Hey There! We’re BACK.

June 15, 2010 at 6:33 pm (dull real life stuff, music news, new releases)

Take that, Google Evil Empire!

In a process that was completely painless once I actually decided to try to figure out what I needed to do, I think popnarcotic is back in business.

One tiny, tiny change that hopefully trips no one up:  the “www” is gone from the front of the URL.  If you’re using a browser from sometime after 1997, the URL line in it should self-correct anyway, so if you’re addicted to typing “www”, don’t let us stop you.

Also, obviously switching from Blogger to WordPress, the formats aren’t exactly the same.  You may see a few oddly formatted pictures or something.  Best advice there:  deal.  Or let me know and I’ll see if I can fix it. All fairly recent links should work just fine, and the blog proper is as it ever was, albeit with a slightly newer look to it.  Dare I say it:  WordPress and the variety of options, UI, and sheer excellence of what it gives you blows Blogger/Blogspot/Google out of the ocean.

Back in a while with blatherings on why you should be listening to Hindi Rock, pimping of Teenage Fanclub, Dragoon, and Sweet Apple, and most importantly–me getting all serious and telling you that if you’re not a raving fan of a Seattle band called The Cute Lepers, you may hate rock and roll.  Only slightly kidding with that last bit.

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Carry That Weight…

May 16, 2008 at 5:06 am (dull real life stuff, Horse Racing, upcoming stuff I might blog about)

….hey, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth or anything, just winding down the last two days of 11 days straight at work (the middle of which featured a crazy-ass Mother’s Day and resultant holocaust when the power went out and wiped a bunch of sales data at the end of the day Sunday…not good times, bad times.)

At any rate, Imma try to get Dave’s kickass Derby mix posted before Preakness (personally, I’ll have it in rotation with Whitey’s “Weakness For The Preakness” mix). I’ll also mention that the new Bellrays album is fan-damn-tastic. I’ll further add that Jason Isringhausen has caused me more anguish in the last three weeks than any human has caused me in nearly five years. Seriously.

One last observation: the race for the Democratic Nomination for president ended today. Didja notice what happened when President Bush rather inelegantly attacked Senator Obama while addressing The Knesset today? The Democrats closed ranks beautifully, with Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and yes, Hillary Clinton leaping to Obama’s defense. If anything signaled where this nomination process was heading, that reaction said it all.

I’m rambling. Back soon.

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Top Five All Time Derby Mix Tape Moments.

May 9, 2008 at 5:56 am (dull real life stuff, Music Mixes)

I was going to post about what was so important/special/kick ass about Derby Mix Tapes, but couldn’t seem to wrap it all up in a reasonably coherent ramble. Instead, I’ll give you my five favorite all time Derby Mix Tape Moments:

5. “One Mint Julep”, which I think was on Bill & Lisa’s Derby AM mix back in 2003 or so. They had the good sense to pick the lesser-known version by The Clovers because it has the vocals on it (The Clovers had a hit with it, but if you hear the song now it is almost a certainty you hear Ray Charles wonderful instrumental version). That song came on just as we pulled into the place we were doing pre-Derby breakfast buffet, and it was absolutely perfect. I believe I was in the back of the rental van swigging Korbel right out of the bottle.

4. An perfectly buzzed Johnny Bourbon punching the (padded, thankfully) roof of a rental van after the Dylan show we went to in ’04 in perfect rhythm to the riff on Guided By Voices “Back To The Lake”. Whitey’s mixtape, I sort of think.

3. A salute and shout-out to horse-related but non Derby mixes. Belmont, 1996, and we’re driving out to see fireworks at the beach on Long Island while standing in the surf, and whoever’s mix we were listening to (Marc? Bill? Whitey?) comes up with Teenage Fanclub’s “God Knows It’s True”. A whole van full of people blasted out of their minds forgetting the disappointment of Silver Charm’s near-miss all singing at top volume “God knows it’s true but the devil knows it too” over and over. Bill was able to stay sober and sane enough to drive the van that day. Small miracle. Honorable mention here: Marc’s Saratoga drive mix in 2002 with Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel” on it; driving through the mountains of upstate New York at sunset with this playing before my first trip to The Spa…utterly perfect.

2. The first CD Dan/Marc mix I can remember, possibly from 2001? Whichever, it was a tour de force with trackside calls for Jerry Bailey interspersed with Radiohead’s “National Anthem” and The Clinic’s “Second Line”.

1. Dan’s mix–on a tape–from 1998. We listened to it on the way to visit Affirmed and Holy Bull at Jonabell Farm, and the whole mix was spectacular, from Simply Saucer’s “Bulletproof Nothing” segued into Tribe Called Quest’s “Excursions” to the use of The Bangtails on side 2. Weird superstition of mine born that afternoon: Tim was driving behind us in his Honda Accord, and during the Rolling Stones “It’s Only Rock And Roll”, a huge truck sideswiped Tim while we all watched in horror. Thankfully the car was only dented up a little, but it could’ve been much worse. Since then, whenever I hear that song in the car, I have to change the channel or skip to something else.

