I'm all about you, you're all about me, we're all about each other

Dear friends,

1. I don't even know what started the whole betting thing. The Monkey does not like to bet on frivolous things but I do. For tiny amounts of money like ten cents or a quarter. This time the bet was really rather ridiculous, way more so than usual. I had just bumped into my friend Jen D at the ATM earlier in the night and I bet J that we wouldn't bump into anyone else we knew at the Peter, Bjorn and John show at the Bowery Ballroom. The SOLDOUT Peter, Bjorn and John show. Less than an hour later, I had lost three times over. I told you it was silly. I'm a silly girl.

2. When PB&J scampered out and tore into their first song, I turned to J and squealed "Oooh, they're so cute and Beatle-y!" It's true! They wiggled with scream and shout excitement in their little suit and tie outfits and the audience responded with such good will that I forgot I was in the heart of in-the-know-land. There was a champagne sweetness to the proceedings; a thousand balloons wouldn't have been out of place.

3. While my favorite song of the night was Amsterdam, a song I actually don't care for very much on the album but am now a fan of thanks to Bjorn PB&J's hesitant, lyric stumbling, stopping and starting, utterly charming live performance, it was Paris 2004 that was in my head this morning. I like to imagine it as a Young Folks 2, We're Loving Life! in that it describes the warm sheet, warm body beauty of a deepening relationship. The nervous excitement has been replaced by an all around glow and you take to the streets of whichever city you're vacationing in like a pair of bandits, hand in hand. You only have a few days and you'll spend most of them inside but wasn't it the best vacation ever? Aren't you sad you had to come back?

4. Song to seek:

Paris 2004/Peter Bjorn and John

5. Writer's Block FINALLY comes out domestically on Feb 6th. Perfect for Valentine's Day if you're the romantic sort. I know I am.

Love, D

PS Ryspace has a few MP3s of last night's show! Whatcha waitin' for? Go get 'em!

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You've got one too

Dear friends,

1. First the disclaimer: I enjoy the company of Emily and Travis Muggabear* of The Muggabears. Especially if there's television involved as it will ultimately lead to my laughing my ass off.

2. Part of the reason we became friends is because I loved their music and booked them for a show. The fact that we got along and kept in touch was a bonus.

3. They recently sent me an copy of their upcoming EP, Night Choreography.

4. I listened to it and thought to myself, this is some sexy music. I mean if you think Dirty Boots by Sonic Youth is sexy. If you're an indie rock pervert then it most certainly is. Don't front, you know who you are. There's a certain downward guitar stroke that gets you going. Or a whispered line that rises into a scream at just the right juncture. It's the sheer massive sound of it that thrills. Noise like a bee buzzing in a honey-drunk zig zag or a reverb wave that crashes over your head.

5. Now I've Got a Sword has noise like that. It's also got a weaving swagger that's all nasty hate-fuck come on. Plus a little background piano twinkling that suggests a more pleasant side to the raunch.

6. My Space conversational fragment between myself and an anonymous member of The Muggabears:

From: The Muggabears Date: Jan 26, 2007 6:21 PM
Hope you like the EP, coming your way now.

From: Neon Lights Date: Jan 26, 2007 1:48 PM
Listening to it...trying to figure out a way to write about it without sounding mega creepy.

From: The Muggabears Date: Jan 26, 2007 5:05 PM
Ha, how would you sound creepy?

From: Neon Lights Date: Jan 26, 2007 3:21 PM
'Cause I want to write up Now I've Got a Sword, how it's like dirty, scuzzy hot indie sex in a club bathroom with a zombie eyed but attractive hipster. I'm worried that's a little too fan fic/dirty old man in a raincoat. A dilemma!

From: The Muggabears Date: Jan 26, 2007 6:27 PM
I fucking love those old guys.

7. Exactly.

8. Song to seek:

Now I've Got a Sword/The Muggabears (MP3)
Now I've Got a Sword/The Muggabears (YST link)

photo by Lauren Andrews, 2006

9. The Muggabears are playing live on Friday, February 16 at Union Hall. Also as part of Neon Lights presents... on Saturday, February 17 at The Delancey.

10. Befriend The Muggabears on My Space.

Love, D

* Not their real last name. Here on Soft Communication, your band name becomes your last name. George Jezel decreed it so.

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There is history in this place

Dear friends,

I kind of hated going over to A.'s house. It was dusty and rickety. One of his roommates had a drunken mishap and fell down the uneven stairs, chipping most of her front tooth. She proudly showed me the blood stain the next day, telling me in her raspy voice how funny it all was. I wasn't sure if she meant the accident or life in general. A few years later she fell out a window and died in his arms. But that's another story.

We never did much laughing, he and I. Perhaps that's a lie. Though whenever I remember both of us laughing, I feel profound confusion. Because I don't recognize those people, I don't remember having lived through that.

The pipes under the kitchen sink exploded that winter, a plumber was dispatched. His name was Scott and he was a Scot, something which, inwardly, tickled me to no end. Scott made A. instantly and profoundly nervous. He was frequently uncomfortable in the company of men who exuded confidence. Men like his father, I suppose. Scott made me nervous too, but mostly 'cause he looked straight out of some Harlequin paperback. I kept expecting him to rip off his shirt or flare his nostrils. Which naturally led to my pondering the romance novel go-to word, "Manhood." Since I read those books way before I had any idea what sex actually entailed, that word confused the bejesus out of me. I was about to voice that opinion but then I thought better of it.

