PreAmp Set Lists: Favorite Sub Pop Albums

Sub Pop Top Albums

Sub Pop was the first label I fell in love with. There have been many suitors since, but I’ve always left room in my heart for this “high school sweetheart.” As Sub Pop celebrates their 25th anniversary Silver Jubilee this weekend, I thought I’d pay tribute counting down some of my favorite Sub Pop albums. I picked these records specifically not just as how much I like them (which is a lot) but how I feel they represent Sub Pop.

Whether these are highly celebrated records or not, they all speak to the story I feel like Sub Pop has been telling for the past 25 years.

Eric's Trip - Love Tara

Sub Pop has branded themselves and their artists as “LOSERS” for sometime now. But of all the releases, Love Tara by Eric’s Trip embodies the loser title most exceptionally. The songs center on break-ups and not feeling sure what to do next. Everything is lo-fi, as if they weren’t able to afford the studio time the cool kids have. Even taking their name from a Sonic Youth song reminds of something a music dork would do (I say from personal experience, being a music nerd and doing the same thing). But still, the tracks are gripping with their fuzzed out solace.

The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine

Not everything is just moody and self-loathing at Sub Pop – the label has lots of opinions and a lot to say. The Thermals record The Body, The Blood, The Machine is a manifesto tackling both politics and religion. It’s brash with pure punk braggadocio but manages to be insightful and rightfully concerned. It’s as infectious as it is infected.


Dum Dum Girls have surprised me over the years. It took me awhile to really get it. It wasn’t until they let down their guard with End of Daze that I really felt I understood the band. They’re a timeless act filtering themselves through indie punk. Same can be true about Sub Pop – it can really be hard to tell what’s going on with their catalog of obscure to approachable acts, but once it clicks it stay with you.

Father John Misty - Fear Fun

While talking about letting your guard down, J. Tillman took it to another level under his Father John Misty monicker on Fear Fun. It’s an album full of self-referential quips and self-deprecating commentaries. Tillman’s lyrics are tripped out and wacky yet beautiful and captivating. Like I said before, Sub Pop is a mixed bag. Though musically this album isn’t off-the-wall, it highlights and peculiar and sassy character that most major labels could only manufacture.


The Shins fill the subterranean pop side of Sub Pop. Oh, Inverted World is hook after hook of pop excellence. Though not strikingly commercial, it’s decidedly approachable to a mainstream audience. At the same time, it’s powerful enough to feel like it can change your life (here’s looking at you Braff and Portman). Being on Sub Pop doesn’t mean being exclusive to the indie elite.


Sunny Day Real Estate has become more of a legacy than a band. Their influence has spread out wider than, presumably, their listeners. Diary is emo before it became something else completely. I see Sub Pop in a similar way. People list Sunny Day Real Estate at the top of their laundry list when talking about the lineage of emo just as people talk about Sub Pop when talking about influential figures in the independent music scene. Both hit hard and have left their mark.


At first, I was surprised it took Sub Pop so long to sign a hip-hop act. Then I heard Shabazz Palaces and it all made sense. Black Up is challenging and progressive listen. The beats are brooding and hypnotic while the lyrics are dark and insular. Sub Pop wasn’t going to sign a rap act just to have one. Shabazz Palaces are bringing an entirely new skill set to the table.


One of the things I’ve admired most and also cringed at with Sub Pop is their willingness to be an outlet for an established artist to try something new. Sometimes it doesn’t always work, which can be a let down for the listener. However with Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello’s project The Postal Service it worked. It’s amazing how beloved Give Up has become since its release 10 years ago, especially as a one off release. Thank goodness they had the opportunity to see this album through.

[I talked more in depth about Give Up recently in a Wax Story]


We’re living in a post-Fleet Foxes music scene. I’m convinced of it. Their self-titled album might have been the biggest breakthrough for the folk rock movement. Before Mumford and Sons, before The Lumineers, there was Fleet Foxes. Which all sounds absurd seeing as how this album came out only a few years ago, but it was that powerful. It was another example of Sub Pop coming in ahead of the curve. This album struck me hard when I first heard it. It may not be as ambitious or even as brilliant as their follow up Helplessness Blues, but to me it is definitive Fleet Foxes album…

Nirvana - Bleach

… and this is the definitive Sub Pop album. Yes, it’s the cliche choice, but not without reason. Nirvana’s first release Bleach is a monster. It squeals and yells and burns. But below that its roots are in pop melodies. It has the enrapturing, undeniably important persona of Kurt Cobain. It was ahead of its time. It’s from a band who set a new standard. All of this from greasy looking losers from Aberdeen, Wash. Even though this wasn’t Nirvana’s breakthrough, it feels like the harbinger of what was yet to come.

[You can check out my Wax Story on Bleach as well]

To whet your appetite, here’s a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite Sub Pop tracks:

Follow me on Twitter: @DustyEffinHenry

Follow me on Instagram: @mrdustyhenry

Misinformed Reviews #6: Sigur Ros – Kveezus

Kveezus Kveikur Yeezys

Sigur Ros has always been the most controversial group on the scene since their inception. These Icelandic post-rockers always seem to find themselves making headlines. Much of this is attributed to their admittedly arrogant and brash front man Jonsi (or as he likes to go by sometimes, Joonzy). Jonsi has been accused of everything from overtly sexual lyrics to paparazzi baiting. None of this is helped by the fact that he’s having a child with starlet Kim Deal Ashian. Whether he’s making controversial statements during broadcast relief efforts (“Jón Gnarr doesn’t care about Stekkjastaurs”) or stealing the spotlight from pop stars (“I am going to let you finish but Jakobínarína had one of the best music videos of all time!”), Jonsi has gone back and forth between being hated for his antics but considered a genius for his music.

jonsi and kim and kanye

The happy couple, Jonsi and Kim (aka Kimsi).

Now with the group’s latest effort, that divisive personality has taken over. Kveezus takes things to the next level. The title is either a combination of the Icelandic word for candlewick and Jesus, or even more likely a tribute to The Passion of the Christ lead actor Jim Caviezel. This deity imagery is strong within the album and strong within Jonsi’s attitude. The opening track “On Sighttenstein” kicks off with Jonsi singing in his sweet, dreamy falsetto “Joonzy season approachin, fuck whatever y’all beeennnnnyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAHHHHHHH hearin’.” It’s a bold statement but not even strongest on the whole album. The band collaborates with French group Daffy Punk to take a harder edge in the instrumentation that was lacking in their past works such as and “Late Ágætision.” Later in the song he rattles off lines like “no sports bra lets keep it fljótum.”

The sure to be most talked about track on the album is “I Am A God-dledigook (Featuring Guð).” Jonsi hushly and tenderly croons over bowed guitars and mallet played drums about how he is a man of Guð and to “hurry up with my damn crossiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuueeeeeeeeeeeIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIIiaaant!” Pastry cravings aside, Jonsi is expressing his duality both in the hands of Guð and an equal to Guð.

“New Slavics” may sound familiar to those who keep up with music news, as the group debuted the song by projecting a video of Jonsi’s face crying onto buildings across the world while the track played in the background. It’s intentionally uncomfortable and unwatchable. Over the barrage of looped guitars Jonsi talks about his mother living in a time when television was not broadcast on Tuesdays in Iceland.”

Things get a bit saucy with the provocative “I’m Inni.” Some choice one-liners:

“”damn yo lips very SlEEEAAAAAAOOOOoooft””

“Eating Icelandic Þorramatur all I need is hrútspungar”

“Neck, ears, hands, eating Var”

“Your Takk… let ’em out, free at last.”

You’re Bound 2 find this album a must have this summer season. If anything, to admire the spectacle.

I’d give this 1 out of 1 deities. There can only be one, and Jonsi and co have established that they are it.

Previous Misinformed Review: The Knifes – Milkshaking the Habitual

Follow me on Twitter: @DustyEffinHenry

My Effin Lists: Top 10 Songs of 2012


It was hard enough narrowing down the top albums of the year, but picking out the best songs is even worse. Since I got a bit wordy with my top albums posts (part 1 and part 2) I’m going to keep each review down to one sentence. Let’s see how this goes.

10. Kanye West & R. Kelly – To The World


Yeezy describes this one best: “R. Kelly and the god of rap, shittin’ on ya HOLY CRAP.”

9. Jason Molina – Sad Hard Change


Jason Molina uses home, lo-fi recording and the creakiness that comes with it to its full capacity of reflecting heartbreak.

8. Sharon Van Etten – Give Out


“Give Out” is the painful gulp you take before leaving something (or someone) you know is bad for you but with uncertainty if it’s the right thing to do.

7. The Men – Open Your Heart


Sweaty basement thrashing takes a surprisingly melodic direction.

6. Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings


Funeral crashing is done better with crooner dance moves and electrifying reverb.

5. Kendrick Lamar – Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe


If ever there was a “motto” or mantra to describe how most of us want to live, Kendrick has coined it in this song.

4. Cloud Nothings – Wasted Days


Epic thrashers don’t have to pointlessly meander to the point of boring; Cloud Nothings have revived the instrumental build-up.

3. Frank Ocean – Bad Religion


Taxi cab confessions aren’t new, but Ocean’s insights on spirituality and love bring new school cool with old school sensibilities.

2. Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built



1. Dum Dum Girls – Lord Knows


It’s easy to play the victim, but instead Dum Dum Girls take the perspective of the harmer and do so with a timeless melody and wistful instrumentals.

To see my whole list of top songs (not in order, organized to flow together the best) check out my Spotify playlist:

My Effin Lists: Top Albums of 2012 (Numbers 10 – 1)


Continuing from my last post, here are my top 10 albums of 2012.

