Sunday, January 30, 2011

standing there lookin' so sweet

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(shot on the land camera using the blue polaroid 100 film i picked up while in new york city.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

take two

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i've been trying to get the new color shade film by the impossible project to work for me for a while now. it's pretty finicky -- completely sensitive to light and temperature. i think i'm finally getting there, though. these are the two best images so far.

also, i feel obligated to point out that this post is kind of a big deal. it's no. 100 on my little blog. exciting, i know. anyhow, i felt like i should do something extra special. sadly, i couldn't think of anything. so, for lack of a great idea, i'm just going to give you all a free song that has been keeping me company for the past few days: if i had a little love (rehearsal) by the majestic arrows. enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

take me somewhere

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normally when i travel somewhere, i bring along three cameras -- minimum. my cannon slr always makes the cut and the other two (or three) spots are filled by some combination of my various polaroid cameras, my holga and my 35 mm mamiya. this past friday as i was packing for new york, i decided to do something a little different: i packed just one camera (the polaroid land camera) and two packs of film (color and black and white). the above images are the result, save the very last one on the right, which was taken in portland to test the color film. the others were shot either in new york or princeton, new jersey. (that spiral building would be the guggenheim.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

was she willing when she sat?

my three (lovely) roommates:




Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'we're pulling apart'

for well over a year now, thanks to one thrift shop or another, there's been a 1970s-era polaroid land camera (super colorpack!) sitting in my room. i figured there wasn't much i could do to get it working, short of a full-on hack that would take several hours to finish. a few weeks ago, i found out i was wrong; fujifilm is still making pull-apart film, a friend told me, and the film is compatible with some of these decades-old models. i'm just about through with my first set of 10 exposures. there's something really satisfying about pulling the photo away from the chemicals and seeing what you captured. here are the three i like best:




Tuesday, January 11, 2011

three minutes

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these were all taken with the spectra system camera on soft tone film, except for the one on the bottom right, which, if i remember correctly, was shot on image film (which is to say, film without a particular effect). there's also a slight distortion in the bottom left image, but that's due to a bumped scanner. the original is perfect. naturally. all of these photos, it's probably worth noting, were taken within a three-minute walk of my house. oh, portland.

Monday, January 10, 2011

farewell, typewriter

the typewriter sitting on my desk.

i've been doing some shooting with various polaroid cameras and films this past week, and i finally got around to scanning the results tonight. this is the first of the set, taken with my new sonar one step (a pretty nice thrift shop find) on fadetoblack film. i'm hoping future images might be a bit crisper. could be that the sonar isn't working or that the film is just really difficult to use. or both.

Monday, January 3, 2011

the city as a gallery

'black pride' on alberta street and 17th avenue, painted by lewis harris in 1984.

i wound up working new year's eve day. somehow, sort of miraculously, i was left off of daily news coverage and handed over to our features department. hoping to avoid writing about country music-singing brothers, i pitched a story about african american murals in portland. that a local history club is releasing a book about the murals was my news peg. anyhow, i went on a small, four-mural tour before writing my story. these are some of the photos from that morning. (as it turns out, it's sort of hard to take good pictures of murals.) here's how the story starts out:

Isaka Shamsud-Din doesn't like driving south on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It's not the whole stretch that bothers him, it's just where that long drag meets Shaver Street, where his 21-year-old mural "Now is the Time, the Time is Now" comes into view.

What was once a bright, freshly painted tribute to the ideals of African American education, self-knowledge and history has faded over the years. People have written their names across the piece. There's a swastika underneath the central visage of Martin Luther King Jr.

"It's hard to drive down that street," he says. "It feels terrible. It feels hideous. It's an insult, the condition.

"It's a kick in the head, anyway."

If you know where to look, Portland is an art gallery. And somewhere amid this miles-wide showroom is a collection of African American mural art. But there's no glass or alarms to protect what artists have made here; no guards to tell people not to touch. So, while bits have survived, some have been defaced and others have been torn down in the name of development.

you can read the rest here. the story is a really interesting one and one that deserves many thousands of words. of course, that would take more space and time than the paper or i could offer.

'now is the time, the time is now' on northeast mlk jr. boulevard and shaver street, painted by isaka shamsud-din in 1989.

a mural painted by adriene cruz in the late 90s. she drew from her background in tapestry and fiber arts.

human diversity on mlk jr. blvd. and monroe street, painted by judy madden bryant and high school students in 1993.

