Ryan Adams, Prisoner

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Ryan Adams’s 16th studio album, Prisoner is a monster of a record. Prisoner was released on Friday, February 17th, and I have listened to the album from start to finish about 3 or 4 times in the weekend that followed. Obsessive? Probably. By the third listen, I had the distinct feeling that what I was listening to was already considered a classic. That third listen had me feeling grateful that this album was released in my lifetime. I realize that sounds a bit intense, but we’ve all listened to classic albums that were released years or even decades before we were born. And I can’t speak for anyone else, but I remember the first time I heard Abbey Road front to back, or The Wall and sighing and thinking to myself, “Wow, it would have been awesome to have been around when this came out, and had the chance to experience the music for the first time along with everyone else in the world.” In the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, fans would eagerly await the release of their favorite artist’s new album, and get all of their friends together to sit and listen to it straight through, discussing it track by track. Listening to an album was an experience, as it captured so much about an artist at any particular time, like a snapshot. Today, in a world of music streaming, and viral singles, where the listeners are bombarded with hundreds of new artists and songs with a single click, it can sometimes feel difficult to come across an album that not only contains incredible music, but also fits together as a grand and cohesive piece of art. I am not writing this to make some grand statement about the “death of the long player,” because I do not actually think that is true at all. Albums like Beyonce’s Lemonade and Fleet Foxes’s Helplessness Blues come to mind as proof that this is not at all the case. I love a great, catchy single as much as everyone else, and it’s incredibly easy to just throw on Spotify, hit shuffle and plow through dozens of great songs from great artists. Because of the instant gratification that comes with having so much music at our fingertips, sometimes it can feel daunting to sit down, hit play on one album and really listen from start to finish.

I bought Prisoner right before I left to go and record some music of my own with some friends over the weekend. Maybe it was the headspace I was in as a result of recording, forcing myself to pay particular attention to every musical nuance and thinking about where our songs start, where they end, and how they get there. In any case, Ryan Adams’s new record served as the backdrop to my late night drives to and from our rehearsal studio. These late nights created a perfect listening experience, and one that rewarded repeat listens. I would definitely classify Prisoner as a grower, albeit a very rapid one. The first time through it, there was a handful of songs that immediately jumped out at me as being standouts. And there was a handful of songs that, at least to me, appeared to be duds – tracks that had potential but ultimately fizzled out with relatively no big payoff. The melodies were there, but I couldn’t help feeling like I spent a lot of time anticipating the big hooky chorus that just never came.

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As the record continued to spin in my car over the weekend, those same melodies started to take on a different shape. The relatively simple melodies started to feel like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in years, and then feeling like no time has passed. Conversation comes easy, and you catch yourself wondering why the hell you’ve waited so long to catch up with that person in the first place. The songs are expertly crafted. You can tell that an incredible amount of thought and work went into each one. Sonically, Prisoner does not veer too much from Ryan Adams’s self-titled album in 2014, which saw him delve into a sound that owed much to the heartland rock of Tom Petty and some of Bruce Springsteen’s music. Prisoner goes further in this direction, however, settling into a comfortable space that favors subtle melodies, intricate instrumentation, and lightly strummed acoustic guitars, all with just the right touch of reverb. Hints of older Ryan Adams albums are here as well, from the twangy sounds reminiscent of his critically acclaimed debut album, Heartbreaker to the folksy and whimsical music that dominated his double album, Cold Roses.

Although it contains all of Ryan Adams’s trademark qualities as a songwriter, Prisoner is on a level all it’s own. Even the sequencing here feels just as important as the individual songs. With the exception of the opener, Do You Still Love Me?, which is by far the heaviest song on the album (complete with a wailing guitar solo), the record just ambles right along, painting a beautiful, and often heart-breaking picture of an individual who is slowly working through some difficult stuff. And while these tracks do exude a sense of real melancholy and longing, it also feels like the musicians are truly enjoying themselves. There is a definite sense of bold experimentation on a few songs, such as an uncharacteristic saxophone solo that closes out the song, Tightrope. And it’s done so flawlessly, that as you listen to it, you think to yourself, “Oh, of course! Time for an epic sax solo!” And like Tightrope, many of the tracks contain long winded bridges that simply let guitars, harmonicas and synths tell the rest of the story.

