The Speckled Mind

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Good Music Thursday: Volume 5

Welcome back, friends. Because of this blasted thing, I almost neglected to do Good Music Thursday this week. But, never fear. Tim is hear (*it's a pun!*) with more good music for your listening pleasure.

Our subject this week is a San Diego native named Greg Laswell. Never heard of him? Neither had I, until The Current turned me on to his music. It's very rare that I need to pull the car over to the side of the road because the music is so profound, but that's exactly what happened the first time I heard the song "Do What I Can" off his 2006 release "Through Toledo."

This album was written from a very real place of pain. One day his wife walked in and informed him that she was leaving. Just like that. He didn't intend to write an album about the experience, but before he knew it, there were 12 great songs just waiting to be recorded.

So, record he did.

And they're amazing. It's not just the songcraft, or the musicianship, or the fact that he plays all (yes, that's right--ALL) of the instruments on this recording that make it a standout record. I think it's that his voice has an absolutely haunting quality that sticks with you all day long--kind of like what your parents promised would happen in your stomach if you ate peanut butter for breakfast.

Whether you like peanut butter or not, I encourage you to feast on this album. There's a ton of places to get lost--and the view has never been better from the 'middle of nowhere' than it is on "Through Toledo." As per always, I wouldn't leave you without a few freebies to sample the musical greatness. Check here for a live, in studio performance at The Current from earlier this fall. Or, you can look at Greg's myspace page (yes, we're on a first name basis) which has three of the tunes off the new record ready to impress you.

Happy Thursday, Speckled Mind readers. And remember--life is too short to listen to bad music.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

For Those About To Waste Time I Solute You: Part III

Click here at your own risk. You've been warned. It's addictive. You will play multiple times. I expect reports about your best score. I haven't cracked 100 yet. But I will soon.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Smashing Pumpkin Records

Life is good in Boston. Many thanks to Sarah and Giuseppe for their hospitality and tour guide-ing skills, as well as their uncanny ability to make it through RIDICULOUS traffic without incident.

Jessica and I got to see many of the sights that make Boston what it is. Fenway Park, the Freedom Trail, Harvard (pronounced, 'Hah-vahd', in case you were wondering...)--the normal tourist fare, made all the more genuine by Jess's frequent photo stops.

One thing that came as an interesting surprise,however was the presence of 30,000 pumpkins in the middle of Boston Commons. Well, there wasn't actually that many when we first arrived on Friday night. In fact, there was just a bunch of half filled scaffolding and nervous looking people wearing "life is good" shirts. One of them approached Joe, Jessica and I. The conversation went something like this:

Him: Do you guys want to play with knives and help raise money for kids with cancer?

Us: OK....

Him: It's free! Just go carve a pumpkin over there.

Us: OK...

Truth be told, it takes very little convincing to get me to play with knives. So, we headed over to the tents and carved away. I decided to depict a phoenix rising from the ashes on my pumpkin. But, due to lack of space on the pumpkin (and by 'space', I mean 'skills') I settled on a face with triangle eyes, nose and a toothless smile.

Everyone had a good time (see below) and in the end Boston set the Guinness record for most lit pumpkins (30,128), raising $554, 211 for kids with cancer in the process. It was a beautiful thing in many ways. Check here to see more great pictures from the festival.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

On Hiatus

Hey friends. I've never been to Boston in the Fall, but all that is about to change. Aaron Engler is getting married out there tomorrow!! Thus, I apologize for my lack of blogging this week, but I have more important things to attend to. Good music Thursday will guessed it, next Thursday. Have a good week, all.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Good Music Thursday: Volume 4

It's good to hear that some people have been enjoying Thursdays at the Speckled Mind. Testimonials fuel me. There is so much good new music to talk about. This week, however, I'd like to take a trip through memory lane and pay tribute to a band that is on its last legs.

Earlier this fall I got this sad bit of news from Nickel Creek's website:

Dearest Listener,
After seven years of extensive touring in support of three records (seventeen years as a band), we've decided to take a break of indefinite length at the end of 2007 to preserve the environment we've sought so hard to create and to pursue other interests. It has been a pleasure to write, record, and perform for you through the years and we'd like to heartily thank you for your invaluable contribution to our musical lives.


