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The following content can be found by clicking below:
Richard Dawkins The God Delusion click here.

Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis click here.

Pedro The Lion

Enjoy!

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Luke Brindley – Luke Brindley (Released January 2007)

Luke Brindley is a busy man. In addition to being a touring and recording artist with a new album release, Brindley owns Jammin’ Java, a 200-seat club with his brother Daniel, with whom he also performs as “Brindley Brothers”. And the brothers just released an album last year.

This is an album for Bruce Cockburn fans that wish Bruce would occasionally step down off his soapbox. There are no bold political opinions here, but there are word pictures every bit as evocative. The musicianship is on par, the melodies as catchy, and the production just as crisp.

Brindley employs instrumentation as diverse as horns and pedal steel – sometimes in the same song (“Darkness Done”).

The cover of Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” is most beautiful for its simplicity. As much of a Dylan fan as I am, I sometimes appreciate covers of his songs more than Dylan’s own versions. And this is one case where I like the cover a whole lot better. Brindley’s deft finger picking contrasts with Dylan’s rough estimations; Brindley’s soothing voice delivers these “ode to love” lyrics with the warmth they deserve.

“Dervish” is an instrumental that easily competes with anything Cockburn or Steve Bell have written.

Listen to “Never Alone”
Listen to “Love Minus Zero / No Limit”

Check his site : http://www.lukebrindley.com

Brindley Brothers – Filled With Fire

This is a different animal than Luke’s solo releases. Bristling with American rock energy, the opening track “Rise Above” surpasses anything the Wallflowers accomplished on their latest. And as Rolling Stone put it: “Fans of Wilco and Gin Blossoms will swoon.”

But the range of styles is not limited to Wallflowers-esque melodic roots-rock. “Rise Above” segues into the bouncing rhythm of “Man on Fire” which gives way to the subdued “Everybody Wants”.

These lighter songs are much like Luke’s solo work, so my favorites are the rockers. I had the advantage of previewing this album a few months prior to release and a number of the songs have already become family favorites.

“Up All Night” is another rocker and my other favorite. These Brindley Brothers albums are a treat for me because I became a Luke Brindley fan through his earlier work which was far more acoustic and folky. On the Brothers albums he is remade as a frontman, no doubt due to the influence of younger brother Daniel. Or maybe the frontman has been hiding in the shadows all along.

Listen to “Rise Above”
Listen to “Up All Night”

Please support generously. This is as indie as it gets

http://www.brindleybrothers.com
http://www.myspace.com/brindleybrothers

OK, I have to give you one more. This is the title track from their first album:
Listen to “Playing With the Light”

Go to their site… go to their store… buy some stuff!

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What does Bob Dylan sound like?

  “A cat in heat… ON SPEED!”
  Bob Dylan
  A unique voice in American music
  Make it stop. MAKE IT STOP!

Current Results



“A cat in heat… on speed!”

Those words, the words of my blessed wife, describe what she hears when we listen to Bob Dylan. Today it was when she heard “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” (“The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. Well, that’s HER opinion. What’s yours?

My opinion is, of course, different from my wife’s. This album is one of the best his early career although it does not outshine


my favourite, the seldom mentioned self-titled debut.

I’m the first to admit I think old Bob’s lost a step or two through the years to the point where I pick up new albums now and wonder why he still puts them out. And then there’s the concert I went to a few months back. I won’t be doing that again.

I wish I had been alive in 1962 to watch him as a 20-year-old groundbreaker. Yeah, he stumbles and mumbles and always has (well, there was “Nashville Skyline”) but at least there used to be more narrative arc to his songs and albums and that’s what made it interesting to me.

Anne Marie and I agree on a lot of music and she often impress

es me with her ability to name artists when we listen all 3800 songs on the iPod on shuffle. But there are a few artists (Dylan, Yoakam, Sexsmith) I always end up having to skip when they come on.

Of course, I make her identify them first.

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A History of Emotion: Personal reflections on the words and music of Counting Crows

PART 5 – Memories Are Films About Ghosts

One For The Desert

“This Desert Life” (1999) is the artistic low point for me. It comes off as unfocused and the product of some disinterest on the band’s part (and maybe a lot of weed?). Even so, there are some high points. “Hangin’ Around” is a promising start to an album with a clear bias toward live recording with few overdubs.

“Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”, likewise offers a comfortable groove, some standout lyrics and pleasant harmonies in the chorus. But by the time it wraps up at over 7 minutes the good musical parts have played themselves out completely and are no longer that interesting. I guess Adam was being sincere when he said he wanted to be Bob Dylan, who in the latter years of his career seems to have lost the ability to write short songs in addition to long ones.

Well I woke up in mid afternoon cause that’s when it all hurts the most
I dream I never know anyone at the party and I’m always the host
If dreams are like movies then memories are films about ghosts
You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast

Well I am an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame
I am an acrobat swinging trapezes through circles of flame
If you’ve never stared off into the distance then your life is a shame
And though I’ll never forget your face sometimes I can’t remember my name

Well there’s a piece of Maria in every song that I sing
And the price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings

lyrics from “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”
Listen to 2/3 of “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”

So if on the first album Adam was oblivious to the imminent effects of stardom and on the second album he lamented his loss of identity, then the third album shows his acceptance in lines like

“Well I am an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame.”

I think he’s moving through the 5 stages of grief.

Hard Candy

“Hard Candy”, the album “Miami” is from, is a return to form with the exception of the awful “New Frontier”. Adam sounds more mature, finally comfortable in his skin. The title track is probably one of the most pleasant Crows songs on any album. There’s a hint of sadness in the lyrics that’s swallowed by the optimism of the music.

Listen to “Hard Candy”

One more thing: I really hate the BGVs that were added to that cover of “Big, Yellow Taxi” and of course it’s the song that became the hit single. Originally tacked onto the end of the last track (“Holiday in Spain”) after just over a minute of silence, it was remixed with cheesy female BGVs for radio.

“Holiday in Spain” was a perfectly good ending and I hate it when the one weak song that becomes a hit overshadows an otherwise great batch of songs. (See Ron Sexsmith’s gratingly awful (and only) hit single “Whatever it Takes” from the otherwise excellent “Retriever”.)

The Art Around the Art


Cover art and liner note photos tell a story too.

In the booklet for “August And Everything After” there are two B&W photos of the band. One is an exceedingly joyful shot of the band jamming in the street. The other is a shot of everyone except Adam playing cards. In both photos these are clearly regular guys doing rather insignificant things. The message of the cover art is clear: words are of the utmost importance. Everything is authentically hand-written with a few stray ink splatters thrown about for good measure.

This is a writer’s album and by not putting a photo of the band on either the front or back cover (always a temptation – especially with a debut) the band is demonstrating what is important. The people making the music are of importance, but only after the songs.

The booklet for “Recovering The Satellites ” is shades of night-vision green emblazoned with the band name in red, again hand-written. Band member photos are all action shots and none are head on. This is a band hard at work and a band that needed to put out a harder image to counter the fact that they had been pegged as primarily an acoustic outfit after the success of “August And Everything After.” The photos are neither happy nor sad, but rather contemplative.

There are no photos of the band in the insert for “This Desert Life” but the insert does contain some of the most interesting artwork. There is a Salvador Dali feel to the time bending, oddly juxtaposed objects. A face superimposed over a leaf; a pyramid shaped candle that throws a shadow the shape of a human face; a dog’s head, complete with dunce cap, atop the shoulders of a large, well-dressed, and apparently decapitated man.

The sole photo of the band is beneath the clear tray that holds the CD. Again, symbolically, it’s music over musicians. The photo matches the theme of surrealism that pervades all the artwork here

Even though there is not a weak cover in the bunch, the packaging for “Hard Candy” is my favourite. The candy box front and back is classic and light-hearted at the same time. And inside the box? Printed on the face of the disc is a red and white swirl peppermint. This is indeed lighthearted stuff for a band whose lyrical terrain tends toward loneliness and despair. Also worth noting is that of the 14 photos in the insert that show the face of one or more band members, Adam is smiling in 10 of them. He seems to be in his happy place

Super-fan Confessions

I don’t keep tabs on the Crows like a super-fan would. I read Adam’s blog entries for a while and found myself liking his music less and I didn’t want that to happen so I stopped reading. Oh well, so most of the best artists and insufferable wrecks. It’s a fact we can all get over about 5 seconds into the intro of our favourite song.