10. Dum Dum Girls – Season In Hell

Though technically an EP, “End of Daze” has the richness and depth of a full length album. Dum Dum Girls have matured with this release. While past releases had their swirling guitars and surf-rock sensibilities, “End Of Daze” takes these ideas and gives them a sense of timelessness. The dream murmur in their cover of Strawberry Switchblades “Trees and Flowers” is a captivating haze that holds the listener in to here every breath and guitar strum. “Lord Knows” could be placed in any era and feel just as poignant. Dee Dee’s low crooning in the verses, rising to the chorus feels triumphant and crushing as she sings “Oh boy, I can’t hurt you any more.” “End of Daze” isn’t all about slow ballads, as it begins and end with  powerful rock tracks (“Mine Tonight” and “Season In Hell” respectively). Through all of its turmoil and desperation, the album ends on a somewhat hopeful note: “Lift up your gaze, it’s the end of daze.”

9. Naomi Punk – The Feeling

Naomi Punk’s “The Feeling” is right next Nirvana’s “Bleach” on my record shelf. While clearly a coincidence of alphabetization, it seems like appropriate placement. They group hails from Olympia – where Kurt Cobain spent much of his early Nirvana days digesting everything K Records. The band’s whole D.I.Y. aesthetic lines up the indie scene in the early 90s. The album sounds as if it was recorded in a basement. Guitars clash (there’s no bass) and vocals fight to be heard in the background. Bands like Best Coast have successfully imitated lo-fi Garage Rock production, but Naomi Punk lives it.

Until I actually picked up the record, I had no idea what he band was saying – another similarity with complaints Nirvana got when they first hit it big time. On “Burned Body” the vocalist (the members are virtually anonymous to the Internet) defines it best as he yells “All my words are so cryptic.” Once you get past the noise and can make out what the band is saying, it’s equally as brilliant and disturbed in simplicity. Like on the second to last track, “The Buzz,” :

“I wanna cut it out. I wanna rip it out. I wanna kill it now. I wanna feel a feeling.”

The group original released “The Feeling” on locally owned Couple Skate Records earlier this year before it was re-released on Captured Tracks. This band is moving fast but not compromising to be accessible.

8. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

I really have no desire to write a whole think-piece about Lana Del Rey (though I already tried once, along with every other music writer ever). Aside from the “misleading” vibes and cringe-worthy SNL performances, Del Rey put out what I think is an excellent pop record for the new decade. The dramatic string arrangements put against new-school hip hop beats creates the fantastical imagery of a “Marilyn Monroe has a baby with Kanye West, Read More On Page 2!” tabloid. Del Rey is making mainstream music that’s actually more interesting than any of the other songs on Top Hit Radio Stations. Listen to Justin Bieber’s “Girlfriend” or Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and put it against a song like “Born To Die” or “National Anthem” and tell me she’s not doing it better.

7. Wild Nothing – Nocturne

If Tanlines’ “Mixed Emotions” was 80s pop radio, “Nocturne” would be the album the “cool, misunderstood” kids would be blasting on their Walkman. Wild Nothing are writing songs in the vain of The Cure. Opener “Shadow” feels like an upbeat, summer car tune but with lyrics like “Oh why is your hate so addicting” you wouldn’t think it would be. Things don’t slow down much on this record. Jangles guitar parts and sustaining synth noise in the background makes the album feel bright and light. It’s feel good music for people who are comfortable with being sad.

6. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Getting past the hype is the hardest part of listening to “Channel Orange.” Frank Ocean is ending up on a lot of people’s lists and sometimes it’s hard to remember why. It’s not just because Frank Ocean is cool to like, it’s because the songwriting on this album is exceptional.

SPIN magazine recently had an article talking about how “Alt. R&B” was the trend of the year, citing Ocean as a prime example. I’d like to politely disagree. I think Ocean’s successes is less about him fronting a new genre and more so about him getting new people to listen to his genre. I’ve never really been much for R&B of the past couple decades – I found it cheesy and hard to relate to (sorry Ginuwine, I can’t connect with “If you’re horny, let’s do it. Ride it, my pony”). On “Channel Orange” Ocean tactfully discusses topics like faith and grappling with sexuality (“Forrest Gump”) but Ocean doesn’t turn his back on writing soulful love songs (“Thinkin About You”). “Bad Religion” is the emotional crux of the record, with Ocean pondering his beliefs against his sexuality in the back of a taxi. With some help from Earl Sweatshirt, John Mayer, and Andre 3000, has created a masterful transition piece for newcomers to R&B.

5. DIIV – Oshin

It’s not surprising that DIIV and Wild Nothing share a label and have collaborated in the past (well, with Zachary Smith’s other project, Beach Fossils). DIIV merges the shimmer of Wild Nothing but with the brighter parts of the 90s grunge movement (Smith is a huge fan of Kurt Cobain). Each track on “Oshin” fades into the next seamlessly, like an endless summer.

“How Long Have You Known” is playful and sways with the iconic-feeling lead guitar melody. The stuttering guitar on “Earthboy” feels spacey but never gets too weird or inaccessible. The sound of the album flows back and forth like an ocean. It wouldn’t be surprising if DIIV tracks end up in summer sale commercials sometime in the future (with the inevitable lawsuit, if 2012 has proven anything to us). “Oshin’ is definitely a singular piece. While each song sounds fine on its own, something is lost when it tracks aren’t strong together as a pulsing, sonic experience.

4. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

How did this man stay behind the Fleet Foxes drum set for so long? I’ve been listening to J. Tillman’s solo material for several years now. His albums always felt like nice companions to the Fleet Foxes records but, to be honest, I was never completely captivated. With Fleet Foxes behind him and a new name (Father John Misty), Tillman has finally delivered his most authentic and engaging work yet.

Tillman is a hilarious person. All of his interviews render on the ridiculous side of things. Instead of doing another mopey singer-songwriter album, he decided to write something that is just as ridiculous, sarcastic, and absurd as he is. The folk-rock genre has been taking itself too seriously for too long. The music is performed exceptionally but does not break new ground – Tillman does that with his lyrics instead. Not since Weird Al Yankovic has wit and humor in songwriting been so impactful (only partially kidding). In just the first few lines of “I’m Writing A Novel,” we get this gem:

“I ran down the road, pants down to my knees
Screaming ‘please come help me, that Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me!’
And I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before”

He’s equal parts cynical and surrealist. Self-referential writing in music is usually few and far between, but at the end of “Every Man Needs a Companion,” the album closer, it feels particularly important to giving the album the proper context.

“Joseph Campbell and The Rolling Stones
Couldn’t give me a myth
So I had to write my own
Like I’m hung up on religion
Though I know it’s a waste
I never liked the name Joshua
I got tired of J”

3. The Men – Open Your Heart

Metz may have done punk and garage the loudest this year, but The Men did it the grimiest. “Open Your Heart.” The blend of country and garage rock just sets the tone for getting in trouble. The Men are carrying the torch for 80s punk bands like the Buzzcocks; rough and misunderstood by the current music climate. Nothing on “Open Your Heart” feels polished up. Listening to this album feels like being at a sweaty basement show where the band is screaming five feet away from you and diving into the crowd.

The first two songs, “Turn It Around” and “Animal,” set the stage with screams and muddy distortion. Then there’s the dramatic shift with the third track “Country Song,” which is an extended, slow trudging, instrumental with western overtones. Songs like this show that the band is not just about playing loud and goofing off. They’re listening to those same psychedelic albums Tame Impala is, but reinterpreting it through a greasy lens.

The title track “Open Your Heart” encapsulates the feeling brewing throughout the record. Optimistic through all the shit. Mark Perro doesn’t have a perfect and clean voice, but it feels so real and authentic that you want to shriek and yell with him. Still though, even though the album focuses on distortion and pummeling drums, I keep finding myself coming back to the acoustic driven track “Candy.” Hearing Perro sing “when I hear the radio play I don’t care that it’s not me” on the song feels so relevant to what the band is about. They’ve come to terms with not getting Top 40 success. The Men is about playing the music they want to and giving the middle finger to consistency.

2. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

If you start and end your album with the sounds of fireworks, you better be able to back it up.

Japandroid’s sophomore album “Celebration Rock” is the soundtrack of teen years gone, not knowing what’s coming next, and not giving a shit about any of that because tonight we’re going to fucking party. It’s not very surprising that I’ve found myself and friends around my age all resonating with this album. Most of us don’t know what we’re going to be doing next, but sometimes we just don’t want to think about that. We’re all young, so why can’t we just be okay with that and worry about the rest later on? It’s incredibly nostalgic. Even the sound of the album sounds like something I’d hear on the radio when I was a kid – big drums and even bigger guitars and shouting.

Brian King doesn’t change up his guitar effects to much throughout the record, but that only adds to the urgency of the eight track album. King and drummer David Prowse opted to record this album live in the studio as opposed to multi-tracking and doing overdubs like they did on their first album, “Post-Nothing.” The difference between these two records is incredible and most if it can be cited back to that production choice.

“Celebration Rock” is full of “Oh Oh Oh Ooooooh!” chants and King more-so shouts than sings most of the time. Japandroids are able to deliver lines that might otherwise be thought of as heavy handed and make them endearing and organic. Listening to “The House That Heaven Built” is better than any sort of motivational seminar.

“When they love you, and they will
Tell ’em all they’ll love in my shadow
And if they try to slow you down
Tell ’em all to go to hell”

Japandroids is affirmation that it’s not uncommon to be unsure of what you want to do next. For a generation facing horrendous employment rates, that’s crucial. Until then, we’re drinking.

1. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

In 2012 Dylan Baldi turned away for his pop-punk solo  past and came out as the tortured front man of a slaughtering indie punk band.

Cloud Nothings releasing “Attack On Memory” was an incredible shock. Listening to their past material seems to provide very little clues that Baldi would make this drastic of a change in his music. Whereas before he seemed to worship at the temple of Rivers Cuomo, he now burns sage at the altar of Frank Black. Lo-fi bedroom pop-rock snippets have become Steve Albini produced guitar epics. This time around, Baldi recorded live in the studio with his band instead of by himself. Good move.

“Wasted Days” has one of the most erupting breakdowns in a rock song in 2012 (or in the past few years, for that matter). Droning on a single note for minutes can be boring, but Cloud Nothings use it tactfully to heighten the anticipation for the final repetitions of Baldi yelling “I thought I would be more than this.” Then on just the next song, we get the less doom-centered side of Baldi with the foot-tapping, rattling “Fall In.”

“Stay Useless” covers similar ground as Japandroids, but with only a few “ohhh ohhs” this time. Baldi is more desperate in his please than Japandroids’ hopeless romanticism.

“I need time to stop moving. I need time to stay useless.”

What sets “Attack On Memory” above the rest of the garage/punk albums in 2012 was its balance of grit, melody, and noise. All the factors felt incredibly balanced. It’s not an optimistic album, but it feels realistic. Even at 20 years old, Baldi knows how to vent his frustration in a relateable way and does so with annihilating guitar barrages.

On the final track “Cut You,” Baldi shows us just how twisted he is. As he mourns an ex moving on, he laments how her new lover is not as screwed up as him. On the surface, it’s sort of a disgusting song. He pleads “Does he hurt you like I do?” “like it would be a bad thing if her new boyfriend wasn’t abusive. He portrays a sense of entitlement with “I need to know, I deserve to know.” But stepping back, I can’t say that I haven’t felt he does in this song – mainly in my weakest and most regrettable moments. Its uncomfortable to hear because it’s so close to what we try to hide. In the end he confesses “I miss you cause I like damange, I need something I can hurt.” Making a revelation like that is the mark of an excellent songwriter.

Word is Cloud Nothings are working on a new album 2013 that’s going to be even noisier. If they keep with this direction and trajectory, this young band has the chance to really help propel the new punk-revival.

Honorable Mentions

Silicon Girls – Rana

Swans – The Seer

Mac Demarco – 2

Beach House – Bloom

Moon Duo – Circles

Death Grips – The Money Store

Jason Molina – Autumn Bird Songs

ExitMusic – Passage

Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

Damien Jurado – Maraqopa

Lemolo – The Kaleidoscope

Stagnant Pools – Temporary Room

Pinback – Information Retrieved

Balmorhea – Stranger

Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Glen Hansard – Rhythm and Response

G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer

My Effin Lists: Top Albums of 2012 (Numbers 25 – 11)


I know it sounds a bit over enthusiastic, but 2012 is one of the better years of music I can recall in recent memory. It felt like all the different genres and sub-genres were on the top of their game.

I don’t want to ramble too long now, but I would like to put out the disclaimer that I have not listened to every single album that came out this year. In the past, I’ve written my top albums lists for more formal publications which meant trying to create a list that was centered on importance of the albums in the scheme of the larger music community. However, since this is my personal blog, I’ve decided to order these just be my own interest and liking.

So without further ado, here are my top 25 albums of 2012.

25. Metz – [self-titled]

2012 felt like the second coming of “the year that punk broke.” Instead of describing Metz’s self-titled debut album, I might as well just describe a bulldozer or a wrecking ball. It’s thunderous, destructive, erupting, and pummels buildings into dust (well, almost). Of the raucous garage/punk albums to come out this year, Metz’ did it the loudest and maybe the harshest – citation: “Wasted.”

24. Grizzly Bear – Shields

Grizzly Bear is probably one of the most intricate and skilled groups in music right now. All too often I’ve seen group with talented members produce incredibly lackluster music because “hey lets throw in 5 time signatures and I’ll come up with some disorienting counterpoint melodies” just doesn’t usually sound very good. On “Shields,” Grizzly Bear is able to harness their abilities into a richly textured piece with inviting melodies. The lead single “Yet Again” exemplifies their tactics of throwing in unusual and galloping harmonies to produce a singular accessible track.

23. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

Any artist who gets the Thom Yorke stamp of approval must have something going for them. “Until The Quiet Comes” has Flying Lotus prove yet again that beats don’t just have to be “cool and interesting,” they can also be moving and wraith-like. Tracks like “Getting There” find FlyLo treading ground laid down by the like of Nujabes years before. At any moment on “Until The Quiet Comes” the songs can go from fragile to an infectious groove.

22. Tame Impala – Lonerism

Tame Impala is definitely headphone music. Every listen to “Lonerism” is a new chance to discover some new guitar effect or overdub you didn’t notice before. Psychedelic-garage rock, through Tame Impala, is making a come back from the label of “high school Pink Floyd tribute band” to beautiful, intricate pop outfit. Whirring amp feedback on “Gotta Be Above” and flange accents on “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?” are wonderfully weird Easter eggs for a powerfully infection record.

21. Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives

For those who have followed Death Cab For Cutie from the early records till now, the past few years have been confusing, awkward, and sometimes even upsetting (“IF HE DOESN’T WRITE ANOTHER SAD SONG, I’M GOING TO BURN DOWN BEN GIBBARD’S HOUSE AND SPREAD THE ASHES ALL OVER THE SET OF ‘NEW GIRL!'”).  While I wasn’t a big fan of “Codes and Keys” and struggled with half of “Narrow Stairs,” Ben Gibbard’s solo effort “Former Lives” seems to accomplish the direction those two albums were heading in.  The storytelling of “Teardrop Windows” and the self-realization of “Oh, Woe” give glimpses of ghosts of Gibbard’s past while the instrumentation shows where he’s at now.

20. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city

A hip-hop album detailing life growing up in Compton is not necessarily original on a surface level, but Kendrick Lamar is an artist who knows the importance of perspective. “good kid, m.a.a.d. city” gives Lamar’s insights on the self-destructive tendencies of his beloved hometown with spiritual and pensive overtones throughout but mostly deals with his own personal struggles. The stand out track “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” finds Lamar lifting up his music as the one thing that he wants to keep untainted, a sort of emotional core to the record.

“I am a sinner whose probably gonna sin again. Please forgive me, things I don’t understand. Sometimes I want to be alone. Bitch don’t kill my vibe.”

In just one line (on a record full of equally as brilliant one liners) Lamar weaves in art, loneliness, and faith into his own mission statement. So while Yeezy and Hova are debating whether or not their jackets are Margiela, Lamar will be out here relating to everyone else who can’t afford a yacht.

19. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

My Effin Lists: Top Albums of 2012 (Numbers 25 - 11)

Since when did The Tallest Man On Earth start going electronic?

Vocalist Joe Newman (whom I’m still not convinced isn’t Kristian Matsson, The Tallest Man, himself) brings grit and imperfection to a genre dominated by the pristine production of experimental-electronic-rock. The songs feel like fables, drawing inspiration from elementary sources like “Where the Wild Things Are” (“Breezeblocks”) or even shapes (“Tesselate”). Alt-J isn’t the next Radiohead, they’re the next Alt-J.

18. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse

The dooming, slow bass lead into “Wave Goodbye” followed by the flood of guitar distortion and a 60s pop vocal melody epitomizes Ty Segall. “Slaughterhouse” was one of three records Segall put out this year. Each one was great for their own reasons, but” Slaughterhouse” found Segall in his best stride. Beneath the layers of fuzz distortion are exceptionally melodic guitar lines. It’s as if The Beatles decided after they wrote “Helter Skelter” that they should go further and darker in that direction.

17. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Majellan

I must confess, I’ve never really been a big fan of Dirty Projectors. Most of their previous work has come off to me as pretentious and inaccessible. Coming in to “Swing Lo Majellan” I was expecting to feel the same, but wanted to give them one last shot – that was a good idea. This record finds the band toning back a bit on the overly complex song-structure and harmonic intricacies while retaining what makes them unique. “Gun Has No Trigger” and “About To Die” lean toward the grandiose spectrum of Dirty Projectors where songs like the title track and “Impregnable Question.” The fact that “Unto Caesar” features the band laughing as they try to figure out when to bring in the harmonies gives the feeling that the band is learning to let loose a bit.

16. The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

Kristian Matsson (The Tallest Man On Earth) has developed a definitive style, one that is hard to deviate from much. Instead of changing his songwriting approach on “There’s No Leaving Now,” Matsson mixes things up with the production. His past two albums have felt like creaky, old solo recordings. The new record feels like a relic from a dusty record bin. The inclusion of faintly mixed electric guitar on the tracks gives a warmth to the album. “Revelation Blues” could be a b-side to an unknown Sun Records artist and “1904” sounds like a long lost A.M. radio gem.

15. Tanlines – Mixed Emotions

“Mixed Emotions” must have escaped from a break in the space-time continuum (or maybe a Hot Tub Time Machine). Tanlines could be quiet at home with 1980s contemporaries like Tears For Fears and Simple Minds. “Mixed Emotions” is full of synth-based anthems contemplating a possible mid-life crisis. Opener “Brothers” is deliberate with execution with a swaying beat. Eric Emm’s voice sounds like it could break out into “Melt With You” at any moment. Guitars shimmer, electronic drums give their unearthly thumps, and there are even some tropical overtones. If the 80s had been more like this, maybe it wouldn’t have gotten such a bad rap.

