Best Album of All Time: Third Eye Blind’s Self-Titled Album – These songs made me.

Sometimes, you just want to talk about a thing.  This is one of those times.  I just want to talk about my love of this one album.  Third Eye Blind’s first album, self-titled, released in early 1997.  I feel like I literally became an adult while this album was on repeat.

Back in the day, before iPods and iPhones and other various forms of MP3 music, we had CDs.  And we carried around a Sony Discman.  And it said it had anti-skip technology, but that was a damn dirty lie!  But I digress.  My point is, I didn’t own any CDs that I could listen to straight through without hitting the “next track” button… except one.  You guessed it.  Third Eye Blind’s self-titled album.

This was one of those CDs that I could put into my anti skip sony diskman portable CD player on repeat for days and days on end.  Sure, I had my favorites, but each song struck a nerve with me at some time or another, and every song’s lyrics still live in my mind and heart to this day.

I was young… puberty was a bitch, my parents had divorced, I hated my stepdad and my mom just had a baby.  Life was less than appealing in those days.  So, I spent a lot of time listening to music, feeling ways about stuff, and just generally being a melancholy, apathetic, aloof, angsty teen.  This album seemed to somehow put me back together when I was in pieces, sooth my life anxieties, yet it also has that edge to it that would metaphorically scream, “fuck yeah!  I’d be mad too!  parents suck!” just when I needed it.  What follows here is a track list of the only album that I love 100%, and sort of a brief ode to each song.

Losing a Whole Year – The resounding first line of this album: “And I remember you and me used to spend the whole god damned day in bed”… one of my favorite lyrics to scream at the top of my lungs!  This song had an upbeat riff to it, even though the lyrics were decidedly your standard alternative fare.

Narcolepsy – “I can feel this narcolepsy slide into another nightmare.” This song is a good for teen angst.  “There’s a demon in my head that starts to play a nightmare tape loop of what went wrong yesterday, and I hold my breath til it’s more than I can take, and I close my eyes and dream that I’m awake.”  Incidentally, I can remember thinking it was ironic that both track 1 and 2 have to do with sleeping or losing sleep or being in bed because I listened to this a lot through my headphones when it was my turn to do my brother’s midnight feedings when he was a baby.

Semi-Charmed Life – Here it is, the quintessential song that people bought the CD for.  A great song that, for me, has continued to be a good listening experience.  It’s one of those songs that most people my age just have to sing along to.  “I want something else to get me through this semi-charmed kind of life…” unknown to me at the time, the song is about drugs.  I was an innocent child and when I think back to that innocent nerd kid singing these lyrics and not knowing what I was saying, I have to laugh.  The part where he says, “and the four right chords can make me cry” is another favorite line of mine.  So true.

Jumper – “I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend; you could cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in.”  This song was kind of a sleeper hit.  A long time after the album came out, after I already knew all the words to every song on it, they started playing Jumper on the radio.  Odd timing, but it was cool with me.  Then they overplayed it, like the radio ALWAYS does, so it was a little jaded for a while.  It’s really a great song though.  I knew a pathological liar in high school who was really a good guy deep down inside, but he literally kept everyone at arm’s length because he was such a liar.  I always think of him when I hear this song… I wonder where he is these days.

Graduate – One of the harder songs on the album, this one feels good when being a standard angry teen or reckless teen or just plain feeling like you’re not moving forward in life.  Awesome guitar riffs here, and the raw almost-yelling vocals hit the right spot every time for the times I wanted to just fucking throw something, but didn’t because I didn’t want my mom to be mad at me.  :/

How’s it Going to Be – The third and final “top 40” from this list, this is another song that the radio ran into the ground for a while.  But what an awesome song.  I had lots of breakups with this song as the soundtrack, and for that matter, I had several ruptured friendships and other teen drama bullshit that went along well with this song.

Thanks a Lot – A little more of a punk beat to it, but it’s not too hard.  “I woke you up and I slit the throat of your confidence”… man it’s hard to beat lyrics like that.  This song drips sarcasm and I just love it.