A. tried to make chit chat by way of asking about Scott's tattoo which was barely visible on the webbing between his thumb and index finger. "What is that?," he asked. Scott looked up, wiped his forehead and stared back at him with flat gray eyes. "It's a sku-hull." He held up his right hand so we could see it better. After a moment of initial, silent confusion, we tried to look cool, muttering "Oh, it's great" or something equally lame. Scott went back to work. I don't think he spoke again until he left.

A few weeks later, A. and I were driving around in a car, whose car I have no idea since he didn't have one. It had a tape player, he put in a mix. Skull by Sebadoh started playing, I sang along like I always do. When the chorus hit, A. sang it with me and both of us, in a mind-melding moment, sang the final line in Scott the Scot's brogue: "Let me take your sku-hull for a ride." I still sing it that way sometimes. I wonder if he does too.

Song to seek:


Buy Bakesale by Sebadoh

Love, D

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Miller Time

So Gabriel Miller-Phillips is playing at the Sidewalk Cafe tonight, and I just wanted to say a few words to try to convince the masses to assemble there.

First of all, it's easy to get to - at the corner of 6th and A, it's right in the heart of our collective spiritual (if not actual) neighborhood.

Second, it's early - but not too early. 9 PM. Be out by 10. Head out after work, have a nice reasonably-priced dinner in some bohemian caff, then hit the Sidewalk. Then a nightcap, then home.

Third, it's free.

And fourth, and most importantly, it's going to be a fantastic set. Gabriel is one of the better musical storytellers in New York City, which, combined with some serious-as-a-heart-attack guitar chops and brilliant songcraft, wows 'em from the piers of Red Hook to the subways of Boston (the T, for those what know). Mostly, though, he's got this arsenal of new songs, which are increasingly incredible.

His newest, and my pick for "future monster hit," is called "Memorial Drive," and it's a doozy. Sort of a chilly song - very pretty, and definitely a wintertime jam. Reminds me of "California Dreamin'," in a very strange way. He's already recorded it at Serious Biz, and it's on the ep for his upcoming tour with Alina Simone, which kicks off in February. Anyway, "Memorial Drive" is the jewel in his set, and is by itself as much a reason to go see him as any of the others.

So there you have it. Hit the Sidewalk for Gabriel Miller-Phillips, then go dance the rest of the worknight away at Hot Rocks at the Delancey. An excellent evening to be had by all.

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Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

The first HOT ROCKs '50s/'60s Dance Party is taking place tonight, Tuesday the 23rd! I am DJing/hosting the event. Below I have included some FAQs.

1) What's Hot Rocks?
Hot Rocks is a new retro dance party where DJs (myself included) will be playing all sorts of '50s and '60s garage, surf, oldies, and British Invasion: Rolling Stones, Kinks, Beatles, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Nancy Sinatra, Dick Dale, Animals, Zombies, Shocking Blue, MC5, and many more.

2) Do I have to dance?
You do NOT have to dance. The Delancey has seating in its bar area, where you can burn off just as many calories drinking as you would dancing. Yeah, I said it.

3) I'm anti-social. Am I going to have fun?
Yes. There are plenty of corners from which you can silently judge partygoers. And, by all means, do feel free to make friends with the lava lamp. Or come chat with me, because I'm anti-social as well.

4) What should I wear?
You can wear anything you want! I encourage '50s/'60s attire, but it's not required. Initially, I was going to dress as Edie Sedgwick or Neil Armstrong, but I decided on something a little different.

5) How much does Hot Rocks cost and how do I get there?
Admission is $3 at the door; there will be $3 PBRs all night. I will be bringing about ten pounds of retro candy for you, because sugar complements booze so well. The Delancey is located at 168 Delancey St. (J to Essex or F to Delancey). The party is downstairs. Where the cool kids are.

I hope to see you there! The party starts at 8pm. If you can't make it, the second Hot Rocks party will take place Tuesday, February 6th; after that, The Delancey is moving us to Friday nights. Feel free to email me with any questions, song requests, et cetera, or join us on MySpace. Groovy!

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Sing in tune, you bastards!

Punk rock baffled me until I moved to New York. Growing up in Florida listening to more melodic classic rock like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, punk never really made sense. I saw "The Great Rock & Roll Swindle" but all of the kids in high school with the trendy Sex Pistols patches made it seem like just another trend. There's no way these kids actually enjoyed the music, they were just pretending to like it to look cool.

Something about being in New York, hanging out in a lower East Side bar makes "Anarchy in the UK" or "London Calling" seem like the best music ever made. It's not just the fact that the Ramones started in that neighborhood, and created the spark that became the British punk invasion, but it's the energy in the air. Suddenly, a ferocious song under 2 minutes made so much more sense than a song anything that rambles on for 10 minutes of instrumental experimentation just to get to the good part of the song.

