Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Too Little Too Late

Admit it. We all love a good cover now and then. Especially an unexpected one. I love pop music, and I love indie music. When I find a good mix of the two it is like biting into a delicious Reeses Peanut Butter Cup.

This is how I felt when poking around on the internets today and discovering Daniel Rossen's (of Grizzly Bear fame) cover of Jo-Jo's (of teenie bopper radio fame) "Too Little Too Late".

Listen to Jo-Jo's first. If you can.

Listen to Daniel Rossen second.

I suppose this is why indie music won't be dying anytime soon. Check out the fun story behind the cover on Grizzly Bear's blog. Also there is a cool alternate version of a Feist tune and a very hipster best albums of the year list.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Grizzly Years

My dad was the son of a sheepherder, which made him a sheepherder by default until he went to college. He spent his summers in the mountains of south eastern Idaho, and life revolved around the next opportunity to shoot his gun. With sheep being the trade and lifeblood of the family it was necessary to ward off predators, the largest of which were bears. I don't think my dad ever shot a bear dead, but he, his brother, and my grandfather poisoned plenty of them (over twenty if my memory serves). In all those years growing up they killed only one grizzly bear, and he was massive.

Our photo slides are replete with him posing next to dead bears, or actually posing the bears themselves like awkward fly swarmed mannequins in human positions. One photo, we title "the Laughing Bear" shows a dead bear sitting with his back against a large tree trunk looking very relaxed and wearing a large goofy grin on its face. He cradles a rifle in his paws and perched obediently next to him is the old sheepdog.

Now the thought of shooting animals for sport (or food for that matter) holds no appeal to him. At some point that switch turned off. He hasn't killed game in decades. And that's the way it goes.

My friend Nick, uber outdoorsman and literary mind, gave me a book for my birthday called Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness by Doug Peacock. The book is a mix of war story, alienated humanity, and conservationism. I know very little about "the American wilderness", or the ecological and environmental issues that so many hold dear. But I'd like to think I can appreciate what would make it such a passionate cause for some. Peacock was a friend of Ed Abbey and for over 20 years his life revolved around the Grizzly Bear. After coming back from Vietnam a wrecked and empty person he developed an almost codependent symbiosis with the Grizzly bears of Yellowstone & Glacier National Park, among others. It is a detailed account only a fanatic journalist with an all consuming passion could write. For Peacock, the passion for Grizzlies is truly a love that comes out in the detailed description of his encounters. Naturally so, for his relationship with them saved him to a large degree from the horrors of Vietnam.

I couldn't relate to much of the book though I absolutely loved it in parts (particularly his war stories). Peacock quotes Luther Standing Bear of the Ogalala Sioux, who said "Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land infested with wild animals and savage people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery." This is true. We look around us and see the unusual, the foreign, the unknown and we flee or try to change it to fit our notions, rather than trying to look at things with fresh eyes. For Peacock it came through his experiences with bears. For someone else it may come through a bassoon or a rifle or a surfboard or a garden. But we should all be looking for the Great Mystery, and willingly acknowledge its manifestation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hit it Rockapella!

By my calculations, my Sufjan post counts have been a bit low lately, so I'll remedy that. When visiting the Asthmatic Kitty website today I discovered that Indie Blockedappella, voice only cover artists, have created a cappella versions of songs from each of the artists on the label. See the background behind the recordings here.

You can't deny that a lot of work went into these, and though I really doubt I'll be putting them on my iPod, it was fun to see what strangely ambitious individuals can do with a microphone and plenty of time on their hands. My favorites are:

In other indie a cappella news, check out what looks to be some young & dapper choir boys doing a rendition of Grizzly Bear's "Knife"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are We Not All Beggars?

Last week, I was walking over to the grocery store near my office and was approached by a beggar, late 30's or early 40's, who asked if I could buy him some food. I said "of course" and we promptly walked over to Wendy's, where he ordered a Biggie sized chicken sandwich combo to go. He smelled like a bucket of urine, poor guy, and he had a story ready to go when I asked about his hard times. Who am I to judge its validity? I was really trying not to in my head, and failing miserably because it sounded like a bit of a stretcher. Either way I wished him well and tried to be encouraging.

As I was walking out of Wendy's, I hadn't gone a hundred yards around the corner before being approached by another homeless man who asked what I was reading. I had been walking with an open book--Gilead (the latest book team selection, and a beautiful reread for me). We talked the basics of literature for a moment before he turned the conversation to God, the LDS faith, substance abuse, etc. This man liked to talk and though very quirky, a pleasant enough man to be around.

I always find myself in that situation wanting to speak to that person as a 17 year old kid, and talk of hopes, aspirations, and dreams. I am so eaten with curiosity over the chain of events that has led them to that moment. As I didn't have any cash on me to satisfy his petition, we said our goodbyes and he stopped me, turning around and said, "You are you, and I am me. But we are the same person, you know?"

I suppose there is some truth in that.