Burning Man – This one is a neat song, with a cute and catchy riff that has always reminded me a little of a Sugar Ray song.  It’s not that it’s so unlike the other songs on this album, but it does have it’s own distinct rhythm.

Good for You – “All I wanna do is be there for the things that you’re going through…” With it’s underlying sexual references and slightly shallow lyrics, if I had to cut a song on the album, I suppose this would be it.  But to be honest, I still love it.  It’s still a good song.  It’s just that there’s nothing particularly memorable or specifically awesome about it.  But it’s solid.

London – Love this one.  This one has plenty of emotions running through it, from “I don’t wanna go to London” to “I wanna get my hands on you” and “I know just what’s on your mind”, and even “we’re no good for each other”.  This song reminds me of some friends I had in school that were FWB and it ended up ripping their hearts out over and over and over again.  I always thought the whole FWB thing was overrated, personally.

I Want You – Another fave.  This one just feels right, when you’re at the dance, and you see the person you think is just the shit standing across the room, this song comes floating through your mind.  “You do, you do, you do… you make me want you.  I can’t get enough.” It’s a very nice love/lust song that’s not at all sappy or jaded.  I still love it.

…and so we come to the last 3 tracks on this album, which are, collectively, quite possibly my favorite songs ever.  (EVER?  Yes.  Perhaps.)

The Background – I shed a lot of tears to this song.  Ohhhh the feels.  “Everything is quiet since you’re not around.  I live in the numbness now, in the background… the plans I make still have you in them”.  I felt this way about several friends and relatives that I lost over the years.  This is really, truly, completely, such a great song.

Motorcycle Drive By – “And there’s this burning, like there’s always been.  I’ve never been so alone, and I’ve never been so alive.”  “There’s things I would like to do that you don’t believe in.  I would like to build something, but you never see it happen.”  These lyrics sit right with me, as I’ve always been a loner and although there are a ton of people in my life that I love, there’s always this burning to do the things that I want to do, but others don’t believe in it.  “I go home to the coast, it starts to rain, I paddle out on the water alone.  I taste the salt and taste the pain but I’m not thinking of you again.”

God of Wine – This song is in my top 10 list of favorite songs of all time.  It is absolutely woven into my soul.  “I walk home alone with you and the mood you’re born into.  Sometimes you let me in, and I take it on the chin.”  “She takes a drink and then she waits, the alcohol it permeates, and soon the cells give way; it cancels out the day.”  I just can’t get enough of this song.

I really hope you enjoyed this sick sad inner monologue about how awesome I think this album is, even though I’m pretty sure it was just another alt rock 90’s album to most people.  Check out some of the songs and let me know what you think!  Alternatively (ha pun), if you have an album that you listen to all the way through without skipping tracks, I wanna know!

-T. Ham

the definitive melancholy playlist

you notice how this is all in lower case and there’s no capital letters?  even the title.  that’s meant to represent my mood.  is it working?  it’s actually really bothering me because i’m kind of a grammar nazi.  i’m going to stop now.

Anyway, yes, it’s fair to say that I’ve been feeling quite melancholy lately.  You might even say I’ve been a little depressed, sad, whatever.  It’s not hormones, for Christ’s sake I’m almost 30.  No, there’s nothing actually WRONG, I’m just sad and I don’t know why.  Actually it’s not even that I feel sad, sometimes it’s more like I just feel… nothing.  Things I used to enjoy are boring to me.  I can’t make up my mind about anything and I just feel so fucking blahhhhhhhhhh.  But that’s not what this blog is about.  Feelings and shit.  Nope, it’s about solid pop culture awesomeness.

So, here’s an absolutely amazing playlist for you.  You could call it a melancholy playlist.  You could call it a depression playlist.  You could call it a sad playlist.  You could even call it a curl-into-the-fetal-position-and-rock-back-and-forth playlist.  It’s good medicine if you feel like shit and you don’t know why.  It’s gotten me through some feels, and I hope it gets you through some feels too.