Anyway, now I love the Clash. I can appreciate the amazing early tracks like "London's Burning" or "Clash City Rockers," though I still tend to favor the later more pop/dub sounding songs. One of my favorite songs is "Straight To Hell." Joe Strummer's voice sounds like he has perpetual bronchitis, very infectious, and the biting lyrics of this song match it. On the live version of this song on From Here To Eternity, which I recommend, you can hear him yell "Sing in tune, you bastards!" to the audience as they all sing along. I find it hilarious for some reason, but you can miss it if you're not listening for it. It's near the very end of the song. Check it out:

Straight To Hell (live) mp3

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I am the only one searching for you and if I get caught then the search is through

Dear friends,

Let's pretend your life revolves around music. Shouldn't be too hard. It's your religion, your ultimate seduction aid and occasional money provider. A good, no, GREAT, weekend involves flipping through stacks and stacks of records in someone's garage with your wife at your side. She drives you home, taking hairpin turns and fights with you over who gets to be Oates when She's Gone comes on the radio. There's years of this, there's fights, there's making up but mostly there's music. And of course, love. Love and music. What happens when something happens, something irreversible and that part of your life is gone? Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield is a memoir about just that: love, music and the five years he spent with his first wife, writer Renée Crist.

I have to backtrack a bit here for the inevitable personal interjection. Back in the day, I bought a book called The Spin Alternative Record Guide. It was a reference book with information on everyone from A.R. Kane to Ornette Coleman. I wore that thing out; circling particularly astute entries, nodding yes to things I already knew, resolving to follow up on things I didn't. This book with the garishly Tang colored cover was the most important guide I had ever read. And once I'd finished reading it as reference, I went back and read it as pleasure. Slowly, certain names kept popping out as being especially readable*: Renée Crist, dream hampton, Ann Powers and my personal favorite, Rob Sheffield. Why the favorite? Sample quote, regarding Adam Ant: "Like Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps, Friend or Foe is a meditation on celebrity, corruption and the passing of youth. Unlike Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps, it employs a circus horn section to toot-toot its way through the rhythm tracks." Yes please! More of that! I love humor in critical thinking. Especially in music writing. Because while sometimes I'm way too serious, as a serious as cancer, not your average dancer; like sex, music is something I laugh at in tandem with loving it. How else could I possibly explain why I still compelled to buy those late night disco compilations they sell on TV? Or why I still love ABBA? Or for that matter, current R&B?

I had a vivid image I invented in my head of this Sheffield. He was a flashy dresser; queeny and vituperative. A brilliant conversationalist with a Morrissey-an pompadour who smoked cigarettes with a cigarette holder. I could never meet him because I would most certainly get tongue tied, weird and wind up saying something really stupid about my favorite Cure song. He would flick ash at me and go back to talking to his underwear model boyfriend. And I would cry.

Fast forward to a few years later. I was watching late night cable and they had a show about film directors and their music videos. I heard Jamie Thraves mentioned, whom I LOVE, so I sat myself down to watch, toothbrush in mouth. The host of the show was this skinny guy with darting eyes, a fidgety, nervous smile and a speaking voice with a strange lilt. Not directly Southern, but Southern approximately like a Dylan song. And his name was Rob Sheffield. That Rob Sheffield. No way! Get the fuck out! He remained my favorite music scribe, despite the fact that he didn't look like I pictured. Thanks to him, I can still read something in the disappointment that is Rolling Stone and know that I'll laugh out loud in recognition. Consequently, when I saw in a magazine that he had a book coming out called Love is a Mix Tape, I didn't bother with the blurb, I just jotted down the title, figured it would be something about music, and therefore awesome. So I went out and bought it.

Love is a Mix Tape is a memoir about music and mix tapes. But it's also about the people associated with those tapes, that music. The tough kid in at a Catholic camp who thought Funkytown was a good song, the 'We're Doing it? Awesome!' mix with Gregory "WEEEELL, WEEELL" Abbott's Shake You Down on it, and the chock full o' Garth Brooks mix CD (remember the first time you made one of those?) Sheffield's sister gave her golf loving husband. But mostly about the music shared with his partner Renée. The hymns, the disco and the songs of five foxy guys who didn't look like they sounded either.

From Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield:

"As soon as they hit the stage, you could hear all the girls in the crowd ovulate in unison. There were five or six of them up there, some banging on guitars, some just clapping their hands or singing along. They did not stare at the floor. They were there to make some noise and have some fun. They had fuzz and feedback and unironically beautiful sha-la-la melodies. The bassist looked just like Renee's high school boyfriend. Stephen Malkmus leaned into the mike, furrowed his brows, and sang lyrics like "I only really want you for your rock and roll" or "When I fuck you once it's never enough/When I fuck you two times it's always too much." The songs were all either fast or sad, because all songs should be either fast or sad. Some of the fast ones were sad, too.

Afterwards, we staggered to the parking lot in total silence. When we got to the car, Renée spoke up in a mournful voice: "I don't think The Feelies are ever gonna be good enough again."