Nickel Creek
(Sean, Sara, and Chris)
P.S. Read more here

Seventeen years. Can you believe that? I think eating and breathing are about the only things I've sustained for that long.

For those of you unfamiliar with Nickel Creek, shame on you. Fortunately, your remedial course can be streamed on-line. The bottom line: there is more talent in this band than should be allowed by law. It's sort of like a bluegrass-meets-pop-meets-folk-meets-rock kind of music. Sara, Sean and Chris do a beautiful sort of genre blurring that I wish more artists were brave enough to attempt. I am glad, however, that more artists don't attempt their harmonies.

I'll spare you the biography, though it makes for a very interesting read. As was noted above, the band will only be touring until the end of 2007, so catch them while you can. Their live performances are always worth the price of admission. Oh, and if you listen to nothing else from this blog entry, be sure to visit their MySpace page and listen to the cover of Britney Spears' 'Toxic'. What an unholy marriage.

Happy Thursday, Speckled Mind readers. And remember--life is too short to listen to bad music.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Do you remember that feeling of anticipation you used to get in the weeks leading up to Christmas? Not the one you get now. Not the, 'hooray, I get a few days off from that time-sucking black hole I call a job' feeling. Not that one. I'm talking about the one you got when you were young. The 'I don't know what's wrapped under that tree, but I just might blow a coronary if I have to wait any longer to open it' feeling. That's the one.

The sensation is a beautiful thing in itself. That level of unrestricted excitement rarely occurs in adulthood.

Think back again. Gift wrap flying into the air at the mercy of tiny but eager hands. Your mom nervously begging you to be careful. Your old man priding himself on his spectacular wrapping job. Your brother freaking out when he realized it was HIS gift you were opening.

Good times.

When I was in early grade school, there was nothing I wanted more than He-Man action figures. I can't remember what the allure was about those things. Maybe it was a subconscious aspiration to look like a steroid infested body builder who rode a tiger and had magical friends. Maybe it was a desire to participate in the cosmic struggle of good vs. evil. More likely, I just wanted to identify with a man who found it socially acceptable to walk around in his underwear and carry a battleaxe with him wherever he went.

Mom never did let me have a battleaxe.

Nevertheless. Do you remember the year you didn't get what you wanted? That fateful year when the packages that had held so much promise actually contained something you didn't ask for. The ritual described above proceeded in much the same way, but instead of pulling a new Ram-man or Orko from the cellophane you got....underwear.


There's nothing inherently wrong with underwear. It wasn't even that I particularly disliked it--after all, it worked for He-Man. The worst part was that feeling of unfulfilled expectations. And then, having to thank the giver of the gift for something that was CLEARLY a disappointment.

That's how autumn has been in Minneapolis this year. I so looked forward to the beautiful hues and unending weeks of low 60's temps--not too warm, not too cold. But that's not what we've gotten. Instead there were a few days of nice tempatures accompanied by stiff winds that blew all the leaves from the trees before they could be enjoyed. What should have been a reddish-orange delight to my eyes is now a brown crunchy mess under my feet.

This morning was dark and sleety. Tomorrow will be the same. Friday will be the same. Autumn is supposed to be the season that makes a life in Minnesota worthwhile, and it hardly made an appearance this year.


All my hopes for He-Man action figures have ended in underwear this Fall.

Oh, and the irony of a similar fate befalling my beloved Twins is not lost on me.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Mondays Need Laughs...

Thanks to Zalm for alerting me to these little jewels of religious education. Check out the whole library on issues such as tithing, WWJD, pastors and worship.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Good Music Thursday: Volume 3

You've had your two week trial of free music. Now it's time to pay up. That's right, the Speckled Mind is just like that 'free' one year subscription you got to Sports Illustrated when you signed up for a Capital One Visa. That card has now been charged the full fee...which is collecting interest at 29.9%, I might add. You should have remembered to cancel; we knew you'd forget. Hooray for shady capitalistic dealings!

Seriously, this one will cost you. But it is definitely worth your $9.99 on iTunes (or, you can stream it here for free) Our subject today is the Decemberists new LP "The Crane Wife."