I’ve never seen the Crows live and I imagine it wouldn’t be all that enjoyable to me. Like the recent Dylan concert I went to I would probably spend most of the evening rolling my eyes at the surrounding clichés, from middle-agers swaying lighters during slow songs to college kids who giggle, or worse cheer, every time they hear the word “f–k”(in all forms including –ing –ed –er and mother-) spoken from the stage to the large plumes of thick pot smoke that would no doubt fill the venue. I’d rather sit or stand and listen, thanks. Pass the joint the other way.

The Ethics of Dropping the F-Bomb

Using the f-bomb in a song is an entirely different thing than using it in the banter between one song and the next. Many artists who would never utter the word as a lyric nonetheless find it acceptable to use between songs and it is in some warped way endearing to fans.

Duritz will use it in either situation – and generously. Its effect is mostly worn out in everyday language but it still holds considerable power when used in music, especially at just the right time, and finding the right time to use it is a gift of Adam Duritz. It’s during high emotion or utter despair that it comes out.

Summary

I too am a musician.

I have no illusions of my celebrity or my potential to become widely known, but even in my limited experience in front of the few crowds in comparison that I have played to there is an idolization that happens very, very early in the fan/artist relationship. It’s quite uncomfortable and disconcerting if you have your head on straight – and especially if you’re a married man.

People will gush at your musical prowess when its barely above beginner stage and ask for your autograph before they’re quite sure how to pronounce your name. It can sometimes be annoying but it is always puzzling.

I understand on a much smaller scale how Adam Duritz feels about his predicament, though his is multiplied million-fold. But it is a chosen predicament and I for one hope he continues to live in it and deliver great music.

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A History of Emotion: Personal reflections on the words and music of Counting Crows

PART 4 – A Long October Through February

Satellites and Live On A Wire

“Recovering the Satellites” is another gem, equal in emotional impact but showing a band that can rock as well as quietly emote. I don’t think I know another album that is as perfect in loudness as this one. I listen to “Have You Seen Me Lately” on my iPod and marvel anew at its perfection.

“A Long December” is probably second only to “Miami” on my list of favourites. Judging by blog mentions I’d say “A Long December” is the runaway favorite.

A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last

Those lines alone are often quoted in the blogosphere as a hand reaching out to hope after a bum year. I understand a month that seems longer than the others in the context of depression. In those winter months I often struggle to keep my chin up, sometimes spending days in a numbness that isn’t pain but rather the absence of any feeling at all. In these periods time is an enemy, unwinding itself slowly, taunting me with its ability to control the speed at which it unravels. And all I want to do is sleep. At least then the absence of feeling includes the absence of conscious unfeeling. Confusing? Yeah, me too.

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters but no pearls
And all at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

A lot of oysters but no pearls. Brilliant. And then as quickly as it comes it’s gone again. Sometimes what snaps you out of it is seeing something you wouldn’t have otherwise seen if you were feeling “up”.

I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her

A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

Listen to “A Long December”

Almost every fall and winter at the low point of this seasonal funk I consider medication. And then I remind myself of the songs and stories I’ve written in those same months and I think I can make it without medication and with some prayer and maybe have a few songs to show for it in the spring. And I always do.

***

The album “Live On A Wire”, though coming quite early in a band’s history, rocks harder and shows more depth than could have been expected from a band with only two releases to their credit. But this is a band that loves their songs, and like Dylan allows them to change, to be taken apart and put back together in a different order, and above all, lets the songs be the boss.

“Angels of the Silences” is another song that receives triple treatment but it changes very little in structure or lyric. The live acoustic version is a straightforward rendition with acoustic instruments. The live electric version nearly mirrors the studio cut.

I’ve always read something into the lyrics of this one that I’m quite sure Adam was NOT getting at. The first verse seems to be to be about someone who’s struggling with faith and abandonment. To me it fits well into the period just after Jesus ascended into heaven as being the thoughts of one who wonders if Jesus will return.