Our friend Joe in New York sent us a tape, a third-generation dub of the Pavement album Slanted and Enchanted. Renee and I decided this was our favorite tape of all time. The guitars were all boyish ache and shiver. The vocals were funny bad poetry sung through a Burger World drive-through mike. The melodies were full of surfer-boy serenity, dreaming through a haze of tape hiss and mysterious amp noise. This was the greatest band ever, obviously. And they didn't live twenty years ago, or ten years ago, or five years ago. They were right now. They were ours.

I think about those days, and I think about a motto etched onto the sleeve of one of those Pavement singles: I AM MADE OF BLUE SKY AND HARD ROCK AND I WILL LIVE THIS WAY FOREVER."

You know from the beginning of the book that, like the David Bowie song, they only have five years. That one day, while sitting at home, Renée will have a pulmonary embolism. Sheffield's humor and warmth guide you towards this moment in such a way that despite knowing how it all ends, you still want to know everything about life with this singular lady. You fall in love with the pair of 'em, with their dusty little apartments filled with fabric scraps and records. Their strange cocktail inventions like the unholy combo of Chambord and Zima. They could be your friends or you and your best friend, especially if you're the sort of person who makes 'Going to Sleep' mixes or appreciates the sound of music in fast moving cars. That's not to say that you have to be dorkus musicus to appreciate Love is a Mix Tape since the operative word in the title is Love. There is so much affection in Sheffield's anecdotes about his marriage that even when he recounts a day spent sitting in his car in order to avoid Renée after a fight, or his young husband panic at realizing he will never be able to completely protect her from harm; it says something lovely and real about their relationship. I believe the quiet, unflashy truth of these people. And when the terrible moment finally arrives, the sudden emptiness seems like the silence when a record is over and the needle returns to its cradle. It isn't over of course. Sheffield's coming to terms with being a widower and his trip back from grief is just as much a part of the book's journey. A beatiful tribute from one music lover to another.

Song to seek (Not from Slanted... but I can cheat, can't I?):


Buy Watery, Domestic by Pavement

Book to buy:

Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield.

Love, D

* This went the other way too. Many years later, at a bar, I was introduced to another writer who worked on that book, one whose selections I didn't care for at all. I didn't actually remember this at the time which is why it's kind of amusing that my reptile response at hearing him say his name was to punch him repeatedly in the arm until J pulled me off him. The critic took it like a champ though. Apparently he gets this a lot.

** Because of this program, I was able to recognize Sheffield when he sat across from me at the downstairs area at Bowery Ballroom before a Hold Steady show. Even without the aforementioned imaginary cigarette holder, I still couldn't bring myself to tell him how much his writing meant to this Lilliputian Latina from the Y-O. So instead I did what any sensible, inebriated person would do and asked him...if I could borrow a pen. (Covers face with hands.) Yeah, I have no idea what that was about either. Was I gonna a write a postcard? It doesn't matter, he didn't have one.

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And we're going to go out

Dear friends,

I know I said I'd have a few words up about my Wednesday night reading, but haven't you learned yet not to trust me? I actually started it but it turned into a convoluted mess about a beloved reference guide with a "butt-ugly orange cover"* and how writers never look like you picture them in your head. Especially if you're me and it's my head doing the imagining, because then you're likely to throw in auxiliary details, like a giant forehead, a childhood spent among carnies or an obsession with little people**.

But I digress... I hardly ever mention birthdays here, unless its mine, then its mentioned MONTHS in advance, but I thought I'd change things up a bit and send out some b-day shout outs to two very special ladies.

First up is Therese, she of the lovely first and last name and the only person to ever recognize my facination with trickster myths. I've known T-Money for a long time and while we don't share friend-circles, we always make time out to meet at a show now and again to mock all the indie rock women who are trying too hard and the men that love them. I am not one of those, of course. (Insert Rodney Dangerfield-esque tug of collar) She has HUGE blue eyes that get even bigger when she's telling you a story; either of Action Park shenanigans, or a long-ago record store crush. She posted here once about Pantera (Tommy!) She will claim until she dies that it was me, not her, who called Lou Barlow fat to his face***, ****. And I will wait forever for her to write her masterpiece, I Was a Heavy Metal DJ. Do it, Miss M! You know you want to.

"It was you Daniella, YOU!"

I am not even sure she likes this one, but I don't see how she wouldn't...

Song to seek:

Back in Black (Live)/AC/DC (mp3)

Buy AC/DC Live by AC/DC.

Second on the birthday trumpeting is my friend Kristie who has a peculiar "No, no, no" jazz hand dance that needs to get patented STAT and eyes for which the word "mischievous" was minted. I actually saw a photo of K on Bryan's site before I ever met her. I remember thinking to myself "She's purty." (yes, I think in sic) and also, "She's probably a classically trained beeyotch." We eventually met, and in a rare role reversal, it was she who chatted me up first. She quickly proved both assumptions false (she's not purty, she's beeeyoooti-full) and showed me that I'm not the only person who enjoys talking about sexual humiliation at loud volumes in bars. She's hilarious and true, absolutely yar! as the movie says. I love being serenaded by her ridiculously sexy voice and I hope that I eventually get to own some recording of her karaoke version of No Doubt's Underneath It All. It's that good.

Bryan took this picture (natch) of the K-dance in action. Jazz hand!