Bon Iver – Beth/Rest
Jose Gonzalez – Cycling Trivialities
M83 – Wait
The Smiths – Asleep
Band of Horses – Detlef Schrempf
Michael Andrews & Gary Jules – Mad World
Something Corporate – Globes and Maps
Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky
The Weepies – World Spins Madly On
The Weakerthans – Left and Leaving
Third Eye Blind – Background
Third Eye Blind – God of Wine
Third Eye Blind – Motorcycle Driveby
Matchbox Twenty – Hang
Coldplay – Lost?
Coldplay – The Scientist
Hotel Lights – Miles Behind Me
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – Broadripple is Burning
The Decemberists – On the Bus Mall
BT – Satellite
Matt Nathanson – Bulletproof Weeks
Counting Crows – Colorblind
Duncan Sheik – Requiescat
Ben Folds – Picture Window
Breaking Benjamin – Rain
Rob Thomas – Now Comes the Night

I would love to add to my list of melancholy songs that get me through random weird sadnesses…  please tell me what music you listen to while you cry in the dark so no one can see you!

Vintage Video Games – a new hobby!

I have an odd relationship with video games.  Sometimes I will get into a habit of playing a specific game almost obsessively, and then I will move on with my life and not touch a controller for months.  For years, I’ve been afraid to admit that I’m a gamer; some of my more social endeavors have taught me that most of my contemporaries are of the opinion that the only people who play video games are virgins who live in their parents’ basements.

I just don’t believe that’s true.  For me, it’s the simple activity of having something that stimulates my brain.  I play video games when I get bored to tears of television (which is too often).  That’s not to say that I never watch TV… I have certain TV shows that I enjoy, but as for the standard mind-numbing ignorance and staged reality shows, I hate them.  What’s worse; they rot my brain.  My little brain is almost always begging for something to poke at.  TV is just not interactive enough for me.

So, I’ve started playing even more games, rather than watching TV.  Puzzle games, social games, or just fun shoot ’em ups.  As a result, I started missing the “old school” video games… namely The Legend of Zelda for Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).  Dug it outta the attic, picked up right where I left off.  It had been nagging at me for years because I never did beat that game…

Aside from seeing all my old games on a 60″ plasma screen, it all feels very nostalgic.  Fun, but not what I was hoping for in terms of something that would keep my brain entertained after work and in between social events.  A quick foray onto eBay blew my mind… these SNES games are actually being sold for money.  Some of them are going for BIG money.

If you’re not aware that retro gaming is making a comeback, then you’ll be just as surprised as I was to discover that there are SNES games going for over $200… and these aren’t mint-condition, in the box kind of auctions.  This is simply a hunk of gray plastic with a 16-bit game stored in it.  Crazy!  Well, you know my general opinion of things when shopping… if it’s expensive, that must mean it kicks ass, right?!?  Naturally, I suddenly crave these $200 SNES games that I’ve never heard of.  Oi vey.

So, as of late, I’ve been seeking out things such as garage sales and flea markets for the first time in my life.  Very interesting places… such an interesting combination of complete shit, interesting things, and random produce (yeah… produce… I said fucking produce.  Who buys their produce from a flea market?  I wouldn’t put anything from that place into my mouth… Sorry).  It’s been a fun and adventurous new hobby so far.  I’ve met many people that completely embody the typical “gamer” (by which I mean complete losers) but I’ve also met some neat people who are, like me, (almost) normal.

So, if you want to go rooting around in your attic or basement and pull out some old SNES games, keep me in mind!  I’m really enjoying collecting them, playing them, and trading them.  Maybe you will too!

Marvel Studios… you’ve come a long way, baby!

I think Disney executives are MARVEL-ing at the box offices numbers of their newest SMASH hit, The Avengers.  Puns aside, what follows is my full review – well, no.  More like an analysis really.  There are spoilers here.  Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.  I will discuss the film in detail, including the plot, the ending, etc.  I don’t know how else I can say that I’d really rather you NOT read this if you haven’t seen the film.

