One Last List Because AWP’s Right Around the Corner

Albums I’ve purchased this year:

+44, When Your Heart Stops Beating
They kind of remind me of Sugar and Foo Fighters playing together, but I like it. It has a fresh, 90s-alterna feel to it.

Ok Go, Oh No
I was a little late to the train, but I’ve sorted it out now and I really like this band.

Avril Lavigne, Under My Skin
I’m done fighting this. I love Avril Lavigne. Do you hear me? I LOVE HER. I’m gonna tell the world. I listened to the album for two weeks straight. It’s well done.

Matchbox Twenty, More Than You Think You Are
Another belated purchase; I really like Rob Thomas’s songwriting and lyrics, and this is a good album.

Wham!, Make It Big
Is this title something George Michael is fond of uttering in men’s rooms? Whatever the case, it was a nostalgia purchase. I used to roller skate to this album in my basement. It was like Xanadu, but no ONJ.

The Blow, Paper Television
A gift from my friend Kevin, this is an interesting, quiet little album of softcore alternative electronica. Nice, different.

Matt Kearney, Nothing Left to Lose
What would happen if Coldplay picked up Duncan Sheik’s guitar and started doing a little spoken word? The answer: this.

Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
A strange album with a wide range, I really enjoy the way they inject R&B and soul into their songs. Great cover of the Femmes’s “Gone Daddy Gone.”

Dannii Minogue, Neon Nights
If it’s not clear by now, I’m gay.

Lilly Allen, Alright, Still
Oops, and I just got a little gayer. Allen mixes reggae, ska hooks, P!nk’s brand of lyrics with Shirley Manson’s anger into a pop confection you don’t mind so much when she stretches to rhyme “al fresco” with “Tesco.” Cute accent, too.

Stefy, The Orange Album
Yes, delicious. Sweet and tangy, with a thick rind of guitar and…oh, where is this metaphor going?

Young Love, Too Young to Fight It
LOVE. Reminds me of Panic! At the Disco with a heavier focus on electronic beats than guitar.

Erasure, On the Road to Nashville: (Live in Nashville)
How am I so blessed but to have TWO acoustic albums by Erasure? This one torques up the country and provides revisions of some of their older favorites like “Stop!,” “Chains of Love,” and “A Little Respect.” A must-hear.

Evanescence, The Open Door
I tried to resist, but I love Amy Lee’s voice, and sometimes I get angry too. And sad. And my dark angry sadness needs a little company. I haven’t heard it yet because I just bought it today, but it will probably keep me company in the dark angry sadness that is AWP.

From the Vault: Ten Surprisingly Classic Albums

Today’s list is something I mentioned earlier—a brief consideration of my extensive music collection. Today I’m choosing ten albums, released in the 90s or earlier, that have remained compelling pieces of work for me. Some might not be that shocking and some you’ve maybe never heard before, but all deserve a good listen.

1. Abra Moore, Strangest Places.
I first learned of Abra through an ad for Visa. She was one of those “I lived in a van” singers in the 90s, and she had a brief moment with this interesting rock/country/folk album. The songs have held up because the writing, particularly the lyrics, is so interesting.

2. Belly, King.
A swan song for Tanya Donnelly’s short-lived band, King is a 90s-alterna-rock curiosity. Departing from the “confessional” tone of their first album, King snarls and bops with ferocious abandon and quiet restraint.

3. Dave Matthews Band, Under the Table and Dreaming.
I still think the first album is the best, but it took several years to grow on me. I bought it, sold it, and then bought it again a few years later. “Satellite” in particular is an enduring song, and “Ants Marching” is one of my favorites by him.

4. Duncan Sheik, Duncan Sheik.
How unfortunate that Duncan fell into a tweener marketing ploy with his first single, which is, yes, catchy—but good, and this album is lightyears beyond what “Barely Breathing” might make you think. Tender, unrestricted, and emotionally honest, his first collection is truly his most cohesive.

5. Fiona Apple, Tidal.
Why do I keep picking first albums? People gave Fiona a bad rap because she had some things to say and she was erroneously lumped into the Tori Amos bin. This first album is lush, disarming, with a youthful misstep or two—but still a classy debut by a promising and innovative artist.

6. Hole, Live Through This.
The first time I heard this band, it was a revelation for me. Courtney Love, while crazy, wrote a brilliant and provocative collection that borrows both from her history with the girl-punk band Babes in Toyland and brings in elements of pop influenced, no doubt, by her connection to Nirvana. “Violet” is a great example of this contradiction, but the album soars straight up from this first track to the last.

7. Luscious Jackson, Electric Honey.
Another last album by a great band, EH found these talented women finally gelling into some great catchy pop tunes with substance. An extension of their hit “Naked Eye,” the album is wrought with unforgettable melodies and guitar hooks.