14. Dan Deacon – America

How this album did not make a bigger impact in 2012 is beyond me. Dan Deacon’s “America” brought together electronic production with live orchestral instrumentation to create a poignant, self-aware album about, well, America. Deacon has described it in some ways as a protest record – specifically the masterful four movement USA suite at the end of the record. Songs like “Lots” are blown out in the vain of a Steve Albini record. “True Thrush” has a dream-pop vibes with rushing drums. The inclusion of real, acoustic drums gives this album punch. This album reminds us that Deacon is not just a musician, he is a composer.

13. Grimes – Visions

I wasn’t sure what to make of Grimes when “Visions” came out. Then I spent more time with it. This album captures feelings of meekness and desperation with massive production, which seems a bit contradicting at first. At the center of every track is a soft, wavering melody – everything else is just a gorgeous garnish building off of that core. “Genesis” is the perfect example of this. Beneath all of the swirling piano lines, bass thumps, and sporadic beats is the small framed Grimes saying “Oh heart, and then it falls, and then I fall, and then I know.” It’s simple, but meaningful.

12. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

The field recordings of chatter at the beginning of “Mladic,” the first track on “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend,” set an ominous tone for this bleak and tumultuous record. Soon after a violin rises in and bending guitar notes pop in and out as the song rises to its breaking point that won’t let up for the rest of the 20 minute track. Godspeed You! Black Emperor quietly released shrieking record while on tour, keeping up with their mentality of “this isn’t business, this is art and a statement.” Many bands have popped up trying the instrumental prog-chamber rock style since GY!BE’s last recorded 10 years ago. GY!BE unintentionally prove they still do it best, but that doesn’t seem to be their primary concern. Moreover, they’re proving that the same issues we lamented 10 years ago are still relevant today and there’s no excuse.

11. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon

“Clear Moon” is an ethereal look at nature, monotony, and living through Phil Elverum’s (Mount Eerie) Walden-esque insight. At one moment Elverum might be channeling Nick Drake – picking out a delicate melody while quietly reminiscing (“Through The Trees Pt. 2”). The next thing you know, he’s turned into Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine – drowning his thoughts beneath a flood of looming guitar distortion (“Over Dark Water”). It is hard to pinpoint exactly how to classify this album with its variety noise and sounds. His narrative strings it all together – simple pondering and speculating of the world around him. It is simultaneously a call against unnatural living and doubt if that’s even possible. Elverum paints vivid pictures with his lyrics and uses the music only to texture them.

Growing Up With Chad Kroeger and Spider-man

It’s easy to latch on to the idea of being a 90’s kid – there’s just so much to admire about the decade. There’s this ideal image of the music and culture that makes it appealing to associate yourself with. While my friends and I were born in the 90s, a large amount of our adolescent lives that we could actually “participate with the culture” was the 2000s (the otts, the 00s, whatever you want to call it).

I’ve started reading Colin Meloy’s contribution to the 33 1/3 on The Replacement’s album “Let It Be,” which focuses primarily on Meloy’s experience with music through the awkward years of junior high. “Let It Be” essentially sound-tracked the big memories in his life – school dances, playing on the JV basketball team, not being sure where you belong, etc. It seems like such an appropriate album for a time of transition. This got me to thinking about what particular album I can recall tying with junior high. Even though I listened to my (still) favorite all time band Remy Zero constantly, it pains me to admit that my Junior High defining album was “Music From and Inspired By: Spider-Man.”

Let me iterate that again. The Spider-man soundtrack was like my version of The Replacements “Let It Be.”

These days, it’s really cool and trendy to hate on Nickelback (myself not exclude from this) but it can’t be dismissed that in 2002 Nickelback was a juggernaut and most people I knew at the time thought they were a solid band. As promotions started for the upcoming Spider-man movie, the music video for Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott’s “Hero” was on constant rotation in the morning on MTV and VH1.

“This song is beautiful,” I remember thinking. The rolling snare abruptly being stopped by the booming strum of Chad’s acoustic guitar gave me goosebumps. The imagery of Spider-man swinging through buildings while Chad and the band played on a rooftop felt so serene, like an oil painting or a student art film. Then the vocal’s kick in with the killer opening line.

“I’m so high I can hear heaven, oh but heaven, but heaven don’t hear me.”

Sold. Shut up and take my money, Mr. Kroeger. You’ve made my puberty filled heart melt.

In a routine trip to Fred Meyer I convinced my dad to buy me the soundtrack as we passed through the electronics section. This was the summer before seventh grade. In a month or so I’d be going to a new school where I was totally unknown. Though I was able to make a few friends, I still felt a bit disconnected from everyone else that year. I was able to find my “group” to hang out with a lunch but didn’t see much of my classmates outside of school. Every day on the bus ride home, I’d take my CD case and red disc-man with matching over-the-ear headphones out of my rolling backpack and find the black disc with the orange lettering. Sitting in the back, I’d crank up the music and look out the window or sometimes observe the high schoolers laughing and talking away.

I’d skip the first track usually (the original Spider-man cartoon theme) and go straight to “Hero.” I tried really hard to like the Sum 41 song “What We’re All About” but could never manage it.

On days I tried to make a move on my current crush (which typically involved trying to start some sort of conversation) and inevitably failed it was straight to track 16, “She Was My Girl” by Jerry Cantrell. I didn’t know who Cantrell was at the time, but I thought he captured my angst and longing so well.

“She was my girl. Used to be my world.”

God damn, Jerry, have you been observing my life or something?

When I was feeling particularly angsty (again, usually over girl issues) it was “Learn to Crawl” by Black Lab.

“Tell your pretty red haired babe to forget that I exist”

Black Lab snarling those words over a chunky, melodramatic post-grunge guitar riff made me feel like I was a bad-ass that no one should try and mess with. Beneath by blue and black Nike windbreaker and graphic t-shirt was the heart of real rocker. I began to love music in the obnoxious “oMyGod MuZiK iZ mAi LyFe!” sort of way – infatuation, but not quite yet true love.

At home I’d put the CD in my computer while I worked on my large creative pursuit: Monkey Man comic books. I had a whole franchise planned out in my head including multiple series, spin-offs, and inevitably a major movie deal. At the core, it’s hard to say if Money Man was a spoof of Spider-man or just a blatant ripoff (I mean, being bit by a radioactive monkey is TOTALLY different than being bit by a radioactive spider). I think I played it off as a joke to people, but secretly I imagined Monkey Man swinging through New York on his vine as the bridge of “Hero” trembled in the background.

“It isn’t the love of a hero, that’s what I feel it won’t do.”

Looking back, it’s hard for me to listen to the Spider-man soundtrack and take it seriously. Still, it’s hard for me to dismiss something so pivotal to my early teen years. I may not be jamming out to Black Lab and Nickelback these days but those songs served as a stepping stone to what I listen to now. Chad Kroeger rocking out on an acoustic guitar had a profound impact on impressionable, tiny, naive, middle school Dusty. So Colin Meloy wins this round of cooler middle school jams, but I feel we still have shared the same feelings listening to our respective albums and I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I’ll hold on to this soundtrack like the wings of the eagles, and watch as they all fly away.

Won’t Let Go

Photo by Dorothy Hyunh (

This post was written on August 14, around midnight, and published August 16.

I’ve avoided writing a blog about marriage or “life as an engaged person” post for a while. Most of the reason lies behind thinking that a lot of the posts I read like this are cheesy and (perhaps ashamedly) Kristin and I have both laughed at how strange some of them are (just kidding, no shame – they’re hilarious). So maybe I’ll end up in that “strangely comical lubby dubby blogger” realm if just for this post.

Right now I’m sitting alone in the apartment Kristin and I will share as our first home as a family. The living room is completely empty. I have two plates, two glasses, a bowl, and one of each type of silverware. My belongings, mostly clothes and records, are all collected in the bedroom. I haven’t really organized anything; I’m waiting until Kristin moves in so we can set things up together and make it our place.

It’s a surreal feeling, living like this. It’s peaceful and yet jarring. Everything feels like the calm before a storm, but instead of a storm it’s a whole new life waiting on the other side. When I can’t quite comprehend what I’m feeling and struggle to keep my thoughts straight I typically turn to music that I think captures it better than I think I’m able to.

I first heard “Won’t Let Go” when David Bazan played a snippet of it at The Triple Door during “The Song Show,” a series where CityArts interviews artists on stage between songs. Bazan’s been urged for a while now to write a conventional love song that doesn’t involve some sort of twisted scenario (not a lot of people bought his reasoning that “Please Baby Please” was a love song, a song where the narrator drunkenly pleads with his wife for a drink and later their daughter dies in a car accident – basically our generations “I Only Have Eyes For You”). Hearing just that little bit two years ago, I knew it was breathtaking. I thought the same thing when it was finally released on his album last year. But I don’t think I really “got it” until tonight.

As I work on the favors for our wedding, I have this song on repeat. The distant drums, the ethereal guitar twang, and Bazan’s aged soft growl are constantly buzzing in my ears. I can’t stop listening; I feel comforted. Basically in the song Bazan is calling his wife before getting on a plane, explaining that when she gets this message he’ll be on a plane thinking about her and his responsibilities to her – and that he won’t let go of her.