Well I guess you left me with some feathers in my hand
Did it make it any easier to leave me where I stand?
I guess there might not be too many who would stand beside you now
Where’d you come from? where am I going?
Why’d you leave me till I’m only good for…
Waiting for you
All my sins…
I said that I would pay for them if I could come back to you
All my innocence is wasted on the dead end dreaming

Again… resonance… great art holds out the possibility of a personal interpretation, a universal interpretation, and one that only the artist knows.

The theme of identity comes up repeatedly on these albums. “Have You Seen Me lately” is full of hurt and loss where Duritz implores the listener to tell him, remind him who he is.

Get away from… get away from me, this isn’t gonna be easy
But I don’t need you – believe me
You got a piece of me, but it’s just a little piece of me
And I don’t need anyone these days
I feel like I’m fading away
Like sometimes when I hear myself on the radio
Have you seen me lately?
Have you seen me lately?
Have you seen me lately?

I was out on the radio starting to change
Somewhere out in America it’s starting to rain
Could you tell me the things you remember about me?
And have you seen me lately?

I remember me… and all the little things that make up a memory
Like she said she loved to watch me sleep
Like she said ‘It’s the breathing, it’s the breathing in and out and in and…
Have you seen me lately?
Have you seen me lately?
Have you seen me lately?

You know I thought someone would notice
I thought somebody would say something if I was missing
Well, can’t you see me?
C’mon colour me in, c’mon colour me
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon
Give me a blue rain, give me a black sky, give me a free ride
C’mon, give me your white skin, c’mon, give me your white skin, c’mon, give me your white skin…

The pain is far more palpable on the acoustic version. On the studio album the music is louder and the mood does not reflect of the content lyrics. The music on the studio album is triumphant, bordering on joyous. The mood on the acoustic version is one of exhaustion, exasperation, and depression. The whole song comes and goes in under 4 minutes and welcomes generous applause.

Irony. They applaud the one whose identity they’ve misconstrued. Their applause is for who they see him to be and not who he really is. Would they love him the same way if they saw him for who he really is? Would many of us love if we saw each other in all our humanity?

Listen to “Have You Seen Me Lately?”

The Nature of Celebrity

Some celebrities complain about their celebrity yet keep inviting every possible kind of attention and some complain because they’re hurled in front a bigger audience than they ever imagined by simply doing something they love. I think Adam is, or at least started out as the latter.

One of the advantages of being an actor rather than a musician is that an actor like Daniel Day Lewis can disappear for years at a time, sometimes apprenticing as a cobbler, emerging when needed to play a role he’s decided is worth his time.

On the other hand, Johnny Depp claims to hate celebrity culture yet plays roles that bring him ridiculous amounts of attention. Mr. Depp is widely reported to have muttered:


“I’m shy, paranoid, whatever word you want to use. I hate fame. I’ve done everything I can to avoid it”

I’m sure playing the lead in a blockbuster Disney movie has kept him comfortably out of the limelight.

He’s great in the movie and most of his other movies by the way, but I think he plays the reluctant celebrity at his convenience and to his advantage. He plays both to those who rent Hollywood like a whore and those who despise it in a fit of hypocritical self-righteousness. I think its called marketing.

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It was just a stupid Sum 41 song on the raio – and not even the whole thing – but it reminded me of a few years back when I was working in the studio with young punk bands. Good, fun stuff.

My sense of fun is pretty congested these days. Everything has to have such depth of substance for it to be worth anything – or so I tell myself. I’m always sticking my nose into some thick book of theology or spiritual reflection – and I enjoy it immensely, but I’ve forgotten the power of a few simple chords played REALLY LOUD.

While I’m busy trying to understand the complex movements of Rachmaninov and the off-beat time signatures of Dave Brubeck, there are small groups of kids out there banging on their instruments just for the hell of it. I daresay their music will move me a fair bit if it hits me at the right time. And it will remind me of my youth which, at only 30 years of age, is not that far away chronologically but seems so far away that it must never have happened.