8. No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom.
A nearly perfect album, No Doubt’s second major effort is, to me, one of the greatest examples of how personal torment can make great art. The collision of Gwen’s confessional lyrics with ska rhythms and pop hooks is an amazing conflict.

9. Radiohead, The Bends.
Although I love OK Computer (and nothing since) by this band, I think The Bends is a more even collection of songs, all of them tying back to the theme of how technology impacts our lives and makes us different human. Songs like “Just” echo their first hit, “Creep,” but amazing anthems like “Street Spirit [Fade Out]” really make this an album to hear again and again.

10. Tori Amos, Under the Pink.
I might be the only gay man in America who thinks this is a great album, but I prefer it to her other work. The striking irony of “God,” the hushed secrets of “Past the Mission,” the sprawling lush anthem of “Yes, Anastasia” all work for me. And other, smaller songs—”The Waitress” and “Cornflake Girl”—still hold up for me. I never was a cornflake girl. I thought it was a good solution hanging with the raisin girls.

Honorable Mentions: Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes; Rufus Wainwright, Rufus Wainwright.

My Monthly Always Comes Early.

Lately I’ve been awash in magazine subscriptions—free, discounted, gifted, etc.—at my home. Here’s a list of what I currently receive:

1. The Advocate
I like to keep up-to-date on what’s going on with my people.

2. Real Simple
I’m a nut about neat organization strategies (although if you saw my desk, you’d never believe this) and I love their recipes. I do get a little put off by their articles on which pumps are fresh for fall—but everyone has to take their lumps.

3. Premiere
I’ve subscribed to this off and on since I was sixteen and reading Rolling Stone religiously. Although I don’t like their most recent layout (too cluttered!), they generally offer artistic perspectives on new films as well as content about the industry.

4. Vanity Fair
People always think this is a women’s magazine, but it’s for everyone. Keeping track of the glitterati in a variety of realms (film, music, literature, politics) is always fascinating and I love their “Proustian Questionnaire,” in which they ask the same 20 questions of various legends like Margaret Atwood and Gore Vidal.

5. Poets & Writers
A staple of my bimonthly reading. I think there’s something important in every issue for any working writer. Yesterday at lunch, my colleagues and I discussed the implications of Bowling Green’s Electronic Thesis Publication requirement. It was hot.

6. Stuff
Okay, and mostly yuck. This is the most hetero-male-centric thing I get, and I only get it because it was free, and let me tell you, I get awfully tired of getting something in the mail with scantily clad women on the cover. Even the agent at my apartment complex told me disapprovingly that he couldn’t hold my issues for me at his desk because the magazine was too risqué. But I do enjoy some of its humor. Not much else.

7. Blender
I love music magazines, mostly because I avoid listening to the radio and I don’t have time to watch music television, so this keeps me feeling connected to what’s new out there. It’s not as scene-ster as Spin and less ambitious than Rolling Stone.

8. Genre
This was one of the cheapies I get. It tries to approach gay culture with the approach of a kind of intelligentsia, but it’s articles on which underpanties make your junk look hottest and sexcapade columns sort of chip away at this.

9. Saveur
I used to try stealing this from my mom’s hosue, so I finally broke down and got my own subscription. It’s an interesting approach to cooking—a little gourmet, a little comfort—and they write a lot about regional cooking and techniques. So far, I’ve cooked 0 recipes from this one.

Honorable Mention: although I don’t subscribe, I always read the Harper’s Index when I’m at work. Fascinating, horrifying, and funny, it never disappoints.

The Man Who Knew Too Much Hitchcock

Since I can’t nail down a list of my favorite films by Collin, I’ve given myself a handicap. Only Hitchcock films. Loosely ordered by preference:

Rear Window
The Birds
North By Northwest
Shadow of a Doubt
Strangers on a Train
The 39 Steps
Torn Curtain
Dial M for Murder
The Lady Vanishes

Back from the Lone Star

Chew on this:

The Washington Post’s Style Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year’s winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease.

9. Karmageddon (n): its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day
consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.

And the pick of the literature:

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

Gay Iconography

Rufus Wainwright has created a list of his top ten gay icons. He discusses each one, but to save you a click, they are:

1. Judy Garland
2. Stevie Nicks
3. Dusty Springfield
4. Madonna
5. Kylie Minogue
6. Morrissey
7. Barbra Streisand
8. Pink
9. Prince
10. Kate Bush

And here’s my list:

1. James Dean
2. Rufus Wainwright
3. Madonna
4. Frank O’Hara
5. Greg Louganis
6. Gwyneth Paltrow
7. Todd Haynes
8. Chris Isaak
9. Sarah Michelle Gellar
10. The cast of Ugly Betty