The best part of Dan’s mix was a part that we missed that afternoon. I guess we never got to the end of the tape, and that’s always a mix tape bummer, because there’s really no time to listen to them all again during the weekend–other mixes are scheduled and suchlike. So, that weekend I’m driving home on Sunday afternoon, back to St. Louis for the last month I’d live there (I’d accepted a management job and transfer to Chicago about 4 hours before I left for the Derby that weekend), getting really wistful and nostalgic about a Derby Weekend that was officially only a handful of hours in the past. The sun was starting to go down in front of me (sunglasses and eyeshades time, driving towards a setting sun on I-64), and I lost whatever radio station I was listening to…so I grabbed the first cassette I could find…which happened to be the remainder of Dan’s mix tape. Before too long we were at the end of it, and Dan had chosen to finish with Gram Parsons’ “Wild Horses”. I’ll just leave it at saying “perfect”, and not go too much further down that path for fear of getting even more mawkish and overly-sentimental than I already have here. But…yeah. You wanna know what song I want played at my funeral? “Wild Horses” works for me–make it Gram’s version, too.

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I’m A Whore. And Happy About It.

April 17, 2008 at 5:20 am (dull real life stuff)

The sharp-eyed few will notice I’ve added another link to the sidebar here; thanks to Steve posting about a show Finn’s Motel will be playing at Euclid Records, I discovered that the crew there does their own blog thing…and it is a very cool blog and worth your time to read.

And now that I’m thinking of my days at Euclid Records, I suppose I’ll relate about how important my time working there was to me, and how it shaped the happy directions my life has taken since. This is pretty dull, who-gives-a-rat’s-ass sort of stuff, but it happens to be the sort of stuff I wish someone would’ve told me when I was 18, instead of waiting until I was 31 to figure out on my own.

My story with Euclid actually begins as a customer. My freshman year of college, I was home for the summer and still consumed in a collapsing relationship with a high school girlfriend. That doomed partnership corralled all my time, but I’d still find time to make it down to Vintage Vinyl on the Loop occasionally, which also meant heading a few doors down to Streetside Records on Delmar as well. I can’t even remember what the heck it was I was looking for, but I couldn’t find it at either VV or Streetside, so the helpful guy at Vinny Vinny (Steve Pick hisself, I think it was) suggested I check out Euclid Records, and gave my country hick St. Charles self easy to follow directions (“Right on Skinker, east on Forest Park Parkway, left on Euclid, just past Laclede on the right.”) The store was at it’s original location on Euclid (by the time I worked there, it had moved diagonally across the street to Laclede, but stayed “Euclid Records”), and I’m not sure who was working that day. Maybe Tom? It wasn’t Steve, I know that. I remember I futzed around the store awhile, and ended up buying a cassette copy of “D Is For Dumptruck” because I’d heard the song “Back Where I Belong” on KCOU before I’d left Mizzou for the summer, and that tune sorta summed up what I was feeling about the relationship I was in. An auspicious beginning, because Dumptruck just ruled, and I always credited that ruled-ness with Euclid Records subconsciously.

Once I moved back home from school permanently, I ended up doing more and more music buying at Euclid Records. It was a haul getting out there from St. Charles (or U-City, when that was home), but usually worth it; I still remember some of my “Holy shit, I can’t believe they have THIS” scores: the Choo Choo Train comp Briar High, a couple of Flatmates 12″ singles, the Merry Go Round lp on vinyl (a stiff $19.99 price that was totally worth it).

I was also getting burned out waiting tables for a living, trying to get a freelance writing career started (yeah, that didn’t take at all.) I’d always heard from folks that the happiest people in the world were those who got to work for a living doing things they loved; problem was, I knew I was absolutely freakishly talented at the restaurant biz…but I didn’t really like it very much. What Dick Allen was to baseball, I was to restaurants. I figured I’d try some other things, to see if I could find that magical job I loved to make a career of, and what better thing for a music geek like myself to do but work in a record store? I never even thought about applying at Vintage Vinyl; no offense to those who have and continue to work there, because some of my best friends put in some serious time there…but VV was Wrigley Field to Euclid Records’ Busch Stadium. VV had a bunch of folks who were passionate about music and totally into it, but they also had a bunch of folks who were working there because it was a hip place to work. Euclid Records wasn’t quite as hip to work at, but it was where the music geeks and true believers congregated. It was the place for me.