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And apart from the band members, who are at the peak of their powers, Adams’s voice is still a treasure to behold. He does not seem to push his vocals very far on this record, opting instead to keep to a lower register, giving the melodies a chance to breathe and really sink their hooks into the listener. Somehow, he and his band manage to make an intricate, playful album seem utterly effortless, as if they all just woke up, instruments in hand and ready to jam.

Only time will tell exactly how this monumental album settles into the collective consciousness of fans, critics and casual listeners. But, right now, I can confidently say that Prisoner is a stone cold classic. It’s only a matter of time before history catches on.

A Dream of Dark and Troubling Things: the Cinematic Genius of David Lynch

 

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January 20th marks the 71st birthday of American film director, David Lynch. At 71 years old, the master of innovative film-making shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. In fact, given his most recent theatrical output, 2006’s Inland Empire, one could say that David Lynch is only growing bolder and more confident as he gets older. In celebration of his unique and highly influential work in the realm of cinema, as well as his return to television for the reboot of Twin Peaks in May of 2017, this essay takes a look back at some of the director’s best work and discusses what it is that makes his films so memorable and effective.

Growing up, he began his life-long affair with the arts as a painter, often depicting dark and/or surreal images that would serve to inform his later work in short and full length films. He later attended art school in Philadelphia, and soon began working on his first feature length film, Eraserhead. Taking cues from legendary directors of the past, such as Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, Lynch set out to create his own unique vision of the human experience. Initially finding a receptive audience with the midnight cult movie crowd following the release of Eraserhead, Lynch went on to refine and perfect his artistic vision with breakout films such as Blue Velvet (1986) and Mulholland Drive (2001), and also co-created the hit television show, Twin Peaks (1990-1991) with Mark Frost. His work, often characterized by non-linear narratives, with dark and frequently violent portrayals of American life, has come to be known by the term “Lynchian.”

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Frequently operating within a framework that relies heavily on the logic and power of dreams, Lynch utilizes every tool at his disposal in order to construct scenes that speak directly to an audience’s most basic and primal emotions, particularly fear and love. He is notorious for his meticulous attention to sound design, and his first film beautifully demonstrates just how well this translates on screen. Eraserhead, Lynch’s 1977 debut film, makes extensive use of sound, employing a harsh and unnerving soundscape of industrial machinery to create an atmosphere full of dread and paranoia. The absence of a musical score (with the exception of “In Heaven (Everything is Fine)” sung by the lady in the radiator) adds to the distinct sense of anxiety and desolation that permeates the film. The viewer is left to wander this bleak environment along-side the main character, Henry Spencer, with nothing to accompany the journey except the perpetual grinding of unseen machinery. Adding to the mystique of this first film, Lynch (who famously refuses to comment on the meaning behind most of his work) has stated that this is his most spiritual film, and that the inspiration for it was his brief stint spent living in Philadelphia.

Lynch’s fascination with music and sound, along with his fondness for dreams and the subconscious often come together to convey striking portrayals of the human condition and psyche. His 2001 film, Mulholland Drive, explores themes of love, obsession and uncertainty in contemporary Los Angeles, as filtered through the subconscious. Seemingly drifting in and out of a dark dream, Lynch paints a heart-breaking portrait of a struggling actress who may or may not be constructing her own reality as a means of coping. What makes his films so interesting to watch is his uncanny ability to manipulate a viewer’s emotions at will, even if the events on screen are not wholly understood within the context of a non-linear plot. One particular moment that comes to mind is the now famous scene at Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive. The two main characters find themselves in a fictional L.A. nightclub, where singer Rebekah Del Rio lip-synchs to a Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” fainting mid-way through as the song continues, revealing that the entire performance was in fact pre-recorded. As this happens, the music continues to play as the singer is dragged off stage and the camera cuts to the two women crying uncontrollably in their seats. This scene (as with the majority of Lynch’s work) is up for interpretation. But the point here is that without any context or understanding, this sequence can stand on its own. The visuals, coupled with the music and visceral reactions from the characters draw the viewer further into this world where meaning exists, but only on the fringes. In Lynch’s capable hands, viewers are swept up in an overwhelming sense of sadness, profoundly aware that something vital may have been lost.

Lynch thrives in these gray areas, often depicting his characters in the midst of psychological and social upheaval which leaves them lost in confusion and isolation. Films such as Lost Highway (1997), Inland Empire (2006) and Blue Velvet (1986) all portray complex characters that exist in a perpetual state of uncertainty. It’s as if his characters can each account for the once-missing pieces of their fractured lives, but have no concept of what the finished product should look like. Lynch leaves them to find their own way, and in doing so becomes a master of walking the line between enlightenment and ignorance.