Let me start by saying I’m biased.  Although you know I’m a pop culture nerd, I’ve wasn’t a comic book nerd until 2010, when Iron Man 2 came out.  I have seen the X-Men movies, I’ve seen SpiderMan, I like all these movies.  They’re great!  A lot of fun and I love a good action movie.  The Batman movies are great, too!  I’ve loved every Batman iteration to date, even the crappy ones.  That being said, I was still not really particularly overwhelmed by any comic book movie.  Even though Christopher Nolan’s Batman series is great, they don’t feel like comic book movies… they just feel like good action movies.  They never feel like superhero flicks to me.  So anyway, in 2010, my younger brother wanted to go see Iron Man 2, and that’s when it occurred to me that I had never seen the first Iron Man.  This is an issue for me because I’m not the type to walk blindly into any sequel.  Therefore, I watched Iron Man on DVD at home, just so that I could go with my brother to see its sequel.  I wasn’t expecting much; great action, a good time, and I’m always up for Robert Downey Jr. flick.

BAM!  By the time I was done watching that movie, I was not only a full-fledged fan, but I had gained a new respect for Marvel as a whole.  To me, this movie had taken so many things to a whole new level and I was surprised and amazed by how captivated I was by it.  To me, that’s when it was clear that this new era of Marvel movies has done something right.

Movies based on comic books have come a long way since the early days.  It seems like moviemakers are never sure which way to take it: do they stick to the comics and offer up a completely sci-fi adventure of mad-scientist villains and protagonists with x-ray vision?  Or do they “modernize” it and bring it down to earth, creating more believable plots and story lines so that it appeals to a broader audience?  Christopher Nolan’s Batman films took a gritty, crime-drama style approach and made a believable plot with a flawed and human hero and villains who are eccentric, but don’t possess any supernatural talents.  And it did appeal to a broader audience – The Dark Knight raked in tons of cash and made new Batman fans in droves.  I was happy for the pop culture atmosphere as a whole that comic book fans had a series that was worth their money.

For me, Marvel’s previous movie attempts have been somewhat lackluster.  You look at all the movies they’ve made, and there are some that stand out: Spiderman was fun, the X Men movies are always a good time… but there are all these others that were just so dull!  It seems like many of their films suffered from horrible writing, bad pacing or editing, too small of a budget, or all of the above.  I’m talking about movies like The Punisher.  Come on, John Travolta was in it and it still sank like a stone.  I love The Punisher’s story line and character arc, but this movie flops like a fish on the dock.  How is this not a fantastic movie??

Those days are gone for Marvel now, though.  Ramping up to a fever pitch since 2008, Marvel has been putting together an intricate puzzle, leaving even moderate fans salivating in anticipation.  For over 4 years, they’ve been building up to The Avengers.  I was so excited to see it, I could barely sleep on Wednesday night.

Thursday night’s midnight showing was PACKED at my local theater of choice, and there were all kinds of people there.  College and high school aged kids, adults, and much to my surprise, many people from the 45+ crowd.  I was losing my cool standing in line to be seated in the theater.  I wasn’t the only one in anticipation.  Many of us chatted as we stood anxiously in line.  I spoke to an older gentleman who said that he’d been waiting for this movie since he was a kid.  A KID!  It was only then that I realized… some of us have been waiting since 2008, but other comic book fans have been waiting for this day since the 1960’s.  And that just blows my mind.

To top it off, I started thinking about what an enormously huge task Marvel was undertaking by producing a movie of this magnitude.  Think of all the people that they must please with this: hardcore fans from every single generation, moderate fans who just like a good action flick, fanboys of one specific hero, and people who were dragged along with the crowd of their friends or who will wander into the theater just to see what all the fuss is about.  There were people from every walk of life standing in line with me at a midnight showing, which is usually reserved for super nerds and bloggers who want to get their movie review out first.  This was a crowd of people who had expectations and hopes for this movie, and they…. WE have been waiting a long time.