Mostly, I miss the anger. Anger? It was all someone else’s – Kurt Cobain’s and Zack de la Rocha‘s and Chuck D‘s and Mark Solomon‘s. I never had much of my own, but that didn’t stop me from partaking in the catharsis. My middle-class Canadian life afforded me precious few encounters with the ‘real world’ these artists knew. I had no abusive father, no alcoholic mother, no overly troubled sister… for the most part my life was the life that these people probably wanted. Ironically, I always wanted to be them – until Kurt killed himself.


I must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they’re alone.” Kurt said in his suicide note, “I’m too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasm I once had as a child.”

I didn’t understand Kurt Cobain but I did understand his music. It was something loud and precious and bold, but not beautiful in any sense of the word unless you called it a beautiful mess. The day he shot himself we drove around our small town in my friend’s yellow 1969 Valiant (yes, actual picture below), Nirvana blaring from the speakers.

A fair bit of anger emerged that day along with shock and grief. Sitting in the passenger seat of that car, music at a volume that it could easily be heard on both sides of the street, I waited to catch someone’s eye and when I did I’d just stare. My stare was all about saying “It was you – you did this to Kurt Cobain! Why didn’t you love him?”

I didn’t understand as an 18-year-old kid that the problem wasn’t that more people didn’t love Kurt – it was that Kurt didn’t love himself.

Kurt’s wife Courtney had some thoughts on love that she shared with the crowd that had gathered to mourn:

“I want you to know one thing, that 80’s tough love bullshit, it doesn’t work, it’s not real, it doesn’t work. I should’ve let him, we all should’ve let him have his numbness. We should’ve let him have the thing that made him feel better, that made his stomach feel better, we should’ve let him have it, instead of trying to strip away his skin. Now you go home and tell your parents: ‘Don’t you ever try that tough love bullshit on me, cause it doesn’t fucking work.’ That’s… that’s what I think.”

What was Kurt Cobain’s life? A tragic triumph? A sad waste? I’m sorry he had to go through the pain he did, but I’m glad we have on record one of the only things that made that pain go away – at least for moments in time.

So do I really love rock and roll? Nah, can’t say that I do. I can be infatuated at times, but with a few exceptions its all candy, and it will rot your teeth. Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Rachmaninov – these are things you learn to love. They’re like the girl in school who doesn’t catch your eye at first but becomes the most beautiful girl in the world the better you get to know her.

The tragic, drugged-out rock star persona is a sham; kids around the world would do well to recognize that fact. We buy this BS and put these tortured artists on pedestals and ultimately contribute to their untimely deaths, after which they become “immortals”while the fat record execs they rail so violently against – well, they keep getting richer and fatter while Kurt has passed into eternity.

And no matter how screwed up, how reckless with their lives, no matter how many sons and daughters they left behind fatherless, if they die young, they’re automatic candidates for sainthood. Don’t tell me rock and roll isn’t our religion.

Can’t handle the fame? Shun the limelight as often as you can. Damage your career until it is on a level you can handle.

The real hero here is Eddie Vedder.

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A History of Emotion: Personal reflections on the words and music of Counting Crows

Part 3: Capital “A” Confessions

It was fitting at the time of this writing that I was listening to “August…” on random and the album on that particular run through began with the song “Omaha” and the line “Start tearing the old man down.” That’s exactly what Adam had just unwittingly set out to do. As much as he was already struggling with identity, the problem was about to get worse and probably never recede. “Hey mister if you’re gonna walk on water, could you drop a line my way? Hey mister you don’t wanna walk on water, cause you’re only gonna walk all over me.”

Well I got bones beneath my skin, hey mister
There’s a skeleton in every man’s house
Beneath the dust and love and sweat that hangs on everybody
Is a dead man trying to get out

Of course the old man never does get out completely, and sometimes it seems he’s hidden under more and more layers.

I wanna get me a little oblivion baby
Try to keep myself away from me

If I may invoke a bit more Christian terminology: Adam is well aware of his fallen-ness. Whether or not he would acknowledge it as such is irrelevant to me. In reaching for his reality as he does he reminds me of things that I believe. Coming to them as I have through my faith is probably a different path than Adam has taken but we’ve both learned some of the the same things: humans are destructive, and often self-destructive. And attention and adulation only makes it worse… and Adam has a lot more of that to deal with than I do.