While there may very well be those who are critical of his work, dismissing it as weird, oppressive or impossible to follow (and it very well can be), it would be difficult to deny the subtle genius of his work. He is considered to be one of the most ground-breaking and innovative directors in American film. He continues to be very active today in music and film, while also finding the time to promote his very own brand of coffee, and spread the word about the many benefits of Transcendental Meditation. Best wishes and happy birthday to one of the most celebrated directors of our time.

Initial Listen: Americanfootball LP2

 

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When the announcement was first made that Illinois-based band, Americanfootball was going on tour in 2016-2017, I was psyched. I unfortunately missed out on their short string of shows that they played a few years back, having been out in Austin when they were playing in the northeast. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a ticket quite as quickly for any other show in my life. Here was an opportunity to see a band whose debut album (and only album until recently) was, and still is one of the most important records that I have had the privilege of listening to. I remember coming across their name at some point in the early 2000’s on a local band’s Myspace page. One of their members listed Americanfootball as one of his favorites, and one of his influences. Always on the lookout for new music, I found the name interesting, and I was intrigued enough to look them up. I was led to Amazon.com where there was very little written about the band itself, but I was able to stream 30-second clips of each song on their album, complete with a fuzzy blue sound wave graphic that went along with the music. To this day, I think I will always connect that blue sound wave graphic with the whimsical sound of a trumpet intertwined with intricate guitar lines and drums that would not sound out of place on a jazz record- a sound that I had never quite heard before, at least not from any of the artists I was listening to at that time. I was hooked, and ordered the album immediately. I continue to be just as entranced by the music today as  I was the day I discovered it.

Fast forward about 12 years. Not only do I have the opportunity to see live, those who are responsible for 40 minutes of some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard, but it turns out that we are also getting an album of brand new songs. That is fantastic, but not without it’s own caveat. I was ecstatic to hear that we were going to hear new tunes from a band that I held in such high regard. However, as with any favorite music, tv show, film or book, there is a strong level of hesitance that goes along with a follow-up to something that you have connected to on such a deep level. And with albums in particular, there is always the fear of the sophomore slump. Well…

I’ve now heard the album once through in its entirety. I’m so happy that I can say this: I am not disappointed in the least. It’s great. Without giving an in-depth track-by-track review, I will just say that the album is the true spiritual successor to Americanfootball. Everything that I have come to love is there – the intricate jangly guitars, the odd time, jazz-like drums, TRUMPET!, little melodic flourishes of guitar and feedback that, simply due to their subtle placement in the mix can evoke feelings that I didn’t even know that I had. And Mike Kinsella’s vocals are on point. With a crooner like him, it’s not so much the words that he sings, but (to quote My Morning Jacket)…the way that he sings. The production is much cleaner than it was on their 1997 debut, but Kinsella’s at-times-croaked vocals can still convey strong emotions with very little vocal theatrics. Sonically, the band sounds like they’ve never gone away. Somehow, they were able to pick up where they left off without missing a beat.

Having read a few interviews with the band members over the past few weeks, the majority of questions seem to be focused on the fact that it’s been 17 years since their last release, and how they’re coping with the pressure of following up such a monumental work of art. Other questions reference the fact that the music and lyrics for that album were written from the perspective of love-lorn, desperate, hopeful teenagers (which they were – as all of us were)- probing to find out just how the band operates and continues to find inspiration as a group of guys now approaching 40. All I can say from my first listen is that it’s clear that these musicians have not lost that sense of urgency that permeated the first album. There is still an atmosphere of searching, both from a lyrical standpoint as well as musical. These individuals are not settling for easy answers to some of life’s big questions. The youthful sense of exploration is still very much alive, only the questions and observations have been refined to reflect new circumstances. You cannot really ask for more than that.

I am looking forward to listening to this album as obsessively as I did the first one. And I cannot wait to hear these new songs (as well as some of the older classics) live for the first time.

10 Devastating Portrayals of Grief in Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, perhaps best known for essentially inventing water-cooler television with its quirky characters, coupled with soap opera-esque plot lines and an incredible soundtrack, is at the same time a brutal commentary on grief, and the startling effects it can have on an individual. What truly made this show so powerful and compelling to watch was its stark portrayal of grief as a universal, yet intensely personal experience. Although the show does have its share of goofball tender-hearted moments, the creators were not afraid to delve into various states of confusion, frustration, helplessness and madness that can accompany great loss.