We both worship at the altar of Mary Timony. This one's for you homey. Bust a move.

Song to seek:

Silver Strings/Helium (mp3)

Buy No Guitars by Helium.

Happy birthday ladies! I'll see both of you later.

Love, D

* I'm quoting here. I'd say it was meta, but I'm not sure what that means. I will finish that book report but I need to make sure it makes some sorta sense.

** Actually, that would be birthday girl #2's obsession. Destined to be poached for fiction, I tell ya.

*** It was T. We had been whispering back and forth about whether or not it was actually Mr. Sebadoh himself. Her exact words were, and I'll never forget it 'cause I had a clear view of Barlow standing right behind her, "That can't be Lou Barlow, he's too faaaaaat." Traumatic!

****I had my own being accidentally mean to a 90's indie musician moment some time later, when I made fun of a certain female singer for buying a bio in which she's mentioned many times in a negative manner. I bandied about words like DESPERATE, SAD and worst of all, UGLY while my co-record store clerk snickered. I don't mention her by name because later I saw that she had been sitting around the corner the entire time, listening to everything I said with a shellshocked expression, and I wanted to punch myself in the face. She stayed there a long time, staring at the floor and eventually left. I was never a mean girl until that moment and haven't been since. I'm just not cut out for it.

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Someone that broke me up with a corner of her smile

Dear friends,

Spent most of last night alternating between crying (reading Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield) and snickering (American Idol, oh lordy the delusion!) and trying to will my two day strong migraine away by rubbing my temples in a modified wax on/wax off manner. No dice.

I'll tell you more about the book tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll babble about a tangentially related dishwashing incident. Not a major incident by any stretch; not even a dent, really. I was home, feeling miserable. I have a chronic disease and every time I settle into thinking that I'm normal, that my body works like everyone else's, it sneaks up on me, taps me on the shoulder and hits me in the face with a tennis racket. Then I sit there in the dark and think about how I'll never, ever leave the house again.

My partner in non-crime has become particularly adept at either ignoring or navigating around these days. He comes home, hangs up his coat and goes about the business of becoming his nighttime self. I hear him turning off his ipod in the other room; leafing through the catalogs we receive and feel a million miles away in my little dark corner of grump. One such night, he inserted a CD into our crappy stereo, selected a song and turned the water on to do the dishes. It was Sway by The Rolling Stones. Hearing it from the other room, I felt like I was hearing it for the first time, not in a clichéd, I finally heard the words to the song, it's so meaningful! sorta way. Nah. Something hazier, less formed. In the kind of way where it feels like your HAIR is listening to the song or the kind of way that you look at someone you've known for a while and you realize that you love them deeply and it's so startling because you had no control over it. It just happened when you weren't looking.

Took me a song or two before I got up. Can't You Hear Me Knocking was ending. He was still working on the dishes. He might've said our dishwashing mantra, which is "Next place we live in HAS to have a dishwasher," but he didn't. Perhaps he thought it. I put my arms around him for a bit, and then I helped dry.

Song to seek:

Sway/The Rolling Stones (mp3)

Buy Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones.

Love, D

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I have only one request of your life

Dear friends,

It happened every single time the commercial aired and That Song would play. My head would tilt a little to the side. My mouth would open slightly. Then I'd look at J and he'd look at me.

Sample conversation:

D: Oh my God. That song. Is killing me.

J: It's excruciating.

D: It's like every single tooth in my head is being pulled. In slow motion.

J: It sounds like she's dying.

D: I'm dying.

J: Who is that?

D: Dusty? Karen Carpenter?


It's like Dusty on Quaaludes. Or Karen...right before the end, low on potassium and just barely holding on.

J: (Side glance)

D: I know. This song isn't helping.

* * *

The above conversational snippet is a TOTAL FABRICATION*. Well...not total. That song does kill me. Every time that diamond necklace commercial commences and those strings start a'trembling, I fear for my sanity. It used to play all the time and it got so bad that it became outright comedy. I'd suddenly turn to J in the middle of conversations and start singing "What are you doooo-ing the reeeeeeest of your liiiiiiiiife?" and then dissolve into nervous laughter. The kind of laughter inspired by cemeteries.

But seriously, there's something so terrifying about the lugubrious, record at the wrong speed quality of the vocal that that very line, "What are you doing for the rest of your life?" becomes a torture threat. I don't think this is what the singer wanted. She merely wants to suggest, somewhat lethargically, that you stay with her forever. So what went wrong? Why does it sound like the prelude to something very bad indeed?

You be the judge.

Dusty Springfield and her eyeliner give you the look of love.

Song to seek (at your own peril):

What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?/Dusty Springfield (YST link)

Buy Dusty Springfield's Dusty in London.

* * *

What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?/Dusty Springfield

Buy Dusty in London on Amazon MP3

* * *

It was Dusty after all. I'm not familiar with Dusty in London. But I will be. I purchased the album. I had to. I'm a musical masochist.

Actual sample conversation:

(J sits on the couch, D comes out of kitchen, dish in hand.)

D: Yeah, so I told him...

(Commercial starts. Song plays. D stops talking. D and J stare at the screen.)

D: Oh my God. That song.

J: Yup.