'human diversity' from another angle.

2010 soundtrack (part three of three)

so, here we have it, the last of my top songs of 2010. as i began writing and forming this list, other artists kept coming to mind and i regretted not including them -- best coast and rihanna and janelle monae and damien juardo -- but then i couldn't really find any songs that i had already included that shouldn't get a mention. so, i guess, all that is to say that this list is hardly comprehensive or immutable, but it is a fairly good representation of my year in music. as a reminder, you can right-click on and then download any of the highlighted songs. or you can just plain old click on them and they'll stream for you.

sprawl ii - arcade fire
i can't say that i have an absolute favorite song of 2010, but 'sprawl ii' is my absolute favorite song of the moment. régine chassagne has a beautiful voice, and as casey said, 'i wish, i wish (she) sang more often.' i like arcade fire, but this song, at least to my ears, is just a step above their other work on this album. the lyrics are full of meaning -- and based loosely on a haitian proverb -- even if they're not the most uplifting: 'they heard me singing and they told me to stop/ quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock/ sometimes i wonder if the world's so small/ can we ever get away from the sprawl?' and, of course, there's an epic and lovely beat that underlies the whole piece. amazing through and through.

go outside - the cults
more than a couple of the songs on this top-30 list came from a collaborative mix we put together over at 'would you jump rope.' jasper nominated 'go outside' for the mix, and i'm glad she did. the cults, who i'd never heard prior to this song, have a wonderfully earnest, poppy sound that lends itself to sing alongs. i love sing-along songs. 'go outside,' like a few other songs on this list, has nice dreamy vocals over a fast beat. i love the triangle and hand-clap sounds that show up from time to time. also, the song's lyrics are perfect for motivating yourself during a portland winter when it would be so much easier to stay inside and do nothing useful. 'i think it's good to go out/ cause if you don't you'll never make a memory that will stay/ i think that you should wake up.'

boxer - lovers
lovers is my favorite new band of the year, hands down. i saw them play live not long after getting back to portland. the whole band seemed to really love being on stage, playing together, getting the crowd excited. i love earnest musicians. anyhow, their newest album 'dark light' is listenable the whole way through; there's not a single song on it that i wouldn't be happy to listen to. that said, there are three songs that i just can't get enough of: 'figure 8,' 'barnacle' and, of course, 'boxer.' if i were going with lyrics alone, i might choose barnacle, which has simple but very astute lyrics. ultimately, though, 'boxer' wins. the synth beat in the beginning rolls into a catchy, forceful song. i should add that the lyrics here are similarly simple yet insightful: 'what a drag not to know how you are. what a drag not to know how you feel.'

clap your hands - sia
in the interest of full disclosure, 'clap you hands' came to my attention only very recently -- as in the last three weeks -- via another year-end list. that said, it totally deserves a place in my top 10. i think it's my favorite dance number this year. that might be due, in part, to the fact that some of my other favorite dance songs from this year ('dancing on my own' and 'teenage dream') were so overexposed its difficult for them to summon up in me the same excitement that this song does and that they probably did in their early days. i really appreciate sia's deep (in some places), staccato vocals. they mesh really well with the underlying beat, which does a good job of keeping you tapping your foot the entire way through. the video, too, is worth a look; it's one of my favorites in recent memory.

arcadia - dirty mittens
i cannot wait until the new dirty mittens album drops. until then, i have 'arcadia,' an early release from the album. i guess, technically, this song belongs to 2011, but this is my blog, so i'm bending the rules. chelsea morrisey's voice is exquisite. you know i mean i like a voice when i use that word, which i reserve only for the best because it just sounds so damn pretentious. anyhow, i absolutely love her voice, the slight shake in it, the way it's light but still substantial. yes, please. also, i love the way dirty mittens is able to find places in its pieces for saxophones and strings and guitars and drums. it all comes together to make really beautiful sounds. arcadia is a great showcase for everything that makes dirty mitten my favorite local band.