10.) Harold Deceived by Donna

Lonely and agoraphobic, Harold, whom Donna meets during her stint delivering meals on wheels, finds what he believes to be a true friend in Donna. The looks on Harold’s face when he catches her stealing Laura’s diary says it all. His is the face of a man betrayed. He took a chance, and put himself out there, only to find further reassurance that the world outside is one that is manipulative and cruel. Ultimately, Harold decides that the only proper course of action in response to such a toxic world is to leave it behind.

9.)   Donna’s Frustration with Laura

A turning point for Donna’s character, as we see her move beyond grief as a one-dimensional feeling of loss. You can see the emotions churning and welling up inside of her, ready to explode as she begins speaking to Laura on her grave. What starts out as a grief-stricken monologue, quickly gives way over to anger as Donna chastises her deceased best friend for leaving her to pick up the pieces of Laura’s troubled life.

8.)  Bobby Briggs Afraid? Afraid?!

Major Briggs, Bobby’s strict and military-minded father, attempts to console his son who is clearly uncomfortable with the idea of attending Laura’s funeral. Bobby’s usual calm, cooly detached exterior quickly burns away in a matter of seconds, replaced by barely-contained rage and confusion in reaction to the sudden death of his girlfriend.

7.) Leland and Catherine Share a Dance

In a particularly difficult-to-watch scene, Leland cracks under the weight of his own grief at a party celebrating the Ghostwood Estates project. His inability to stifle his own cries prompts Catherine to dance with him as a way to distract on-lookers from the sad truth; here is a man who has been broken. Leland swings wildly back and forth between brief moments of joyful dancing and crippling despair as the people around him, blissfully unaware, continue dancing the night away.

6.)  Donna, James and Bobby at the Pub

There is something deeply cathartic about this particular scene set in the pub. Donna, James and Bobby become visibly distraught as Julee Cruise croons Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart to a crowded room. Although not yet aware of Maddy’s murder, those in the pub seem to become collectively aware of something awful happening. It’s almost as if those who were close with Laura in life, now share a preternatural sensitivity to the darkness pervading their small town. From deep within the walls of this pub, the town itself seems to be crying out.

5.)   Crybaby Andy

The first of many moments in which Andy is moved to tears, this introduction to his character expertly conveys the concept of innocence lost. Andy embodies a childlike sense of innocence, and to see him break down at the sight of a dead body is just the first of many moments where the town and it’s inhabitants are forced to accept that very bad things happen in this world, whether they’re prepared or not. Although Andy’s bouts of hysteria are the backdrop of some tender moments as the show progresses, this initial show of tears brings a real sense of humanity to the show. More often than not, television portrays law enforcement officers and detectives with tough exteriors, having become desensitized to a loss of life. Andy has not yet shed that which makes him empathetic to a life lost.

4.)  Leland Gets Happy

Poor, poor Leland. You would be hard-pressed to find a more sympathetic character on Twin Peaks (that is, Leland without Killer Bob). This scene in particular finds Leland among close friends and family, struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy, overcompensating with a manic musical number. Ray Wise’s acting chops manage to convey humor, desperation, sadness and despair all in a manner of minutes over a familiar upbeat tune. As the tune grows faster and faster, the surrounding guests become more and more aware that something is very wrong. In typical Lynch fashion, the show takes a song about casting away your troubles, and creates an almost unbearable sense of crushing despondence.

3.)  Worst Nightmare

Few scenes in film and television (as I am sure any parent can tell you) are as difficult to watch as a mother or father learning of a child’s passing. Sarah Palmer’s bloodcurdling howls over the phone with her husband are the auditory equivalent of a horrific car accident. Her screams are the sound of a worst nightmare unfolding ever so slowly. As the show goes on, Sarah oscillates between wild hysteria and paralyzing despair.

2.)  Leland’s Last Dance

This iconic scene just exudes desperation as family and friends witness first-hand their friend’s on-going battle with grief over the loss of his daughter. Overwhelmed by his loss, Leland affectionately begins dancing with Laura’s framed picture. Spinning around the dance floor holding his dead daughter’s likeness at arm’s distance sounds like something out of a horror movie. As uncomfortable as it is to watch, much like a car wreck, it’s next to impossible to look away. Leland’s complete inability to cope is made all the more horrifying by playing out his manic-depressive episode in front his friends, family and members of the community. The town of Twin Peaks is once again forced to confront the embodiment of devastation.

