Things just came together today. Maggie and Sean were in and around this year's kiddie pool all day. Allie's dad came over. They read the paper, took naps, and watched the kids. Our neighbor's dog ducked into the kitchen a couple of times. Brian came over and we thought up two characters for the book we're working on. (Mr. Book and Mr. End. Less creepy versions of Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint from Diamonds Are Forever.) There were a lot of people moving around. It was a good test for the patio.
I've had "End of Days" and "Favorites" in my head all day. I love the way Miranda and J trade vocals early in "End of Days," then share vocals the second time they come around to the "Psyche myself up for what might come" part. Compared to the band's first album they're subtler about how they mix girl and guy vocals, though I kind of miss songs like "Strange, Amazing" or "Broken Arm Bear" where the harmonies were more prominent. I also wish there was a song like "We Belong," one of those long album closers that achieves the Neil Young and Crazy Horse effect — a simple, driving song that successfully locks onto a guitar riff and as far as I'm concerned could repeat said riff endlessly.
I went poking around for Black Wine videos and I found a dozen or so. I also found a number of places where I can buy the record. These are good things. What I really wanted, though, was to read a longer piece about the record. I trust that a lot of other people are spending time with Summer of Indifference and I'm curious to know what they're thinking. It's been out for several weeks and no one's written about it, not at length.
Thinking of which writers go well with various songs reminded me of when the Dogfish Head brewery released a beer called Bitches Brew to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Miles Davis album. I thought the wine crowd, if anyone, would lead the way when it came to pairing beverages with jazz records. I asked my friend Brian Cogan to pair "Ocean's Skin," "Hand," and "Maycrowning" with beers.
"Ocean's Skin": There's a hint of Husker Du, so German beer, a lighter spaten or Captain Lawrence's Liquid Gold.
"Hand": More complex, maybe a Brooklyn Black Ops, a good stout with lots of aging potential.
"Maycrowning": a lighter yet aromatic Belgian, Westmalle Dubbel.
Allie and I had a lot of errands. We're going away in a week. We're renting a place in Gloucester, Massachusetts and we have to bring our own sheets and blankets. Time to get a rooftop carrier. Allie found one on Craigslist. That was our first stop.
Then we drove up to Patterson for a walk in the woods. There's a trail that cuts through a swamp and there were a lot deer flies. We didn't mind when they hovered. We were okay when they landed but we turned around when they started to bite. After stopping at the p.o. box we went to our local idyllic coffee shop. The screen door creaks but doesn't slam. The tables don't match. There are books and magazines and puzzles and kids' toys all over the place. At this particular coffee shop, though, you have to deal with the grumpy old hippie at the counter. She was relatively nice to Allie today. She didn't frown once when Allie asked about the muffins. Grumpy old hippies disappoint me more than other people because I always expect old hippies to be nice and wise and mellow, like all their time with those Arlo Guthrie and Jefferson Airplane records helped them figure out how to be better people.
I had the best sleep last night. Until five minutes ago it had been a lazy, peaceful morning. I felt like Peter Gibbons after his visit to the hypnotist in Office Space. I dropped off Maggie at camp, came home, watered the plants, said good morning to Lou. He told me that he knows the guy who nailed the deer antlers to our garage. I was zoning out too much to keep up with the conversation, though. It was that kind of sleep. I went inside, put on Summer of Indifference and was really enjoying the record, but I wasn't paying active attention until "Hand." That woke me up. "Hand" is the demonic blast that opens side two. "Very metal," in the words of Vivian from The Young Ones.
This past winter was really hard on our house. The pipes froze and our basement flooded when the snow melted and the ice thawed. Our back patio was ruined by the water and salt. The first two estimates we received were too expensive but we had to do something. As the cement dissolved—it was basically turning to sand with each successive rainstorm—the edges of the slate became exposed. Our friends recommended Lou for the job.
The first time I met Lou half of his face was black and blue from a four-wheeler accident. He came over to check out the patio and give us an estimate. He talked about the accident but he never took out a tape measure. He walked around, sized up the patio and said he'd think it over for a couple of days. There seemed to be more intuition than math involved. I'd have been really skeptical but our friends swore by Lou. He called back a few days later. His estimate was a third less than the others. He was going to use sand for the drainage and planned to reuse a lot of the slate.
I didn’t get to listen to the record today. Allie was away so it was me and the kids. The only music I heard was my kids singing songs from the Rio soundtrack. They jumped on the bed and used the ends of a jump rope for microphones.
I did think about the record for a moment when we took a break from playing superhero tag. I thought about the two 7”s Black Wine released since their last album. Those in-between records can be helpful indicators for where a band is headed. Like when Peter Buck broke out the mandolin on those late ‘80s R.E.M. b-sides. As much as some of their records disappointed me during the ‘90s, in hindsight, I should have seen it coming.
There are nine songs on Summer of Indifference. Three written by Jeff Schroeck (guitar, vocals), three by J Nixon (bass, vocals) and three by Miranda Taylor (drums, vocals). The balance seems intentional.
There are considerable risks in putting out a record where three or more songwriters contribute relatively equally. Most bands who tread this path either release an album that sinks them (Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Mardi Gras) or should have (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s Works). Once in a while this approach helps a band strike gold but for every Rumors you get a Tusk. Democracy is a dicey proposition for bands.