julius - starfucker
if dirty mittens is my favorite local band, then starfucker comes in at a very close second (or maybe third, given lovers) place. there was a time in my life, not long after i moved to portland, that i was listening to nothing but starfucker and passion pit. starfucker's electronic, synthy sound and echoey vocals are just, well, great. i can't think of a better, more descriptive word. sorry about that. i like their sound so much that on my way out of portland in 2009, i left a day early to catch their show in phoenix. i jumped up and down to their music with a room full of 18-year-olds. i felt like a chaperone, but their performance was so good that i didn't much mind. starfucker is slated to release a full album this march. if 'julius' is any indication of what they have in store for us, then i'm sure they'll be back on this list come next january.

howlin' for you - black keys
i remember, a couple years back, asking my friend holly (who is much better at digging up new music than i) to give me the name of a new band i ought to listen to. black keys was her response. i listened to five seconds worth of their music and decided it wasn't what i was looking for. idiot. somehow came across my radar again. this second time i was hooked. like most of the albums that a lot of these songs are from, i can listen to brothers the whole way through. i chose 'howlin' for you' because it does a good job of capturing the black keys' soul sound and upbeat, foot-stomping rhythms. really, the drum just catches you straight away, pulls you into this song, and never lets you go. i also can't get enough of the twangy guitar sound that runs through this song. (runners up: 'tighten up' and 'ten cent pistol')

rill rill - sleigh bells
this is another album that was graciously interneted to me while i was away. a big part of the reason i love sleigh bells is that their sound is very unique, very much their own. they play a lot with loud, angry electric riffs and loud, angry vocals. their music has a very intense energy that makes this album a pleasure to listen to. 'rill rill' is a bit more subdued than some of their other pieces, 'tell 'em' for instance, but it still fits nicely with their overall sound. i enjoy the deep drumming in the background and the layered percussion in general. the lead singer's sweet, feminine voice offers a really nice contrast. there's a place in this song (around 2:30) where the background drops out out and the lyrics are left virtually alone. the vocals sound good alone as they do in the context of the rest of the song. all around goodness.

we fell off the roof - seabear
i fell in love with this band under some pretty unexpected circumstances: while lost and cold in the middle of the sudanese desert and in need of some calming, contemplative music. seabear was exactly what that night needed, and it's what it got. again, this is an album that i can listen straight through, so it's difficult to pick a favorite. 'lion face boy,' 'in winters eyes' and 'i'll build you a fire' are all lovely. the reason i went with 'we feel off the roof' has a lot to do with the way the lead singer plays with the word 'off' holding it there, letting it stretch to really nice effect. i also love how it occasionally builds to this fast, exciting instrumental solo only to die back down leaving room for vocals once again. it's a slow one, to be sure, but sometimes something slow is just what you need.

i think i like u 2 - jamaica
the fact that i can get past the title of this song and include it in my top 10 should speak to how much i like this band and its sound. my friend jeff sent me their album, 'no problem,' calling them a phoenix knock-off. not in a bad way - they're also french and have a very similar sound. but if they're a phoenix knock off, and they probably are, they're a pretty great one. the guitar riff that runs through this song is pretty catchy and so is the refrain - 'i think like you, too/ i think i like you, too.' basically it all comes together in a way that makes me want to get up and dance a bit. ok, a lot. you should check out the music video, too, which indicates that band has a certain level of self-deprecative humor, which only serves to make me like them more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 soundtrack (part two of three)

ambling alp/ o.n.e. – yeasayer
i almost forgot to include this band in my wrap-up, which is ridiculous considering just how much i listened to this album over the past year. funnier still, when i finally remembered that yeasayer deserved a place on the list, i couldn’t decide which song was my favorite. i listened to ambling alp more than is healthy, but still have not overdone it. the lyrics, at the time i found the song, just really resonated. similarly, i can listen to o.n.e. on repeat. so, i'm taking the easy way out and picking them both.

cpr – typhoon
this was a late addition to the 2010 soundtrack. typhoon is an amazing local band that i wish i had discovered earlier, but, as they say again and again, better late than never. i like this song in particular for the calm, even vocals and beat that runs through it, it’s almost meditative, but still lively in a certain way. and then there’s the really great reversal at 3:30, where they strip everything except for this ‘oh ah oh ah’ chorus and then start building back the song all over again. (runner up: ‘starting over’)

bullfighter jacket – miniature tigers
this song starts strong and never lets up. i always find myself obnoxiously singing along to those first ‘yah yah yah yah yah.’ the lead singer’s voice is nice and i like the dreamy echo that the producers added to it. there’s a nice contrast between his somber sounding voice and the excitement of the rhythms that make up the song’s foundation. it was a close call between this song and ‘japanese woman.’ really, though, the entire album is a nice listen. it was my carving-pumpkins soundtrack this october.