1.) The Empty Seat That Started it All

The pilot episode of Twin Peaks is an exercise in dread. The entire episode exudes an atmosphere of shadows encroaching. It feels very much like the electrified air just moments before a violent thunderstorm. Now that the stage is expertly set, a simple awareness of an empty seat in a classroom cuts through, and sends imaginations running wild. Donna’s suspicions of something awful are confirmed as a scream tears across the grass outside their room. She casts a knowing look at James, and the rest is television history.

Interstellar: The Perfect Sci-Fi Film

At last! To say that I have been anxiously awaiting this film for some time would be the understatement of the year. Since learning over a year ago that Christopher Nolan was busy working on THE. SCIENCE. FICTION. EPIC, I could barely contain myself as visions of space, galaxies, planets, wormholes, black holes and time travel danced through my head. As a lover of deep, heady science fiction in the vein of Solaris, The Fountain, Cloud Atlas and Nolan’s own Inception, I had high expectations upon learning that Christopher Nolan would be directing a film about interstellar space travel and wormholes. Normally, going into any movie with high expectations is a recipe for disappointment – so I was actually a bit nervous going into it. I’ve never wanted to love a movie so much in my life.

I was not at all let down. All of you film buffs out there – what is the first thing you do upon exiting the theatre after an enjoyable film? You discuss, correct? Favorite scenes! Special effects! Plot twists! Casting! Memorable quotes! However, the walk through the theatre after seeing Interstellar was a solemn walk of contemplation. I was utterly speechless. I felt like I had just bore witness to something special – something that affected me in ways that I’m not sure I could even articulate. One feeling that definitely overwhelmed all else throughout is such a basic, primal emotion – a feeling of profound wonder – wonder at our world, the universe, the unknown, the relationships between loved ones. Sometimes, I feel like the art of wondering (thank you college Philosophy textbook) is somewhat lost in the world today. And I think it’s such an important feeling that is often lost on us once we pass into adulthood. There are moments in this film where the ideas put forth are so big, and so overpowering, that you can’t help but feel like you’re a kid again, seeing the world and everything in it as if for the very first time. Some, if not most, of these ideas and concepts have turned up in any number of science fiction novels, movies and television shows time and time again – but I’m racking my brain to come up with one that matches Interstellar’s sense of sheer wonder at things that exist just beyond the realm of possibility.

Along with awe-inspiring visuals, frequent Nolan collaborator, Hans Zimmer provides a perfect score that compliments the beauty and isolation of interstellar travel. And with an all-star cast who find themselves more often than not at the mercy of natural phenomena, that feeling of isolation permeates the entire film. Isolation from loved ones as well from humanity in general makes for a very interesting social and psychological thriller. Matthew Mcconaughey and Jessica Chastain are in fine form here as father and daughter strained by something of a long distance. Matthew Mconaughey has the chops to make you chuckle and break your heart, sometimes all at once. Anne Hathaway holds her own on screen with Mcconaughey, bringing a sense of duty for the mission at hand. Michael Caine, although not on screen all that much, seems to embody that sense of wonder that drives most of the film.

In terms of plot, the movie holds up wonderfully, and has a very distinct beginning, middle and unambiguous ending. That’s not to say that you may not be scratching your head at times. It does not exactly follow the standard linear form of storytelling, but it manages to keep you riveted the entire time. In fact, there were more than a few moments where I actually found myself leaning forward from my seat, wide eyed, with my hand covering my mouth – sometimes not even for any actual action on screen, but because the film is so visually stunning. As far as epic science fiction goes, I’m sure there will be plenty of deserved comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s sic fi opus, 2001: A Space Odyssey. And as similar as these two films might be in some aspects, they are very different in tone. Whereas Interstellar has humanity looking to the stars for a new home in the face of impending doom, 2001’s characters venture across the vastness of space simply because they can, because they feel compelled to do so. Now, there is definitely some of that in Interstellar as well, especially in terms of individual character agendas, but there is much more at stake in Nolan’s universe. And that is what makes the trip to the furthest reaches of space so desparate and compelling here.