THE ANALYSIS:

Not too far into the movie, there’s an exchange between Captain America and SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson that tells you, up front with no strings attached, what you can expect from this film.  Steve Rogers is worried about his place in this fight against Loki, and is hoping that he’s the right man for the job.  He laments briefly about his “stars and stripes” uniform being “a little old fashioned”.  Agent Coulson shakes his head calmly in reply: “With everything that’s happened… all that’s about to come to light… I think everybody could use a little old fashioned.”  This is nice, because it’s almost as if the movie is stepping outside of itself to tell you: this is going to be an old fashioned comic book movie with superheroes.  Just sit back and relax and just have an old fashioned good time, like people used to do at the movies before there was such overbearing critics, and a demand to stick to some word-for-word plotline with a believable story and award-winning cinematography… just have a good time.  This is just an old fashioned good time.  And for me, it was.  And… it FELT like a comic book movie.  It’s a superhero movie, finally, and I was thrilled about it!

I keep hearing people say that the movie starts a little slow, I think that’s a necessary evil.  If the beginning wasn’t so slow, people would be complaining that there was little to no story development.  The first act isn’t dull; it’s just that the people in the theater know in the back of their mind what is coming and they’re anxious to get to it.

Joss Whedon does a good job of weaving the character’s stories together in a way that feels as if they each have their own things going on, which is stupid to say because, to fans of the franchise, we know that they DO each have their own things going on, but there are the fringe people who may have only seen one or two of the previous movies, or maybe none, so it’s important for them to see the “assembling” of the team, and how each of them have their own characterizations, inner battles and story arcs going on (it’s also a suave marketing move; I know people who left the theater saying they wanted to see one of the other Marvel movies because they enjoyed the corresponding character in The Avengers).

The acting, as expected, was absolutely spot on.  For me, the big surprise here was Mark Ruffalo.  How many times can they recast the big green guy?  I guess I just wasn’t expecting much in terms of character development… but Mark Ruffalo has a way of telling Bruce Banner’s story without saying a word.  Everything about him in this movie was perfect and dead-on.  I always expect greatness from Downey, Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson, and I knew what an awesome performance Evans and Hemsworth would bring.  But it was Ruffalo that blew my mind.  How many times CAN they recast the big green guy?  I hope they don’t recast him again for a very very long time.

We all left the theater knowing two things:  1) this is the start of some amazing movies from Marvel and 2) we’d all just witnessed history.  I think this Marvel lineup of movies will hold up as a pop-culture classic, right next to Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Here’s to Marvel ushering in a new age of superhero movies that just FEEL right.

Random Music I Love – M83 “Intro”

I was surfing WordPress this week and stumbled upon an amazing blog that I have no shame plugging here. It’s called The Last Song I Heard, and it seems to be one man’s musical life journey, written down into neat little journal-esque blog posts for his son to read later. Great idea, great blog.

To pull from that idea, I decided to jot down a few random songs that I love, that I think are worthy of a blog post.  I realized through his blog that journaling via music is a great way to capture moods, feelings, memories and a portion of one’s life that may never come back.

I’ve decided to start with the first song from M83’s “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming” album (which is amazing, in my opinion) titled simply “Intro”.  The song features Zola Jesus, who has sort of an ethereal voice that fits very well with the wispy/dramatic/chord driven music that M83 are known for.

“Intro” starts quietly and slowly builds, feeling VERY nostalgic with the band’s typical heavy synths, rolling eventually into a full-scale assault on your emotions.  It’s hard to listen to the song and not feel some emotion, but the weird thing is that the emotions felt are shapeshifters.  Sometimes when I hear it, I’m reflective and can’t shake my first heart break, other times I feel uplifted and inspired, like I could conquer the world using only my thumb.  But mostly I feel better about things.  It’s the kind of song that seems to say, ‘no matter where you are in your life, or what you’re doing, no matter what goals you’ve met or haven’t met, it’s okay…you’re okay, and you’re right where you’re supposed to be.”

Like many of M83’s songs, it starts with a low sound that can be described as little more that noise, the noise builds to synth chords, then a child whispering.  It’s impossible to understand all the lyrics – and sometimes I think maybe that’s what M83 is going for.  It doesn’t bother me, because it ends up being akin to the musical version of a Rorschach painting – you hear bits and pieces, and your brain fills in the rest with what you want (or subconsciously need) to hear.