Love, D

*In fact, J would like me to stress to you, O reader, that he would never, ever use the word "excruciating" in conversation.

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Makes the fire, makes the ash

Dear friends,

1. It's taken me over a year but I finally started really listening to Diane Cluck's cd Countless Times. My favorite track on it, A Phoenix & Doves, starts with her familiar, clangy, almost clumsy strum, then gets hijacked by that voice. Recently, I read a description of Cluck's vocals being similar to Joanna Newsom, an easy comparison but an incorrect one. Newsom's voice, all rising chirps, is a little jarring at first, this we know. She uses it primarily to get her words across. Every. Word. Pings. Through. Cluck's voice is a more versatile thing; an almost painful, clarion sound that can just as easily go dark. Its malleability is never more evident than in this song when she sings the chorus line about "A phoenix & doves fly out in the morning." The line itself is all folk soprano prettiness; small panels of color. But the line is followed by an extended "Ah ah oh" vocalization that traditionally, should sound like what came before it; bright and lovely. Instead she goes up, then down, and ends it with one long vibrato-less sustain that comes off like weary sigh. I don't know why that limp resignation gets me. It such a small moment in the song, it only happens twice. And each time I hear it, I feel like I've been folded into that feeling.

Song to seek:

A Phoenix & Doves/Diane Cluck (YST link)

Buy Diane Cluck's Countless Times.

2. I realize I kinda left you hanging on the last post. What, no Ella and Louis download? Fine, fine, here's a little slice of pretty. Don't be scared by Louis and his intro horn, wait for Ella.

Song to seek:

Summertime/Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (YST link)

Buy Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's Porgy and Bess.

3. It's a fact! When I saw the title of the new A Sunny Day in Glasgow song, Watery (Drowning is Just Another Word for Being Buried Alive Under Water,) I was a little terrified. The images it brings up aren't exactly soothing. The sound, of course, is the natural progression of ASDIG's mermaids doing 4AD indie. The Daniels sisters' voices join and swirl around one another, siren-like, beckoning the listener to join them in the water. Deep inside, you know what your fate will be, but why resist when it sounds so lovely? So you fall in the reverb and go under.

Song to seek:

Watery (Drowning is Just Another Word for Being Buried Alive Under Water)/A Sunny Day in Glasgow (YST link)

Pre-order A Sunny Day in Glasgow's Scribble Mural Comic Journal.

Ahem, and come see A Sunny Day in Glasgow live at The Delancey on Saturday, February 17.

Love, D

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And make. me. sigh.

Dear friends,

Work continues to slay me so go here instead:

1. Idolator (whose Jackin' Pop poll includes our very own Contributor Mike. Yay!) posted about one of my very favorite b-sides, What Institution Are You From? by Helium. Go download it!

Flashback! A long time ago, at one of their shows, Ash Bowie started up that bass line, really disco-in' that shit up by sliding up and down the bass neck, and I let out a giant fist pumping hollering "YEAH!" I was THE. ONLY. ONE. Cue crickets AND tumbleweeds. Clearly, no one had purchased the Superball single. Anywho, I was so blissed out that I decided to ignore the amused looks of the Boston hipsterati and simply boogie.

2. The Crackers United crew are at it again with Friction on Saturday 1/13 at Sin-e. I've seen and loved (loved and seen?) most of the bands on the bill and the one I haven't seen before, Relay, I'm WAY curious about. Check it out!

3. Ella Fitzgerald has a stamp now. I grew up worshipping her songbooks. And really, if you were the singalong type, wouldn't you?

Summertime (Live)/Ella Fitzgerald

This is a wonderfully controlled version of the song. Much slower and less smooth than the version on the Porgy and Bess album she did with Louis Armstrong*. She makes it look and sound SO EASY but if you try to sing along, watch how your voice can't possibly sustain and wilts away while she keeps going strong.

Love, D

* Which of course, makes PERFECT sense. Fitzgerald, ever the stylist, would complement Armstrong's signature croak by crooning in the most velvety manner possible. The texture contrast worked for them, rather than against. For proof, try and find their version of Stars Fell on Alabama. Lovely.

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Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu

Hey yo hey, dudes.

Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu! or "Please put up with me this year as well!"

Happy New Year from the frozen inaka! New Year has come and gone. Stacks of rotund smooth gelatinous rice cakes topped with a single bright orange mikan are displayed in every shop window. My brats are rolling in wealth from being spoiled by relatives. Red seafood like crab, lobster and sea bream can hardly be kept on the fishmonger's block.

I long for fried cheese.

It's so cold now that when I wake up in the morning I can see my breath. Suddenly the heated toilet seats make sense. I'd forgotten to turn my seat heater on when I got home and I was unkindly reminded. Japanese homes are not heated centrally except in Hokkaido. I have three portable electric heaters, a ratty eletric blanket and many layers of warm clothes to get me through the brutal winter. As I am secluded to the one room I bother to heat, I like to burrow underneath my blankets and relax with some genmai-cha and pretty music.

Lately on the roster has been MIA DOI TODD'S "What if We Do?" because her voice is more like an aroma and this song is a tempting invite, somehow both casually and elegantly offered.