The premises sounds more like a Billy Joel, Peter Frampton, or, heck, even a Bruno Mars song – some generic safe musician. But it’s all about the execution of the story and who is telling it. The track bookends an album that starts with a chorus of “You’re a goddamn fool and I love you” and later details how we as people have lost our humanity. Not exactly “Baby I Love Your Way” now is it? Bazan’s had a rough road with faith that he’s shared publicly through his music and has also publicly mentioned its strain on his relationship with his family in interviews. To Bazan, this isn’t throw away napkin poetry but a thoughtful declaration.

“Who or what controls the fates of men I cannot say, but I keep arriving safely home to you. I humbly acknowledge that I won’t always get my way, but darling death would have to pry my fingers loose.”

What does it mean to love someone that you would literally fight off death, not for your own sake, but to not leave them alone? Darwin told us the animal kingdom is all about survival of the fittest, animals fighting for dominance and doing whatever it takes to get it. Bazan tells us his wife is worth more than pure alpha supremacy. What a novel concept, aye? This probably seems obvious and stupid but I think he touches at something even deeper – love is going against your human nature to give up everything for someone else. That’s beautiful.

It’s not just about avoiding death, it’s about allowing nothing to keep you from the one you love whether it is metaphysical or otherwise.  That’s an easy statement to make but a harder one to fully grasp – let alone follow through with.

In the over three years Kristin and I have been together, I’ve become closer to her than anyone in my life. In those years I’ve learned really for the first time what it means to sacrifice for someone you love. Not just little sacrifices, but knowing your capacity to do whatever you can to make sure they are safe and content. I can probably think of small things I’ve done for friends and family throughout my life that may constitute as “sacrifices,” but they’re not quite the same. Getting to this point has been the hardest thing I think I’ve done. There has been that pain in my stomach when I’ve felt like I cannot do enough only to gain the strength to move forward. I mean a physical hurt. There’s an actual ache when you want to raise someone up but you’re not sure how. And when you figure it out, it’s so much joy – not joy for your benefit but joy for the other person.

Of course, there is much more than just these aspects that go into love, but right now these are the specific ones on my mind. I’d need a novel to explore that, not a blog post.

I love Kristin more than I did the first time I told her I loved her. In twenty years I’m sure I’ll look back and say that I love her more than I did when I said it on my wedding day. Having a responsibility like this to someone else is challenging but the reward is tenfold. I cannot and will not let go of her, I could never afford to do that. Bazan and I could tag team beating the of shit out death because it’d take far more than that for me to stop trying – it’s impossible.

“I will not let go. I will not let go. I will not let go of you.”

The Divorce, Smoke, and Other People’s Sweat

Photo courtesy of RazingCulture

(This is an excerpt from a larger work. I had to take out some parts because they would not make sense out of context. A lot of this is based on my own experiences and friends, but a lot of it is also fictionalized. I’ll let you be the judge of what is what.)

I had never been to a local show before. I’d gone to big concerts in Seattle multiple times and every time I felt like I was ‘so cool’ and ‘down with the music scene.’ I realize now that those Good Charlotte and Sum 41 concerts did not give me the street-cred I thought I had. But hey, at fifteen years old I wasn’t doing too badly. My friend Molly had more local music “cred” than I thought possible for one human to obtain. When she invited me to go to a show with her, I felt confident that I would fit in from my vast mosh pit and crowd surfing experience at those “hardcore” pop-punk shows.

Molly is one of the most curious and intriguing people I ever met in Kitsap County. She always stood out, mostly because she was either two steps ahead of the trends or because the trends formed themselves after her liking. Her hair was black and mangled with faded bleach streaks with hints of blue on her bangs, framing her makeup free face.  Two bright silver snakebite piercings on her lips caught your eye before anything else in her appearance. She was loud and obnoxious, but not in an annoying way. Her big personality made you want to listen to what she had to say. She seemed like the kind of girl who, even in high school, had more experienced insights on life than most people have in their lifetime. And because she was a couple years older than me, it made the illusion even more believable to me.

In retrospect, I can confidently say I never had romantic feelings for Molly; even though sometimes I thought I did. I more so looked up to her than had feelings for her. Getting the invitation from Molly made me feel like I had something to offer to this Kitsap music counter-culture. For lack of better words, it made me feel cool. The main reason Molly invited me was because she heard I was into this band Mary Jane Watson. I heard them at a battle of the bands at South Kitsap High School a couple months before and thought they were the most rad band ever. I even asked the lead singer to take a picture with me, not realizing that local bands were not celebrities (however, even to this day I will freak out when I see someone from a local band walking down the street).  Earning Molly’s respect and seeing Mary Jane Watson again were more than enough reasons to get me to go to the show.

I rummaged through my closet to find the shirt that would make me seem cool and fit in. Naturally, I chose my black Blink-182 shirt with red and white font, truly hardcore. God, I was such a dork and I didn’t even know it. I pulled a pair of loose fit blue jeans from my drawer and slipped them on. I was also trying my first attempt at growing out my hair this summer. At this point my hair was nearly covering all of my ears and my bangs were reaching a little bit past my eyebrows and touched my upper eyelids. As I’ve said before, I tried so hard.

Convincing my mom and step-dad to let me go was going to be the hard part. My mother tended to overprotective and my dad tended to agree with her when it was easier for him. They’d let me go to those bigger shows in Seattle, granted my dad attended a couple to make sure my friends and I were safe (did I mention yet how cool I was?), but I had doubts that they would be comfortable with a show like this. Luckily for me, my drunken godfather Joey was staying with us for the summer. He and my mother were best friends throughout high school, the years before, and the years after.

“Hell, Paula. The kid just wants to go see a concert. We did a lot crazier shit when we were his age. But I don’t have to remind you of that,” Joey said with the heavy smell of Bud Light on his breath.

“Fine,” my mother said, mostly I think to make sure Joey wouldn’t go into details. Joey gave me a sly wink, a tell that he’d give me the details about their teenage shenanigans later.

The only catch to my mom’s agreement was that she, my dad, and Joey would drive me there and walk to the venue to make sure it was okay and make sure I met up with Molly. I agreed, because I had no choice to if I wanted to go to the show. I knew I was going to feel stupid, but it would only last a few minutes and then they’d leave and I could enjoy my few hours of feeling cool.


Joey and I rode in the backseat of my mom’s maroon ‘97 Volvo while my parents sat in the front reminding me to make sure my cell phone was on, telling me to be aware of my surroundings, not to drink anything someone passes me, and so on. Joey rolled his eyes and laughed, making quick remarks about how much my mom has changed. I mostly ignored what they were all saying and looked out the window, daydreaming of what the show would be like. There would be a huge stage, flashing lights, and only the cool kids from Kitsap would be there because they were the only ones who knew about it. We would laugh and also have thoughtful discussions about the music. I’d tell them about seeing Good Charlotte at the Paramount and they’d be jealous, but impressed. Molly’s friends would think I was awesome. They’d ask me to hang out some more. I would feel like I was part of the Kitsap music scene.

My parents continued to remind me to stay safe while I was in my daydream. They meant really well. Looking back, I did feel really loved by them even when they annoyed the crap out of me. As my mom was about to remind me of another safety tip, Joey grabbed my shoulder firmly and turned to look at me in the eye. He was completely sober.

“Just make sure you have fun,” Joey said, “Don’t worry about all that safety crap. You’re a smart kid. Make some bad choices. Take some risks. You can’t live your life in a shell.”

Right on cue my mom jumped in with frustration telling me not to listen to my godfather. Joey just laughed, seeming pretty proud of himself. I quietly laughed with him. He definitely had made a lot of mistakes in his life that caused him a lot of pain. I began to think that maybe there was a middle ground between his philosophy and my mom’s. Maybe tonight, I thought, would be the night I found that way of life in between.

We pulled up to Evergreen State Park in Bremerton at about 5 p.m. It was the perfect sunny day, like those July days they have in those teen-marketed upbeat movies. Thinking back, this was probably the best venue for my parents to see as a representation of local music. The venues I would hang out at later were much more…colorful. A church located in the park was allowing the bands to host a show in their sanctuary, another great selling point for my parents. I was so excited to immerse myself in all of this cultural goodness until I remembered that my family was going to be escorting me into the show.

Meandering down the sidewalk from the parking lot to the core of the festivities, I built up the anticipation in my mind. I kept praying for my car ride daydream to become true. Joey smiled, looking down on me from his six foot two inch stature. I think he sensed my excitement better than anyone that day. I felt like I was making him proud. Then we turned a corner, and I saw it; tons of teenagers hanging out in the grass outside the church laughing and talking in the afternoon sun. This was it. My hopes were being fulfilled.

I was more than anxious to break away from my parents and get ready to have a life changing experience. Quickly I grabbed my phone from my pocket and searched for Molly’s number. After two or three rings, she picked up only to tell me she and her friends were getting some snacks at 7/11 and would be back in fifteen or so minutes.

“Is she here?” my mom asked me.

“No, not yet. She’ll be here in like fifteen minutes though,” I said, “but it’s fine. I can just wait here for her. You guys don’t have to wait.”

“That’s fine, I don’t mind waiting. I want to make sure you guys meet up,” she said.

“Really Mom, I’ll be okay. I can take care of myself,” I said, defending myself.

“No. I want to make sure you guys find each other,” she said looking skeptical at the company I was going to be keeping tonight. At that point, there was no point even arguing. She was going to wait all night if she had to.

Not so fondly do I recall waiting those fifteen minutes outside the show. I simply wanted to feel cool, and having three 30something year olds hanging around you does not really convince people that you are a cool guy when you’re fifteen. My mom suggested we all go walk by the water while we waited. I made sure I walked at least 15 paces in front of them to distance myself them physically and socially. Teenagers can really be jerks to their parents when they’re trying to be accepted by their peers, but can you really blame them? No one else’s parents were at the show making sure they found their friends. This was definitely not the Good Charlotte concert crowd.