I got the gig at Euclid, and I enjoyed working there. I dug the music we got to play, I loved the vibe of the Central West End, and it was a cool come-on to chicks, too–“Hey baby, I work in a record store…” Okay, a certain kind of chick. More than that, I enjoyed the folks I worked with–Joe, Steve, Patrick, Tom, Guy, Darren, Ben…couldn’t ask for a smarter, wittier, more charming group of folks to spend time with. We had regular customers who’d bring us coffee and bagels for breakfast, and who’d show up with beer on Christmas Eve and holidays, at which point Euclid Records sort of turned into Old Fezziwig’s. Good times. (I still remember one afternoon Ben and I talking about pre-World War I Ottoman Empire history and getting baffled looks from the customers in the store.)

But not good times. If someone described a dream job to me back in 1995, it is entirely likely they’d say “You get to listen to cool music all day long, talk music with smart music geeks all day long, and be constantly laughing” I’d say “Where do I get in line for that?” The reality of the job ended up being this, though: it was a job. Meaning, on days that I worked, it was six hours spent doing something for pay that I wouldn’t do for free. See, as great as Euclid Records was, what it helped me to discover about myself was that “work” was “work” to me, no matter what I was doing. Going to work behind the counter at Euclid Records was no different than going to wait tables at Bristol. Both those things were work, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t really prefer working at Euclid any more or less than I preferred waiting tables.

It wasn’t Euclid. That place was and continues to be, great. It was me. It took me years to figure it out, but eventually the light switch went on in my head: no matter what I’d end up doing for a living, it was going to feel like work. Period. In my head, I realized that even if I got a job that involved sitting on a couch drinking beer and watching Cardinal baseball, eventually that would become a chore, something that I’d rather not do. In my mind (and maybe this is universal, I dunno), I realized that “work” means “lack of freedom” for however many hours you’re working in a given day.

Thus armed with the self-awareness that, at least for me, one job was pretty much the same thing as any other job, I decided to give the restaurant thing my full attention and go into management. Maybe I sold myself out. Maybe I’m a whore for giving up something that I loved for something that paid better. I’ll grant both those premises. What I also know though, is that I’m pretty good at my job, and at some point during the last 10 years I’ve been doing it, the satisfaction of that has given me as much fulfillment on the job as anything I’ve ever done. And the pay thing? That helps me buy more tunes and do the stuff I want to do. So there’s that.

I just wished someone would’ve told me that work is work no matter what you’re doing when I was 18. Could’ve saved me a lot of navel-gazing in my twenties.

Oh. Happy Record Store Day, Euclid Joe!

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Winter Wonderland

December 6, 2007 at 5:52 am (dull real life stuff, Music Mixes)

So today it snowed all day here in Virginia, and by nightfall we even had about 3 inches of powder on the ground.

With snow still flurrying around outside, what better time, I figured, to “road test” a bunch of songs for the annual Christmas CD I try to do. I loaded up the prospects on the iP0d, bundled up, and decided to hike up to the bookstore (picked up a few gifts) and back. It was a great way to figure out what worked (suffice to say, if a song is sweet enough to put a lump in my throat walking around in the snow in early December, that sucker is a keeper) and what didn’t (early rejects: Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock”, Teenage Fanclub’s “December”, and Richard X. Heyman’s “Winter Blue”).

It also got me thinking about the nature of Christmas songs that appeal to me personally. I know that the current hotness regarding massive Holiday CD sales is stuff like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I guess it sounds all cool and stuff, and I guess it has appeal for a lot of folks, but I have to admit: I don’t get it. For me, Christmas music has to have an emotional appeal or nostalgic tug to it. I don’t hear emotion in Mannheim Steamroller or the TSO, or even really in George Winston’s December-themed piano releases. Pretty? Absolutely. But…I dunno.

There are folks out there for whom Christmas is all about religion. There are even more folks out there for whom Christmas is a time of commerce and cynicism and irony and “I can’t wait for this to be over.” For me, I guess, Christmas is about personal things; it’s about being 6 years old on the couch with all three brothers including Phil wearing those ridiculous red, white, and blue striped denim bell-bottom pants. It’s about coming home from Christmas Eve dinner at Grandma’s house and there’s a Lionel train chugging around the base of our Christmas tree. It’s about seeing the red warning light atop the radio tower a half-mile up the road and wondering if it’s Rudolph’s nose. It’s about “Lights please”, Herbie the Elf, and the spirits working their magic all in the same night, about the smell of spritz cookies and snickerdoodles cooking in Mom’s kitchen, and about having to memorize lines for a school Christmas Pageant.

Every year for the past 10, December has been the time of year when my workdays become ten times more hectic and last long, long, longer. Days run together and become blurs, and there never seems to be enough time to catch up and get things I should be getting done, done. But every Christmas I look for music that puts me in the mood of the season, stuff that possesses the emotion to take me to my own Christmas Town. That’s the theme of this year’s mix, and I should have it posted fairly early this year.

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