I wish I could tell you the name of the next song constantly played on my IPod of late but I can't read Korean. Here's what the CD came up with:

"봄봄 Ul 3523"

All I can tell you is the singer's name is KIM JUNG MI and the album is called NOW. I'd never heard anything from Korea except pop and hip-hop so it was refreshing to hear some psychedelic 70's folk rock from the land that gave us kimchee. The recording If you're curious at all, e-mail me and I can send you the track. It's lovely.

Directly after this track, I like to play "Aqueous Transmissions" by INCUBUS. Thank you, Incubus. I don't even know what Brandon Boyd is singing about, I'm too caught up by the Mulan charm of the shamisen, Chinese violin and flute arrangement.

Speaking of pretty, MAAYA SAKAMOTO'S string of solo albums never really interested me even though I devoured most of her faithful collaboration work with the anime powerhouse composer YOKO KANNO. Sakamoto recently released an album with some English tracks called "Shonen Alice". Two of the songs therein were on constant replay on my Ipod not long ago. "Chibikko Folk" and "Kingfisher Girl". The latter is sung in English and is either sappy or gorgeous depending on who you are. When I hear it, I think of many things fanciful. Like old faded Russian cartoons, fairy tales or stained glass. Sakamoto's voice is sweet and uncomplicated and though it is somewhat evident that English isn't her native language, the melodic arrangement makes up for it. Yes, this song probably belongs on an anime soundtrack but hey, that's always been Maya's bread and butter and my old pastime.

At any rate, it's a song I'd one day like to sing to my kids.

If I ever got confident with Spanish, I'd also learn to sing MECANO'S "Hijo de la Luna". Beautiful, haunting. The original version is fine by me but BELLE PEREZ has done a completely acoustic version which I find even more intriguing. The song is actually a bloody waltz between a scheming moon and a foolish dark gypsy. I can't listen to this song without seeing the story. It's one of those.

I first fell for MATTHEW SWEET because his video for "Girlfriend" featured an ancient anime from the 80's, back when anime was still something you had to dig for. I always considered that song my favorite but then I found "Devil with the Green Eyes".

I've always been a fan of songs written like childhood flashbacks. NIZLOPI'S "JCB Song" reminds me faintly of GLEN PHILLIPS' "Drive By" only Nizlopi is a Brit dude recording from his bedroom. This lyric makes me ache to be a lad with a dad who knew what to say to lads.

"I'm Luke, I'm five and my Dad's Bruce Lee"

RHETT MILLER'S old band the OLD 97's did a great song called "Designs on You" which I play when I miss my sister. Oh yeah, if you haven't heard A PERFECT CIRCLE'S acoustic version of "Three Libras", it's way more haunting, creepy and beautful than the album version ever managed in my opinion.


What if We Do?/Mia Doi Todd

봄봄 Ul 3523/Kim Jung Mi

Aqueous Transmissions/Incubus

Chibbiko Folk/Maaya Sakamoto Kingfisher Girl/Maaya Sakamoto

Hijo de la Luna/Belle Perez

Devil with the Green Eyes/Matthew Sweet

JCB Song/Nizlopi

Drive By/Glenn Phillips

Designs on You (acoustic)/Old 97

Three Libras (acoustic)/A Perfect Circle

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The easy nights and simple joys, all right

Dear friends,

Going through what is known as a "transitional period" at work so I've been busier than beavers and will probably be scarce for a bit. Thanks to a tip from another proud obsessive, I just got tickets to see Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks at Maxwell's. Yes, it's a trek but SM-fandom-justifyin' aside, I'm also way, WAY curious about Malk's new drummer, some lady named Janet. As some of you know, she's just a little bit talented.

A slice of joust rock for your Wednesday viewing pleasure...

It Kills (Live @ Bonnaroo)/Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks

And this is just plain crackers but I love it...

Mama/Malediction (Acappella in an elevator)/Stephen Malkmus

Oh apparently these folks also sold some tickets today.

Love, D

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If You Wanna Dance With Me

Hello, party animals! I am hosting a new monthly 1960s dance party at The Delancey starting January 23rd. If you are so inclined, please repost:

HOT ROCKS is a new monthly 1960s-themed dance party at The Delancey that features DJs spinning a mix of obscure and popular surf, garage, and British Invasion rock by bands including the Rolling Stones, Sonics, Kinks, Dick Dale, MC5, Al Casey, The Who, Animals, Chuck Berry, Zombies, Del Shannon, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Velvet Underground, Buddy Holly, Ronettes, Nancy Sinatra, Tremeloes, Crystals, Beatles, David Bowie, Beach Boys, Turtles, Yardbirds, Shocking Blue, Donovan, Herman's Hermits, and more. The purpose of HOT ROCKS is to offer partygoers the opportunity to hang out/rock out to good old-fashioned dance tunes from a musical time period oft-overlooked in NYC nightlife.

The inaugural event will take place in The Delancey’s basement space on Tuesday, January 23rd, beginning at 8pm. The Delancey is located at 168 Delancey St. (between Clinton and Attorney; take the J train to Essex St. or F train to Delancey St.), NY, NY (212-254-9920). Admission is $3. 21+. Drink specials throughout the night. There may even be a lava lamp! 1960s attire encouraged, but not required.