I could hear my dad and Joey laughing at me. They must have remembered what it was like. My mom joked with them too, she actually had a great sense of humor about her, but I could tell it was also hurting her a little bit that I was distancing myself from her. I looked everywhere except behind me. There isn’t a right word in the English dictionary to describe a teenager’s embarrassment other than ‘death’ itself. This was all wrong. My chances of being accepted were getting slimmer and slimmer. It felt like everyone was looking at my family and me.  Then I heard the voice that was simultaneously a relief and distress, given my situation.

“Hey Adam!” Molly yelled as she walked across the grass, leaving her group of friends standing in their semi-circle. Her snake bites gleamed brightly in the sun and complemented her Schoolyard Heroes camouflage t-shirt with a skull on it and green raggedy Converse shoes quite nicely. My mother, who strangely adored Molly, came rushing forward to greet her.

“Oh Molly! It’s so good to see you. How are you?” my mother said enthusiastically and quite loudly. Again, I wanted to die.

“Hey Mrs. Stuart! I am doing so awesome. It’s great to see you too. How have you been?” Molly said. She was surprisingly great at talking to other people’s parents.

“I’ve been good. Just dropping off Adam here for the show,” my mother said. She kept talking, but I tried tuning it out. I hadn’t even gotten one word in to Molly. I let them carry on with their formalities because that was the only thing I could do, that and stare at the ground in embarrassment.

“It was so good seeing you guys. Adam, you ready?” Molly said, freeing me.

“Yeah, sure,” I said in monotone, trying so hard not to sound too excited or too relieved.

I could tell by the way she looked at me that my mom wanted me to hug her goodbye. I didn’t. Like I said, teenagers can really be jerks to their parents when they’re trying to be accepted by their peers. It’s funny how those tiny forgettable moments where I’m a real asshole always stick out to me.

“Okay. Have fun. Goodbye Adam.  I love you,” my mother said.

“I love you too,” I mumbled quickly and turned and walked away. I had to at least say that, I couldn’t be that much of a jerk. I could hear Joey laughing as I walked away, probably bugging my mom about leaving me with hoodlums or joking about worse stuff they used to do. When my family was out of sight, Molly patted me on the back and started laughing.

“You are so adorable,” she said. “You were so embarrassed to be seen with your parents at the show.” Molly always had a way of talking to me like I was a little kid without coming across as condescending.

“Heh, yeah. Sorry about that. My family can be a bit much,” I sheepishly replied.

“Whatever man. Hah, you are just so cute. Don’t let it bug you. I’m so excited to take you to your first real show. Ah! It’s going to be so good,” she said.

“Well actually, I’ve been to a couple shows before,” I said but could not elaborate further, thank God, as we reached her friends.  Her three friends, two girls and a guy, were just finishing laughing at some joke or tidbit of conversation as Molly and I got there. Each wore a well-weathered pair of converse (each friend with a different color), had some sort of tattoo and smoked. I got nervous. At that exact moment I realized that I had no local music credibility and that I was some private Christian school dork who liked mainstream pop punk music.  I thought myself to be a miserable, corporate brainwashed existence compared to these people.

“Hey guys. This is my friend Adam. We go to school together,” Molly said.

“Yo,” the guy in the group said, “my name’s Dan.” Dan transferred his cigarette to his left hand and reached out with his right to shake my hand. His short dreadlocks were tide up in a ponytail on the back of his head that bobbed every time he made a quick movement. His dark brown skin stood out against his ironically acid washed jeans. It was his black Vendetta Red t-shirt that stuck out to me most at the time: a red arrow with red and black font. It was like my shirt, only it was more respectable in this setting. There were some lyrics tattooed on his right bicep that I didn’t recognize at the time. Later in life I would hear the words in the first verse of  “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel and recall it back to this moment.

“I’m Daphne,” said the girl wearing a yellow, frilly blouse and torn up blue jeans. She blew her last puff of smoke to the side before shaking my hand. She was very stunning in an unconventional sort of way. Her short black hair and thick-rimmed glasses fit her narrow face perfectly. She simply had the word ‘love’ tattooed above her clavicle.

“Hey Adam, my name’s Jessica,” the other girl said. Her brown hair flowed down past her shoulders. Her blue and black plaid shirt was adorned with several handmade pins of bands I had never heard of but would come to know well later, such as Valley of the Dinosaurs and Claymore. Both her left nostril and right eyebrow had a ring in them and her left forearm bore a picture of some sort of birdcage from a Kurt Vonegut novel (though I did not know what that was at the time either). I shook each of their hands and went through all of the formalities of introducing myself. They seemed to like me, well I mean; they didn’t seem to not like me at least.

Conversation turned quickly from introductions to Schoolyard Heroes. I sincerely appreciated them not quizzing me with forced superficial small talk and just accepted me as being part of the conversation. They all talked about how excited they were to see Schoolyard Heroes’ set. Dan talked about how he saw them play the night before at El Corazon in Seattle for their CD release show.

“It was life changing,” he said before taking a slow drag from his cigarette, “I swear to God, I’m going to marry Ryann Donnelly someday. She and I are meant to be, I just know it.” He had some of the most colorful language I had ever heard delivered with an elegant ease.

“Whatever, Dan. You didn’t even know about them until I introduced you to them a couple months ago,” Molly said, chuckling.

“What the hell does that have to do with anything? Love doesn’t care how long you’ve known the person,” he said, following sarcastically with “You just, you just feel it man.”

“You’re right,” Molly said, “If I were a man or if she were a man, I’d totally want to tap that ass too.”

I laughed two guffaws loudly before abruptly stopping myself. The group looked at me. I felt like I was caught naked stealing from the cookie jar. I thought I did something wrong.

“Come on man,” Daphne said, “don’t be afraid to laugh. That was some funny shit.”

Then we all laughed. This was all going so well. I didn’t feel like I had to try too hard to be accepted. I had stereotyped these people who followed the music scene as being off put by anyone else trying to get into their friend circle, but I was experiencing the opposite. I didn’t want to build up my expectations too much though; after all, it had only been a few minutes into meeting them. Maybe they would change their minds soon.

“Hey, have you guys heard anything about the first band?” Jessica said, “Mary Jane Watson I think is their name. I haven’t heard of them.” Molly nudged me and smirked.

“Yeah, I have,” I said. Molly nudged me harder, trying to keep me honest. “I really like them. They’re actually one of my favorite local bands.” The others nodded their heads when I said this, as if it had pleased them. I tried not to smirk but it was hard not to as Molly was beaming at me like a proud parent.

Daphne mentioned to the group that she had to use the bathroom and Molly and Jessica said she would go with her. I guess even cool local music scene girls travel to the bathroom in packs too. I thought to myself how funny that was as they left. Then I realized it was just Dan and I left alone together. I was always awkward in one-on-one situations with people I didn’t know too well. We stood there awkwardly in the grass until he suggested we sit down on some rocks by the water while we wait, so we did. There were a few more moments of silence as we sat there looking at the gleaming water with the only sound being the wind through the trees and Dan’s slow inhaling of his cigarette. Then Dan turned to me with wide eyes and a huge, excited smile on his face.

“Hey man, wanna see a trick?” he said. If I had learned anything from all of the safety advice my parents gave me anytime I went somewhere by myself, it was that if someone asks you a question like this you then you better say no and walk away. But hell, I wasn’t going to be that much of a square now was I? So I told him sure.

Dan smiled menacingly at me, He held out his lit, nearly finished cigarette butt up to the sky to build a dramatic effect. Opening his mouth wide, he took the small cigarette and set it on his tongue with the lit end facing out away from his throat. He then shut his mouth and looked at me blankly. I wasn’t sure what to do. I had no idea what was going on. Dan just kept staring at me. Finally he opened his mouth to reveal that the cigarette was no point the opposite direction from how he had set it before.

“Ta da!” he said with his tongue sticking out, lacking any vowel sounds in his exclamation. All I could do was awkwardly and timidly laugh while thinking to myself that this guy is clearly insane. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and lightly smashed against the side of the rock he was sitting on. I congratulated him on a trick well done and he dramatically replied with mocking sighs of gratitude. He then changed the subject abruptly.

“You don’t smoke, do you?” Dan said, “I can tell that you don’t.”

“Yeah, I don’t smoke,” I replied while trying my best to keep my cool. I felt like I had been spotted as the phony that I was.

“That’s cool, man. Wish I’d never started myself,” he said as he lit up another white and brown cylinder that sat lazily in his mouth, “but I gotta tell ya man. It’s hard to fit in at some of these shindigs if you don’t smoke. I personally think it’s bullshit, but if you don’t smoke or are not able to provide other people with smokes, some of these assholes will look down on you.”

Dan reached into his back pocket and pulled out a half empty pack of Marlboros and a neon yellow lighter and tossed them on my lap. I picked up the box slowly and briefly examined it.

“I don’t expect you to smoke any of them, really,” he said. “But if someone asks you for some smokes, you can get their respect by giving them one of those.”  At the time, I didn’t even think to question everything he was saying. I now realize that it was, as Dan said, mostly bullshit. He was just busting my chops. There was not some secret code with Kitsap music scene kids that you either had to smoke or be able to provide smokes. But I was young and oblivious, so I bought it. He pulled out another pack from his pocket and lit up another cigarette. I swear this guy had a part time job working as a chimney.