For those unfamiliar with this band, it is fronted by nerdy, arty, folky English-Lit.-Major-Guy, Colin Meloy. Colin's songwriting, like many others of our time, centers around relationships--young love and broken hearts.

The similarities, however, end there.

Colin usually couches these stories of romance and tragedy in language best suited to the British Literature section of Barnes & Noble. I challenge you to find another songwriter that has written a love song sung from the dual perspectives of a dead Civil War soldier and his pregnant, forlorn girlfriend. That track ('Yankee Bayonet--I Will Be Home Then') features the brilliant Laura Veirs and is one of the highlights of the new LP.

Another very...interesing song is called, "The Shankhill Butchers." You won't find anything like this from any other artist. Like all of Colin's songs, it walks the fine line between historical truth and fiction. One thing that is absolutely factual--this is the creepiest children's lullaby you'll ever hear.

The Shankill butchers ride tonight
You better shut your windows tight
Theyre sharpening their cleavers and their knives
And taking all their whisky by the pint
Cuz everybody knows
If you dont mind your mother's words
A wicked wind will blow
Your ribbons from your curls
Everybody moan everybody shake
The shankill butchers wanna catch you

They used to be just like me and you
They used to be sweet little boys
But something went horribly askew
Now killing is their only source of joy
Cuz everybodys knows...

The shankill butchers on the rise
Theyre waiting till the dead of night
Theyre picking at their fingers with their knives
And wiping off their cleavers on their thighs
Cuz everybod knows...

The shankill butchers wanna kill you
The shankill butchers wanna cut you
The shankill butchers wanna catch you

Sleep tight, kids. If you're interested in learning more about the album, Pitchfork did an excellent review.

All in all this album marks an excellent departure from the indie world and rebirth in the land of Capitol Records. The band managed to maintain its artistic integrity and uniqueness despite the pressure to fit a niche that usually accompanies migration to a major label.

If you want to get a free taste of Colin and his brilliance before ponying up your bucks, check out the live show he did for NPR (avaialble for streaming here). My favorite line from that show, "I think it's time that we move right into the gypsy material."

Happy Thursday, Speckled Mind readers. And remember--life is too short to listen to bad music.


Monday, October 02, 2006

It's October 2nd. Do you know where your Twins are?

Oh, you knew it was coming.

I'm pretty sure I still fall short of the Biblical requirements for a prophet. But, you'd have to admit I was pretty close to accurate in my assessment of the Twins that I gave on the first day of the regular season. And for the record, I have been with them through thick and thin--a fact to which my wife will attest (sometimes with and sometimes without rolling her eyes).

How does one sum up a season this remarkable? The stats speak for themselves, for the most part. The Twins finished first in batting, second in pitching and third in fielding in the American League.

Oh, yeah. And let's not forget first in the A.L. Central. A fact for which we need to thank a host of people. We would like to thank the White Sox for choking. We would also like to thank the Tigers for choking. Probably most of all, we would like to thank the Royals for NOT choking. A bit of luck, a bit of skill. Perhaps more the former than the latter. But either way, our boys are staying home instead of flying to New York. And that is a VERY good thing. A couple of other notables:
  • Joe Mauer became the first American League catcher to win the batting title.
  • Johan Santana will, without a doubt, win the Cy Young award
  • Gardenhire will finish in the top two (with Jim Leyland) and may win the American League Manger of the Year award.
  • Justin Morneau will finish in the top three for American League MVP voting (with Derek Jeter and David Ortiz) and DESERVES to win the award
  • Never before has a team taken over sole possession of first place in a division on the last day of the regular season.
  • Santana became the first player to snag the pitching quadruple crown (best in Strikeouts, ERA, Innings Pitched and Wins) since Hal Newhouser in 1945.
I could go on and on. But I won't...right now. Here's the important thing--the first playoff game is tomorrow at 12:00 against Oakland. Whatever you are doing at that point, stop and listen to the game. Cheer. Yell at your radio. Heck, skip work and go to the game. These guys deserve our support.

Oh yeah. Cheer for the Tigers too. They need it right now.