, a foundational track of New Wave, and a cross-genre classic that remains vital today. 10/10

« Older posts

© 2022 D's Notebook

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