After we had reunited with the girls, it was time to actually step inside the venue. Mary Jane Watson was going to be playing first. I tried to hide my giddy excitement from the others. I tried to hide the fact that not only was I excited to see Mary Jane Watson, but that I was also excited to be standing there with this group.

The room looked more like a glorified basement than anything else, which is what was most appealing about it. The floors were cement and the lighting was dim, except for the lights beaming down on the stage. The brown walls mirrored the brown wooden exterior we saw before walking in. The ceiling seemed low, but I think I could have only barely touched it if I jumped with my arm fully extended. We stood in the back. I really wanted to be in the very front but there was already a crowd there and I didn’t want to be the dork who drug Molly and her friends the front, or even worse be the one who goes up to the front all by himself. Just even a year later I wouldn’t really care and just go up front. You should always try and get a good spot for your favorite band. Always.

“Yeah, maybe I’ll try and start a mosh or something,” I said in a forced attempt at being casual to Molly. “Or crowd surf or something.”

Molly laughed her boisterous laugh after hearing this. Then she looked at my straight face and turned her guffaws into a sincere smile. She placed her hand on my shoulders and looked me in the eye.

“They’re really not that kind of band, Adam,” she said. “Oh you are just too cute. I am way too excited for you.”

The band got on to the stage to play. I admired the lead singer’s wood finished electric guitar and vibrato in his nasally, yet intriguing, voice. Guys in bands always had that certain vibe that made guys who weren’t in bands respect them. It is really hard to pinpoint what it is. They are just so easy to idolize. It’s hard to say what drew me to Mary Jane Watson specifically of all of the other Kitsap bands out there. They were the first one I fell in love with. They weren’t even the most successful or widely known. But they were based out of Port Orchard. It felt like it was the first great thing I had seen come out of that town, and it gave me hope. They were also my first real introduction to any sort of indie rock. I had been indoctrinating myself with “mainstream alternative rock” on 107.7 The End and now I was hearing something just slightly different, but it had a certain charm. Their lyrics were simple and the guitar riffs were catchy, not clunky.

I had memorized all of the songs they had up on their Myspace page. I downloaded them and listened to them regularly. So when they played “Farther Away” and “You’ll Never Know” I bobbed my head and mouthed the words to myself. Molly would later tell me I had the widest smile on the face during their entire set. She would call it adorable. I called it embarrassing.

Daphne and Jessica watched blankly and barely moved during the set. This made me think they weren’t enjoying themselves. After experiencing more shows later in life, I realized it was common for the hip kids to simply stand and appear emotionless. Dan walked out halfway through the second song. I wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t like the band or if he needed another cigarette. Molly tapped her feet and swayed back and forth. I’m not sure if it was because she was enjoying the music or she didn’t want me to look weird. Either way, I was still thankful for it.

They only played for fifteen or twenty minutes. But afterward, I was so content. They threw out some copies of their demo into the crowd at the end of their set, but the discs didn’t make it past the first couple of rows. I regretted so much not being able to get one of the demos. But I rationalized with myself that it was probably the same songs I downloaded off of their Myspace. The four of us walked out at the end of the set and met up with Dan. He was leaned up against the outside wall of building smoking another cigarette. I swear his lungs must have been a tar pit.

They all didn’t have much of an interest in any of the bands until The Divorce was playing, but that wouldn’t be for another hour. We sat in a circle in the grass outside. The sun was still out and we could faintly hear Elite Stranger sound checking inside the venue. For a few minutes we didn’t really say anything to each other. I leaned back and kept myself up with my hands on the ground behind me. I quietly enjoyed the feeling of warmth on my skin from the sun and tried to ignore the sickness in my stomach from all of Dan’s smoke. He passed the cigarette to Daphne who took a puff and then handed it over to Jessica, who took and savored several drags and let the smoke waft through her brown hair.

“You wanna try, Adam?” Jessica said to me, holding out the cigarette toward me. I struggled to figure out what I should do. I really didn’t want to try it, but I more so didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the whole group. Telling Dan alone that I didn’t smoke was one thing…then I remembered.

“No thanks,” I said, “I have my own.” I pulled the half used pack of Marlboro’s Dan gave me earlier and showed them to Jessica and the group. I slyly glanced over at Dan and saw he was looking off into the distance, smiling slightly.

“Very cool,” Jessica said. Daphne also nodded in approval. Molly simply rolled her eyes. She obviously knew they weren’t mine. She probably made the connection that Dan gave them to me. I felt like I was disappointing her somehow. Dan reached across the circle and took his cigarette back to finish it off.

When conversation finally picked up, I still didn’t say very much. It always has taken me awhile of knowing a group of people before I could be completely myself around them. They talked a lot about bands and shows they went to in Seattle. I did not recognize any of the names they were mentioning. More and more I was glad that I did not bring up the Good Charlotte concert to them. They picked their words so deliberately and spoke so passionately about local music. It was hard for me to keep up, but it was riveting.

“God, Kane Hodder. I just don’t know,” Dan said, “I mean, I like them. But do you really think they have mainstream appeal? Sure, they have some catchy parts in their songs but over all they are just too aggressive to be accepted by a national audience.”

“Yeah well what about Vendetta Red? They’re grouped together with Kane Hodder and they seem to be doing pretty well.” Daphne said as she ran her fingers through her short black hair. “ ‘Shatterday’ got a lot of notice.”

“Come on Daphne. You really think Kane Hodder and VR are that similar?” Dan said laughing, “Kane Hodder has some straight-up devil screaming in it. I love Vendetta Red to death, but they are not nearly as vicious. But I will consent that they are better.”

“You are just so blinded by your bias,” Jessica chimed in, pointing at Dan’s Vendetta Red shirt.

“Yeah well Dan’s never really been one to hide his bias,” Molly said, “and he’s just a world class jackass.” She playfully punched his arm. I watched as he swore and tried to refute her, but paid attention mostly to how he seemed ecstatic that she would pay that much attention to him. I just smiled and laughed at the debate that was going on. I really had no idea what they were talking about which meant I really had nothing to add to the conversation. Molly leaned over to me, got close to my ear and whispered to me.

“Hey,” she said, “I’m really glad you’re here. I’m sorry if you feel left out at all. But I’m sure that someday you’re going to know more about this than all of us.”

“I really doubt that,” I whispered back. “I’m glad just to be here. I’m excited to see the rest of the bands.”

“I think you will. Just give it time.”

“Hey Molly?”


“Do you think we can get up close for Schoolyard Heroes? I know I haven’t listened to them a lot, but I think it’d be cool to be that close to such a big local band.”

She smiled again, snakebites gripping to her lower lips.

“Of course we’ll be up front. I always go up front for my favorite bands,” she said.


We gathered back inside, along with most everyone else, to get ready and see The Divorce. I hadn’t heard much about them before the show. I did most of my research about Schoolyard Heroes before going to the show and not so much about the other bands. I just assumed they were some dark, looming, hardcore band or something. Oh what I get for assuming things.

Dan stood next to me on my right side, grabbed my shoulder firmly with his hand and made me look him in the eye.

“This band is the band that will make you love local music,” he said. “If they don’t, then maybe you’re just in the wrong scene. These guys are brilliant.”

I nodded slowly. Suddenly I felt there was a bunch of pressure on me and all I was doing was watching some local band perform in a church basement. I stared intently at the stage and observed the band as they got ready to perform. What struck me most was that the lead singer was wearing a sweater vest over a dress shirt and tie. That didn’t seem very death metal to me.

“Don’t let Dan try and intimidate you,” Molly said, “But seriously. These guys are the greatest. Oh my God, I’m so goddamn excited.”

I was beginning to get anxious. I was worried they were going to be building this band only up and then I might not like them and be disappointed. But if they same people who were stoic for Mary Jane Watson were now animated and vocal for this group, I thought there must have been something redeemable about The Divorce.

As the synthesizer came through the speakers, I was caught off guard. Then the bright and jangling electric guitar came in, sounding incredibly optimistic. Then the crooning vocals. Everything was so catchy. It was everything I was not prepared to hear. It was good. It was excellent. I was totally enamored. When he got to the chorus, everyone in the crowd was jumping up and down and pumping their fists in the air to the anthem. The lyrics wrapped themselves around my mind and I couldn’t put them away.

“We can’t say no, because they answer is yes.

And we don’t know the question yet.

We’ll never learn our lesson with

Without a little suspension of

Of our disbelief”

Later I would find out the song was called “Yes.” Everything about it seemed so perfect for where I was. I had to say yes to these opportunities that I was getting today. Even if I didn’t know what I was saying yes to, I needed to just go for it. In that moment, those lyrics seemed more inspiring than any scripture or philosophy I had ever heard or read in my life. I couldn’t help but to dance along with everyone. Of course Molly was dancing, and so were her friends. Molly grabbed me by the arm and brought me with her into the crowd to get closer to the stage.

Smells of sweat and fading deodorant filled my nostrils, but in a strange way that almost made the moment even better. Molly pulled me through the small sea of elbows and shoulder till we were just a couple people away from the front of the stage. I danced my honest, dweeby, white-boy dance with all my heart. I didn’t care about whether or not what I was doing was embarrassing. I was just enjoying myself and enjoying this music.

The song finally had to come to an end and we all cheered loudly. There’s such a sense of community in a crowd of people hearing a band they all love. Molly looked back at me, grinning wide with her face glowing red with exhaustion. I didn’t have to say anything to let her know I was happy. I just smiled back and wiped the sweat off of my forehead. The band went on to play some of their more raucous songs, playing “The Man Moan” next. I was hooked in. I couldn’t be unplugged from the moment. I didn’t even feel like a loser head banging. I was so proud of having my some-what longer hair in that moment as strangers next to me said “yeah!” and “alright!” when they saw me. It was a badge of honor.