10 mile stereo – beach house
right or wrong, i find beach house to be a smarter version of best coast. that's not to say i don’t like best coast; i exhausted their album nearly as much as i did beach house’s. but i also made the mistake of reading their lyrics. anyhow, both of these bands do that great dream-pop sound that seems to be coming back with a vengeance. i'm not complaining in the least – i really like the dream-pop sound. i had a hard time choosing a best for beach house, i also really enjoyed ‘zebra’ and ‘used to be.’ ultimately, ’10 mile stereo' was the winner, mostly for it’s forward-looking lyrics, lyrics that i found comforting while i was gone: 'they say we will go far, but they don’t know how far we’ll go.'

dancing on my own – robyn

i remember casey sending me this song before i got back to portland. i just kept hoping that it would last long enough as a hit so that i could greet it on a portland dance floor. seems silly now, considering i don’t think i've been to a dance party yet where this made an appearance. this song is an addictive one – i find myself humming the chorus all the times – and so is its singer. i can’t really separate the tune from her crazy dancing in the video. of course, this song deserves some crazy dancing. in case you’re over the original, here’s a nice, slowed-down remix.

vesuvius – sufjan stevens
i first heard this new album through npr’s first listen. i was at work and just needed some background noise. i remember liking bits and pieces of it, particularly ‘too much,’ but i didn’t go back and listen to the album in earnest until a month or so a good, on the prodding of a friend. i still love ‘too much.’ it's catchy and fast-paced. but, vesuvius beats it easily for best song of the album. i love the melancholic, slow-moving rhythyms blended with the tambourine and electric sounds. and then, the speed-up about two-thirds of the way in, really surprises you – or it did me – in a very nice way. i also have to encourage you all to listen to ‘impossible soul,’ the 26-minute song in this album. it takes a while, but around 15 minutes (i think) your investment totally pays off.

crash years – new pornographers
i hadn’t given the new pornographers much of a listen until my friend jeff included them in mix that he sent out this summer. that first song, ‘moves,’ is still one of my favorites of this album, but ‘crash years’ is the song that has stuck with me. i like the sound of the layered vocals in this album. you don’t hear that too much, at least not in the music i've been occupying my time with. i'm also a sucker for the little whistly bit at the three-minute mark.

home – edward sharpe
i am such a sucker for this band – and for this song in particular. there's something really beautiful about the dueling vocals and the accent in their speech. whenever i hear this song, i just imagine two people, really in love, smiling at one another. i love where they slow the song down and talk to one another. so cute. then they pick up again with some epic sounds. plus how can you not love lyrics like this: ‘well, holy moly, me-oh-my, you’re the apple of my eye’? answer: you can’t. i should probably confess that i first heard this is sudan when i was feeling more than a little homesick myself. (runner up: ’40 day dream’)

dance yrself clean – lcd soundsystem
from the very first couple beats, this song gets me tapping my foot. it starts off very slowly and calmly but builds up to a really gripping techno extravaganza. maybe i’m alone here, but i defy anybody to listen to this and not start moving – even if with just a slight head bob. it's the perfect song to listen to when you just need to move, to empty your head and, well, without being too cute, ‘dance yrself clean.’

down by the water – drums
embarrassing as this may be, i first heard this song on gossip girl, which, i will happily tell anybody, has an amazing soundtrack. anyhow, i couldn’t get the chorus out of my head for the rest of the day. the drums had been on my radar since sudan, where i saw their music video for ‘let’s go surfing’ on mtv arabia. i like their sound, and this song is definitely the best of it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 soundtrack (part one of three)

i like to ask people about their favorites (color, flavor, children's book, smell, sound), but i don't much like figuring out my own. i have a complicated, conflicted relationship with superlatives. still, i'm a sucker for a good end-of-year list, and my dear friend casey recently posted her top 50 songs of 2010. she's a list maker; i'm not so much. nevertheless, her list inspired me to think up my own. after i got done listing my top songs of this past year, with a few cuts and additions, i was at 31. these aren't necessarily the most musically impressive songs, but they are the songs that, for better or worse, came together to create my soundtrack of 2010. a quick note: i've broken the list up into three parts (10 songs a day), giving a general sense of how the songs rank, but i'm not numbering the songs beyond that. it'd be too hard. i'm starting today with the bottom of the list. be warned: i'm not great at describing/ dissecting music. click on the song for a free download or stream. oh! happy new year.