Add us as your friend on MySpace or feel free to email me with questions. Hang ten, dude.

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Like phone calls and screaming

Dear friends,

1. Yes, like everyone else in this freakin' city, I tried to get tickets to see The Arcade Fire, or The Fiah, as I've taken to calling them lately. No go. Oh well.

2. On the bright side, I Love New York premieres on Monday! Hell to the yeah, I'll be watching that shiz! Don't even play, you know Tiffany Patterson is HILARIOUS! She is completely deluded but also marvelously trenchant, and occasionally says the kind of thing that you snicker about on the inside but would never dare to say out loud. HBIC indeed!

3. Bell is playing this Saturday, January 6th at the Sidewalk cafe at 9PM for FREE. If you missed Olga and Co. at Neon Lights (tsk, tsk) try and catch them then. You will thank me.

Clementine (Live at Neon Lights)/Bell (YST link)*

I wasn't going to post this track on the grounds that it's sad as hell. Not sad like your dog got run over but sad like a gray day, can't break out of this, could be a Sunday sorta way. Olga Bell's voice falls around her words with a crumpled capitulation and you can picture the protagonist of this song waving a little white flag from under the covers. Still, despite the mope, there's an undeniable bit of hope at the end thanks to a sudden burst of vocal confidence. It floats there with the organ hum for a moment before the hush descends again.

4. Ahem, speaking of Neon Lights, all of you folks who missed out on Arcade Fire tickets for Saturday, February 17th, come hang out with us at The Delancey instead. It's gonna be hellzapoppin' with goodness courtesy of A Sunny Day in Glasgow (who have a new full length cd coming out,) the fierce DJ skills of Cindy Hotpoint and Pinkie von Bloom of The Rich Girls are Weeping and much, much more. Save the date!

Love, D

* Courtesy of the fantabulous Ryan Ryspace. Thank you kind sir!

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And type my brains away

Dear friends,

1. Because you know I think I neglected to mention to you that I was going to accompany J to visit his folks in Florida, then going on a three day vacation to Mexico...oops! Sorry about that! No internet for us on la isla. I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah and New Year's Eve and didn't spend the latter up in the air with a bunch of disgruntled, stale-smelling passengers like we did.* But that's another entry and not really meant for Soft Communication. We like to keep things gruntle-free around here.

2. Because pictures say a...blah di blah di blah.

El Castillo, Chichen Itza

Sadly, my planned sacrifice of The Monkey was foiled by the new anti-climbing rules. We hope to re-schedule it at the still-climbable pyramids in Coba, perhaps in 2012.

Temple of the Jaguar at Chichen Itza

Mayan kitty detail.

Iguana chillin' at Chichen Itza.

An unexpected, to me at least, accent to the surroundings.

Sculpture en route to Ixchel temple ruins.

View from the stairs on the south point of Isla Mujeres

These stairs were right below the hurricane ravaged vestiges of the temple to Ixchel, Mayan goddess of the moon and the sea. My favorite sitting spot with my favorite travelling companion.

Sunset on Playa Norte

I loves me a beach scene.

3. Because a week or so prior to leaving, I started listening to a song sent to me by a friend ON REPEAT and it became the official 'December + Neon Lights + Xmas Dinner for 6 + Packing for a trip will make you INSANE' song. Inca Rag/Name Game by The Fiery Furnaces is something of an avant garde musical medley. Inca Rag being the jaunty travelogue duet (Hey! I'm sure there are other ones. Can you think of any examples, O Contributor Tavie?) and Name Game being the light "rocking" number. The guitar in it has real bite but the song itself can't help but be somewhat gentle, probably thanks to Eleanor Friedberger, she of the pleasant mid-range, with her singing-at-you-from-the-other-seat-at-the-library sort of delivery.

NB: I know little about the Furnaces and if you are the kind of person that relies on FACTS rather than FEEL, then proceed at your own risk since all I have to go on are my usual whimsical impressions based on the album selections I've heard. We cool? Super.

The songs of The Fiery Furnaces, especially a number like Inca Rag/Name Game, strike me as being nearest to the spirit of J.D. Salinger's Glass family stories, with their peculiar precocious siblings and obsessive detail, than any other intentional, overt homage out there. Say, for example, the tidy eccentricity of Wes Anderson's Tenenbaums. Let me make it plain that I don't think this is what the Friedberger's intend with their music; I don't believe they are actively attempting to be the Franny and Zooey of indie rock or emulate anyone AT ALL. It's just that their albums suggest this world of ferocious and rarified sibling creativity and the work that is born from that insularity is presented with SUCH authority that I can't imagine how you could NOT be floored by their efforts. And if not floored, then at least perplexed and left with the unsettling feeling that it's not the music that's at fault, it's just that you are simply too unimaginative to go along with it. This might be why they aren't more popular. People like easy comfort.

Song to seek:

Inca Rag/Name Game/The Fiery Furnaces (YST link)**

Buy Gallowsbird's Bark by The Fiery Furnaces.

Love, D

* Do yourself a favor and don't fly on American Airlines. EVER.

** Thanks M.P.

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