I could go on and on about the various narratives, special effects and superb acting – but I feel like I would be doing a disservice to those who want to go experience this masterpiece. Just know that this film is universal…in EVERY sense of the word. So, for those who tend to shy away from science fiction because it’s not your thing, you may want to make an exception here. I think you’ll be glad you did.

I Came to Get Hurt: Review of New Album from The Gaslight Anthem

I officially declared myself a fan of The Gaslight Anthem after listening to their sophomore album, The ’59 Sound. This was shortly followed by seeing them play live on their home turf in Asbury Park, NJ in 2011 which included a special guest appearance by The Boss. I was hooked immediately. Since The ’59 Sound, the band has released three more albums, the last of which was released Tuesday, August 12th. This new album, titled Get Hurt, had quite a bit of hype around it over the past few months, as front man, Brian Fallon made various statements describing the album as being quite a departure from their previous sound, a very distinct sound that many fans have come to love and expect. He also made it clear that, in preparation for this record, he had been listening to a lot of bands who have made their mark on rock n’ roll history by shedding their musical skin and emerging as something wholly new and bursting with musical creativity. Some of the bands tossed around in these conversations included U2, Pearl Jam, Pink Floyd and The Beatles.

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That being said, fans and critics were eagerly awaiting this album, and pouncing on singles and leaked teasers to get a taste of what was to come. I was one of those people, and I felt like a kid on Christmas whenever a new video, song or teaser came out prior to the album’s release. I have now given the full album (including 5 brand new bonus tracks) a few listens and here is what I think. Yes, the album is definitely different from anything that the band has previously released. Is is as drastic a departure as Brian Fallon seemed to imply? In my opinion, I don’t think so. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Throughout the whole album, there are songs that have that traditional Gaslight Anthem sound that brought in legions of fans with the previous 4 albums – and there are songs that do stray from that formula, bringing something new to the table. For any of you who have been following any of Brian Fallon’s side projects over the years, such as The Horrible Crowes, with their darker, blues-tinged sound, or the more recent Molly & the Zombies, with their own spin on Americana – then some of the new sounds on this new record should not be that surprising. Fallon is a prolific songwriter, and he fully embraces the music and artists who have influenced him growing up. One can very clearly hear influences ranging from Tom Waits to Tom Petty, with nods to Pearl Jam and even Nirvana throughout.

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Throughout my first couple spins, I won’t lie and say that I fell head over heels for this new album. There were some songs, like the title track, and the lead single, Rollin’ and Tumblin’ that I immediately loved right off the bat. And some of the slow burners such as Have Mercy and Sweet Morphine are heart-breakingly gorgeous tunes. But initially, there are some moments throughout that are a bit jarring and almost clumsy. It felt like, just when I expected some tracks to blow up and explode, the band pulls back when it feels almost unnatural to do so. In a few interviews, band members have said that not only did they experiment this time around with some new instruments, but explored using their traditional instruments in brand new ways, creating new sounds. That is very obvious in songs like Underneath the Ground, Get hurt and Sweet Morphine – and it compliments those songs nicely. However, songs like 1,000 Years, Helter Skeleton, Selected Poems and Red Violins – all of which have powerful and catchy choruses, also have something about them that feels off kilter.

However, after some repeated close listens, these songs have grown on me. Maybe it was just a matter of having to fall into the particular rhythm of the album as a whole. I’ve experienced albums like that before, and those albums tend to be the best. Sometimes, you really have to devote some time to an album, or any work of art for that matter, in order to immerse yourself in it and give yourself a chance to get acclimated.  Also, and I don’t want to make a big deal about this, as I do think that the album speaks for itself, but it is interesting to note that Brian Fallon just recently divorced from his wife of 10 years. So, just imagining the kind of head space he is in right now reveals a bit more about where this album is coming from. Thankfully, I have not experienced any kind of loss that can compare to what he may be going through, but I can only imagine that it plays no small part in the off kilter atmosphere of Get Hurt, and that is when the album begins to settle in a bit more – and make more sense to me.

So, given that The ’59 Sound was released in 2008, and Get Hurt 6 years later, is it so surprising that the two sound very different? Everyone grows, and everyone yearns for something new at some point or another. People change, things change, tastes evolve,  life falls into new rhythms – and one can spend their life fighting this, or do their best to roll with it. To me, this record sounds like someone doing their damnedest to roll with the punches, even though it hurts like hell.