Keep myself away, how am I gonna keep my self away… from me?

His “self” is more ubiquitous than mine; his secret faults may not be greater than mine but they are probably amplified in his head by millions of adoring fans who believe he is something more than he really is. If only they knew.

For the perfect closer there is “A Murder of One” with another refrain that brings me, again not because of any particular resonance, to tears:

I will walk along these hillsides
In the summer neath the sunshine
I am feathered by the moonlight
Falling down on meChange, change, change

Without explanation during this part of the song I found myself at one time on my knees, tears forming, arms raised in praise to God. It was an experience that took me by surprise. Does Adam believe in this same God? Was this song written in praise to Him? I don’t find any reference to Adam commenting on Christianity, but knowing that he is Jewish tells me that while we know of the same God, if Adam is practicing at all we would differ in our thinking about Jesus. That this song can evoke such a response from me is a credit to both Adam Duritz and to God. Ultimately, the credit goes to a creator who blesses his creations, those who call Him Lord and those who do not, with the gift of creativity.

This wasn’t meant to be overly religious but a proper recounting takes all experiences into account. And if some of these admissions seem more than a little confessional, bearing thoughts that might usually only be divulged on the psychiatrist’s couch, well, I call it returning the favour to Adam Duritz, who for 13 years now has let me in on his confessions.

“Change, change, change…” – the final words on the album that begins:

Step out the front door like a ghost into a fog
Where no one notices the contrast of white on white
And in between the moon and you angels get a better view
Of crumbling difference between wrong and right

Well I walk in the air, between the rain, through myself and back again
Where? I don’t know
And Maria says she’s dying, through the door I hear her crying
Why? I don’t know

To me its just poetry in plainer man’s terms, far more accessible than the high poetry of those officially known as poets. The attraction is his willingness to admit failure and weakness and pain – that is, to admit being human, and to document emotion without wallowing in it. This is a transparency rarely found in popular music on such honest, vulnerable terms.

It is a shame that one thing that prevents a writer like Adam Duritz from attaining the sort of “credibility” of a virtually unknown writer like Mark Heard is that Adam is famous and became famous after just one album. Becoming well known, it seems, especially so early in the game, is a poison to your credibility as a capital “A” artist.

An old friend of mine discovered The Spin Doctors about 6 months before they broke big. He evangelized me, turned me on to them and when I was in the thick of listening to “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” on repeat they broke out, had a hit single and as a consequence he lost his jones for them completely. For those desiring artistic credibility, take heed lest ye sell too many albums.

I’ve bought into this scam so many times: love an artist as long as they’re under the radar, and the ones that are perpetually underexposed get saintly status, especially once they have half a dozen albums or so out and not one hit single. Then, and only then, can they have a hit and still maintain their insider cred.

I have so many of these things people used to buy – CDs I think they’re called – that have no value to me that I probably paid close to $20 each for that are total must-haves for friends of mine. Over the Rhine is a band I just don’t get and yes, for all of you whose jaws just hit the floor, you’ve often succeeded in making me feel inferior because of this – but no more. I’ve tried many times over the years to like them and ended up selling their CDs to some of you for much more than I paid for them (I found them in discount bins, BTW). I think you’re a fool; you think I’m a fool; everybody goes home happy.

In my old age now, in all my 31 and a half years, I’ve finally learned not to care who’s known and unknown and about-to-break and cool with the kids and underexposed and whatever other filters you can name. I just embrace what embraces me.

I’m a promiscuous music listener and have been all my adolescent, teen, and adult life and there are artists I keep coming back to when the flavour of the day/week/month/year wears out for me – that is if they ever gained any traction in the first place. You know I must love these artists because I keep their relics on my shelves, not quite able to part with them even though I will probably never again find occasion to play them in a CD player.

They are long digitized and not of any practical use, yet there they sit. They are nearly sacred objects, representations of my history with their contents, and so I am not able to part with them.

Listen to “A Murder of One”

Michael Krahn
www.michaelkrahn.com

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