I have no idea what M83’s intent with the lyrics are.  I can’t even decipher most of them.  But I think that, for me at least, the uplifting part of the song is the one repeating lyric that I can certainly understand: carry on the song tells me.  We all are one I hear at another point.  The human race as a whole must carry on, work together.  The beat and chords push me onward in a weird way, most notably when Zola Jesus starts singing and there’s a bass drum backbeat that feels not unlike my heartbeat.

Before you know it, the song bursts into a full orchestral and choral production, with no real lyrics, and forces my brain into recollection overdrive.  I start thinking about everything in my life I’ve ever done wrong, and how I wish I could go back.  Mixed with those memories are flashes of all the really good, warm feelings I’ve ever had, the times I helped someone, the times I laughed so hard my face hurt, the times I’ve been truly moved by something or someone.  Pain and guilt transcends to warmth, love, joy and finally when I get to the point that I think my heart might explode from all the emotion, it stops.  Almost as quickly as it started, my brain just stops.  Because the music has stopped… we’re back to a chorded drone sound now, and the synapses in my brain are still smoking from the fire, pieces of old memories still glowing from the inferno.

This is typically the part where I take a deep breath and look around.

Carry on…

Netflix… It’s a Love/Hate Relationship

I have been a Netflex customer for several years. I don’t know that there’s any better service to be had for only $8.99 per month. When Netflix’s infamous rate hike tossed their customers far and wide, I left with the masses. Their streaming selection had been dwindling and I was rarely using the mail service anymore. So the increased rate seemed like too much to pay for a service that I was feeling sort of ‘meh’ about.

My life without Netflix was, as you might expect, better in some ways and worse in some ways. But no matter what, the thing that stuck out in my mind is that when I wanted to watch something specific, I yearned for Netflix.

I rejoined Netflix and agreed to pay only for streaming, and have been trying my best to convince myself that I should just get rid of the dish and put all my eggs in the Netflix basket. If I want to be entertained by my television, I would either be watching Netflix, playing Xbox or making a purchase on the Apple TV. But I just can’t get myself to cancel the regular TV programming. There’s a weird reason for this that I will get back to…

But what I’ve come to realize about the available selection on Netflix Instant is this: there are tons of TV shows. Great ones even! But some of them don’t have all the seasons. Why? I think that their service would be FAR more valuable, and make FAR more money, if they would just completely convert to an instant service for TV shows. I know people will say “but that’s the same as DVR/TiVo” but it’s not. It’s not the same because Netflix offers these TV shows without commercials. No crap to fast-forward past. Also, it’s not the same because the selection is larger than what my DVR would ever hold, meaning that I can watch an episode or two of a show, decide if I like it, and move on with my life. It’ll be there waiting for me if I decide I want to watch more, not taking up any storage capacity space. Also, I can watch Netflix on SO MANY devices. I would gladly pay $20 per month or MORE for Netflix if they would get all the seasons of the TV shows they offer (Dexter, anyone?) and implement just one more feature that I can’t live without…

Netflix needs some kind of playlist feature, continuous play feature, or ability to automatically play the next episode or thing on your queue or something. Some people look at me like I have an arm coming out of my ass when I say that, but here’s my thing: Sometimes when I turn on the TV, I’m not looking for anything specific. I don’t want to actively “watch” anything. I kind of just want to…. chill out with something going on in the background. TV is perfect filler for that. I fall asleep with the TV on every night (keeps the bad dreams away, true story), I just put it on Adult Swim and turn the TV sleep timer on 90 minutes. About an episode and a half later, I’m snoozing. But I need to be ALL THE WAY asleep before the TV cuts off. If it goes dark and silent and I’m not asleep, I am not happy. Bad dream city. My inner thoughts lead me to dark places when there’s no outside influences… but I digress.

So, Netflix, the ball’s in your court. Why not just compete with television providers? You’d put cable companies out of business if you offered all the TV shows you do now, plus adding in new ones, with ALL the seasons, as they become available. But first, please integrate some kind of damn autoplay! I don’t care if there’s commercials in between, or ads on the screen where I am choosing what I want to watch, if that’s what you gotta do to get the show producers to agree to it.