My Weekend in a Cosmic Egg

What did you do this weekend, man? Oh nothing. The usual – relaxed, went out to dinner, saw a movie, watched the game, spent a couple hours floating naked inside a large white egg in total darkness pondering life, the universe and everything in between. Yup, one of those things actually took place this weekend. If you have not heard of this, it’s real. There is a thing, simply called “floating,” where the idea is complete sensory deprivation in order to achieve a zen-like state of mind, or at the very least, an absurdly relaxing hour and a half. Maybe you’ve seen something like this in weirdo midnight movies like Altered States, or even in the Pilot episode of Fringe in which a main character attempts to make a consciousness connection with her colleague who is in a coma – all via the assistance of a float tank (not to mention LSD). However, the real thing is basically the same idea (minus the LSD – though I’ll bet that’s quite an experience), where you climb into a large white egg-like pod that is filled with about 1,000 pounds of epsom salt to keep you afloat on the surface of the water like a cork. Basically, the Dead Sea in an egg. Once you’re in there, you close the hatch and just get nice and comfy, relaxing your muscles completely, letting the salt water do the hard work for you. The complete lack of gravity pushing on your body is a feeling unlike anything else. You are weightless – the closest thing you’ll get to it anyway, barring a trip to space. Once I got settled in, I turned out the light (you control the LED light and can switch it on or off during your float). I opted for total darkness, since I wanted to get the full effect. The specific place I went to also plays very mellow, new age(y) music for the first ten minutes while you get acclimated to your new surroundings, or lack thereof. 

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The music was very calming, and definitely helped to ease me into the whole experience. Then the music faded out completely – and that’s when I became aware of just how damn loud my breathing is. Seriously, it’s insane how loud something as common as breathing can be. I tried focusing on my breathing for a while, just to REALLY settle in and relax my body and mind. Then, I started thinking about what I felt I SHOULD think about. I thought about the universe, thinking maybe, just maybe, I would get some really cool visuals courtesy of my own crazy head, being that there is literally zero difference between having your eyes open or closed in there. I definitely started to lose all sense of my extremities. They keep the water temperature at 95.9 degrees, which is your skin temperature – so the effect is pretty disorienting as it feels like you’re a disembodied head for most of the float. You must also remember to do everything in your power not to scratch anywhere near your eyes. I forgot this small piece of advice, and had to turn the blinding light on to find the fresh water spray bottle that they keep in there for idiots like me. Once that was done – lights out and back into space. One thing I thought was particularly cool was the tiniest amount of energy I needed to put into simply twisting my body back and forth. I know the point of this whole exercise is to stay still and turn off the body and the mind, but I inadvertently shifted my weight at some point – and it was such a strange sensation. Since I was weightless, it felt kind of like I wasn’t even doing it. I couldn’t even tell which muscle was working to make my cosmic shimmy possible. Anyway, this went on for about 3 minutes. Though, in total darkness with no sense of the outside world, I could have been salt-water dancing for like 45 minutes…I don’t know. Thank God they don’t have cameras in there. Or do they? 

Immediately following my salt-water ballet, I settled back into my peaceful float. Some time after that, I started hearing noises that sounded like someone lightly banging on pipes. I don’t know if it was sounds from other eggs that I was contacting, or just my imagination. Either way, it changed the entire atmosphere for me. My mind went from “Wow, this is so nice and calming” to “Shit. Maybe I’m being haunted and a spirit followed me into the egg.” So, for the next 5 minutes, I literally played out scenarios in which some horrible  corpse-like demonic woman was just hovering above me in total darkness, and that it was my heightened sense of awareness that allowed me to become more in-tune with her presence. 

Once this phase passed, I just focused more on my breathing and laid completely still for the remainder of my time. Except for the occasional bumping lightly into the sides of the egg, the rest of my float passed in total ignorant bliss of the outside world, as I continued to explore the inner world. I can’t even say for sure what was going through my head during the latter half, but I can only describe it as experiencing my own thoughts with an odd sense of detachment, not necessarily in a bad way. I wish I could tell you that I had some amazing epiphany about my life, your life, our lives, the meaning behind it all etc. Eh, maybe next time. I have heard that floating is a lot like peeling an onion. Each time you float, you peel away layer after layer, getting further deep inside yourself. So, looking at it that way, I have a lot to look forward to, as I will definitely be doing it again. For all you psychonauts out there that are curious about floating, I say go for it! Ya got nothing to lose, only something to gain. So, just remember to keep calm and float on.