block after black – matt & kim
i heard matt & kim for the first time not long after i moved to portland in 2008. my friend randi took me along to the show with the promise that we were about to see ‘the cutest band ever.’ she did not disappoint. matt and kim look ridiculously happy and excited whenever they perform. that translates to their music, which is, by and large, fun and poppy and fast-paced. anyhow, i think their style has definitely grown since their earlier stuff, they’re experimenting with new sounds and rhythms in ‘sidewalks.’ the best example of all this comes in ‘block after block’. (runners up: i also really enjoy ‘cameras.’)

believer – goldfrapp
i'm a sucker for a good electro-pop-dance number. believer satisfies all of that. plus, this song reminds of randi and bree. anything the does that makes me happy.

i feel better – hot chip
this entire album hooked me. i like how they turn out solid, techno beats with lyrical substance (usually). i had a hard time choosing the song from this album that i liked the most. there are a lot of great contenders – among them ‘brothers’ and ‘one life stand.’ ultimately, i went with ‘i feel better’ because i really appreciate the orchestral beat that runs through the song.

flash delirium – mgmt
this album wasn’t received so well. i can understand why; its sound was a pretty significant departure from their earlier album. that said, there’s a lot to like about a few of the songs. i like flash delirium in particular because it takes you in about eight different directions in just four minutes. and most of those directions are good.

giving up the gun – vampire weekend

vampire weekend has appeared on nearly every year-in-music list i've come across recently. initially, i was a little surprised. i didn’t dislike the new album, but it didn’t leave me with much of a lasting impression. so, i gave into the critics and went back and gave it another listen. i'm glad i did. giving up the gun includes a lot of what makes their music good, but it’s clear (at least to my ear) they were stretching themselves a bit. (runner up: horchata. probably, in part, because i really do love horchata.)

lost in the world – kanye west

this is one of the best collaborations of the year, i think. before hearing this song, I’m sure a bon iver-west duo would have seemed very strange. it still does, to a certain extent. and yet this song does a great job of melding their two styles. as much as kanye annoys me, there’s no arguing that he’s incredibly talented. (runner up: power. it reminds me of dancing with jasper. and i really dig the chanting in the background.)

the cave – mumford and sons
this band was a lock for a place on this list. the vocals aren't overly produced. it's a good, natural voice. i also love me some banjo. this year, especially, i've come to appreciate stripped down music. just nice voices, nice instrumental work and a slight twang. mumford and sons – and the cave, in particular – does all of that to great effect. also, though sad, the lyrics are pretty wonderful. (runner up: ‘little lion man.’)

new favourite moment – northern portrait
i came across this band while living in sudan, thanks to one of my roommates. “new favourite moment” quickly became an ipod staple as i'd walk to the bus stop every morning, sweating along the way.

teenage dream – katy perry
this song is a given. i don’t love katy perry, but there really is no avoiding the fact that “teenage dream” is infectious in the best possible way. it reminds me of rocking out with casey and randi and jasper. if you haven’t come across it on the radio, turned the speakers up to max and danced like an idiot while waiting for a light to turn green, i suggest you do so immediately.

boy – ra ra riot
not long after i got back to portland, i saw ra ra riot play live. they were a little disappointing. and, somewhat unfairly, that performace has stuck with me and sort of poisoned my initial fondness of this band. still, that night was a pretty damn good one, and this song reminds me of the excitement of just getting home and how possibilities seemed infinite in that way they sometimes do.

bonus non-2010 song: baibaba bimba – tenniscoats
a friend of mine submitted this song for a collaborative fall mix we made over at ‘would you jump rope.’ i quickly over-listened to it. still, it’s a beautiful, sweet, meandering song. perfect for the fall. i love the singer’s voice and the quirky sound her instrument (i wish i knew what it was called!) turns out. this list wouldn’t have been complete without this one.