The band started up playing “Call the Police” and Molly freaked out.

“Yes! This is my favorite song,” she yelled. “Hell yeah.” She shook her hair back and forth every time the drums got into a good groove and yelled the lyrics with no shame, screaming, “I’d rather be alone tonight, already slept through the daylight.” Somewhere amongst the chaos she and I got separated in the small crowd and I couldn’t spot her snakebites or blue bangs in the crowd. But it was fine; I knew she was having fun.

As the bass line thumped, I stood there in amazement of the lead singer’s vampire like demeanor. I made sure to etch this moment in my mind and kept it as a constant point of judging the rest of local music I experienced from then on. I looked to my left and watched as even Dan moved his lanky body to the alternative anthem. Seeing even the coolest of people let loose in this moment reminded me that it was okay to love music in your own way.


Soaked in other people’s sweat, we all went back outside and sat back on the grass. The same kids who had a mouthful to say about everything in the local scene were all out of breath saying the same thing: “That was great.” I smiled and nodded my head and looked up at the sky. It felt like one of those cheesy yet beautiful moments from one of those 90s Generation X coming of age films. I felt alive. I wanted to make music. I wanted to do this everyday. For the first time in my life, I felt cool. There was a whole different world right where I was living that I never ventured into.

“Better than that Blink 182 show, aye Adam?” Molly whispered to me, grinning wide bringing her snakebites closer and closer to her cheekbones.

“Yeah,” I whispered back, “It really was.”

A 21 Year-Old on 20 Years of “Nevermind”

At 21 years old, it’s easy to dismiss my input on the legacy of Nirvana because, well, I wasn’t there when it happened. However, I think this also qualifies me as the perfect person to attest to the influence and relevancy of the band that surpasses any claims of a “musical fad.”

I wasn’t introduced to Nirvana by Nevermind. Nor was I introduced to them by any sort of hype (surprisingly enough, being raised in Western Washington). It was on my 14th birthday that I picked up Nirvana’s self-titled Greatest Hits album. I’d seen it there several times and was intrigued by their name. I bought it on a whim. I know, it’s the lamest introduction ever.

There were a few things that initially stuck me with Nirvana. First of all, it saved me from the terrible early 2000s rap-rock of Linkin Park and Papa Roach that I was starting to get into. It was a new sound (new to me) unlike anything else I’d heard. Then there was the emotion. Being 14 years old, even if things are fine, you tend to feel like you suddenly have all this emotion that no one relates too. Hearing Kurt Cobain singing lines like “I’m so ugly, but that’s okay cause so are you” felt like confessions that you could never find the words for.

Around my junior or senior year of high school, I started fading away from Nirvana. I maintained a respect for them, but the less I listened to them I grew scared that if I went back I wouldn’t feel the same way.

Now its 20 years since Nevermind . The buzz of Nirvana in the air and the media lately has inspired me to look at that album again. No, the songs don’t feel the same that they did then, but I’m not the same person. I also don’t think I truly understood Cobain like I thought I did. He wasn’t dealing with high school crushes; he was talking about things that even now I cannot fully relate to.

I imagine maybe it’s a similar thing for those who were there for Nevermind’s release. So many people listened to that record and related to its gloom and doom. Cobain clearly had issues, but it seemed like he was speaking for an entire generation with the same issues. In hindsight, Cobain was in a different league of problems. Music history may see him as a martyr, but I feel like maybe the greatest tragedy is that we thought we understood him and didn’t do anything about it.

Nevermind stands as a testament of a musical movement, a breakthrough in emotional transparency in music, and a tragic story of a man who changed a genre and whose potential may never be fully known. In another 20 years I’m sure there will still be younger generations picking up Nirvana records and feeling comfort in the distortion of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or the self loathing of “Something in the Way.”

My (Not So Real) Afternoon With Kanye West

Me and Kanye West, just chillin.

As I was listening to Kanye West the other day, I couldn’t help but think what it might be like to have a casual conversation with him. Not an interview, but just superficial interaction. This is how I think it would go:

It’s a crisp Autumn afternoon as I sit waiting at El Diablo Coffee in Upper Queen Anne. I sit a table by the window, checking my phone every few minutes to pass the time while I wait. It’s not everyday that you have coffee with Kanye West. He happened to be passing through Seattle today and a mutual friend of ours (who asked specifically to remain anonymous) thought we might get along so he gave Yeezy my e-mail and we scheduled this meeting. He happened to have no gigs planner or parties to hit up while he was here, so it seemed like the perfect time to do it.

The door swings open and who should it be but Mr. West himself. He looks around the room briefly, trying to spot me out. I wave to him and get out of my seat to greet him.

“Hey there. I’m Dusty,” I say.

“Very nice to meet you. I’m Kanye.” he says.

We take his satchel over to the coffee table to reserve our spot and then go over to the counter to order drinks. We wait in line for a moment.

“This is a pretty vibrant looking coffee shop,” he says.

“Yeah, it definitely has a lot of flair to it,” I say. “I thought you might like it. It definitely stands out from the rest.”

He laughs. “Ha, well looks like someone did their homework on me.”

Seriously, try and convince me this doesn’t look like his next album art.

We both share a chuckle for a moment as we finally reach the cashier. He orders a grande Americano and I order a Mexican Hot Chocolate. I try to pay but he insists, since I am sort of hosting him by showing him the area. I feel a little guilty, but in the end I am a gentleman and accept his offer graciously. The whirs and clanks of the coffee machine are loud next to us as we wait for our beverages. I can see Kanye tapping his hand against his leg, as if the sounds are giving him inspiration for a new beat. We grab our drinks and go sit down at our table.

Kanye gingerly takes a sip of his Americana.

“That’s a damn good Americano,” Kanye says.

“Yeah, this place is pretty great,” I say.

“Best coffee shop I’ve ever been to. I’ll have to remember to buy it later,” he says. We laugh, but I’m not sure how much joking was going on there.

“So our friend tells me your a musician yourself too,” Kanye says before taking another sip.

“Eh, I guess so. I play in a folk-rock, alt-country band,” I say. “We’re still small but it’s pretty fun.”

“Alternative country, huh? I love that shit,” he says. “I’ve actually been working on a side project of that genre for awhile now. Been keeping it pretty under wraps till the right moment.” He looks around the room quickly, then back to me. “I’ll show you a quick clip if you promise to keep it on the down-low.”

I agree and he pulls out his iPhone. Though he seemed initially worried about others hearing before, he plays it through the speakers. It’s a bit hard to hear, but I’m able to discern a distinct twang reminiscent of Ryan Adams or possibly the Avett Brothers. Kanye’s voice fits surprisingly well in this manner.

“No one man should have all the power…”

“This is really good stuff, Kanye.” I say.

“Please, just call me Yeezy,” he says. “Do you really think that or are you just saying that to be polite?”

“No, I really like it. It reminds me of Whiskeytown meets Wilco but with a more 70s influence.”

“That’s exactly what I’m going for! You’ve got a great ear.”

“Well it’s a great track! All I had to do was listen to it, you created it.”

We talk a little bit about alternative country and artists from other genres that we like. We both have a mutual appreciation for The Notorious B.I.G. and a mutual dislike for Taylor Swift. It helps ease the conversation quite a bit and gets us more comfortable with each other. When in a conversation with someone new, it’s always the best bet to go with any common denominator.

As we finish our drinks I ask Yeezy if he’s ever heard of Kerry Park. He hadn’t. So I insist that we simply must go check it out. It would be positively criminal if we didn’t. We get up from our seats, I open the door for him, and we step out onto Queen Anne Avenue. The weather is perfect. Cool enough to wear a light jacket, but warm enough to not need it.

We keep talking as we’re walking.

“So, how are things with your love life?” I ask. He smirks a bit and looks down at his feet.

“You know, it’s funny,” he says. “As a rapper, I’m expected to be all about gettin’ hoes and having orgies and whatnot; and I have done a lot of that, but right now I’m pursuing a girl that is different.”

“How so?”

“Well, she’s just not the typical girl I’d go for. She’s reserved, very quiet. She’s very pretty but not some bootylicious superstar model. She’s just…nice.”

“Well that sounds like it might be good for you; tone things down a bit.”

“Yeah, I think so too…what about you? You mentioned a girlfriend earlier.”

“Yeah, Kristin’s great. I’m really happy with her. We complement each other perfectly”

“Yeah man, that’s what I’m lookin’ for right there.”



Who will survive in Seattle?

We finally reach Kerry Park and witness one of the most amazing views my city has to offer. As Yeezy stands looking out over the skyline, I can almost read his thoughts: “I run this shit.”

“This is incredible,” he says. “Thank you for showing me this, Dusty.”

“Hey, it’s no problem at all,” I say. “Everyone should see this view at least once.”

I see Kanye wipe his eyes, possibly from tears but it’s hard to tell from the angle and the sunlight.

“I’ve had a great time today, but I have to meet up with our friend at the airport soon,” Kanye says softly.

“Definitely, I understand. Let’s get you back and ready to go.”

I turn to start walking back to Queen Anne Ave but I am stopped by Kanye grabbing me by the shoulder and turning me around. He looks me straight in the eye.

“Dusty. I hope to some day be half the man you have become before my eyes today.”

And with that, he vanishes in a brilliant flash of light. If I listen closely, I can almost hear the flute hook from “Jesus Walks” faintly playing in the background.