Recent Albums from 2008, reviews

Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s ~ Not Animal
I’m so glad these guys avoided the sophomore slump. One of my favorite bands of two years, this eight-piece indie ensemble from Indianapolis are back and better than ever with their sophomore LP Not Animal.
[rating: 4]

The Foreign Exchange ~ Leave It All Behind
I like Nicolay’s production, but I’ve always been less than inspired by the rappers that they pick to feature on these tracks. They’re something of an underground hip-hop downtempo all-star team. But…I’m not really a huge fan of this release. Maybe it needs to grow on me, but most of the tracks feel less than cohesive and the production doesn’t make me forget about it.
[rating: 2]

Nikka Costa ~ Pebble to a Pearl
Nikka Costa is great because she sings a variety of soul-pop that’s very true to herself. She’s not a radio starlet, not particularly well known outside of a niche audience and yet, she keeps on plugging away producing consistent album after consistent album. Pebble to a Pearl is no exception, it’s full of a few more memorable tracks that she’s become known for over the years. Someone for Everyone is one of the best songs of the year. Not because it’s groundbreaking or earthshattering, but because of execution and delivery. A little uneven at times, nothing will seemingly come close to her 2001 debut Everybody’s Got Their Something. That doesn’t make Pebble to a Pearl bad, though.
[rating: 3]

News from the homefront

Lest I read a story that distract from my morning routine, after reading about the town I was born and raised in, however brief the mention:

Two home-schooling memoirs published this year narrate choices made outside the mainstream: in “The Film Club,” David Gilmour, a Canadian film critic, lets his 15-year-old son drop out of school on the condition that he watch three films each week chosen by his father. “Homeschooling: A Family’s Journey,” was written by Gregory and Martine Millman, two American financial journalists with six home-schooled children in Plainfield, N.J., a town that presented what they considered a Hobson’s choice: a terrible public school or a rigid Catholic one.

Good to know that Plainfield can’t be known for much else than it’s abhorrent schools and memories of yesteryear. What a joke and a shame.

There are a few notable blogs from the Queen City including the long-running Plainfield Plaintalker and Plainfield Today. The eclectic Plainfield Trees is just a blog about…trees in Plainfield. Wacky.

Improving your (LinkedIn) profile

Earlier today, I decided on a whim that it was time to rework my LinkedIn profile. I use it almost entirely as a networking tool, like a virtual business card to folks I might interact with digitally, coupled with contacts I know quite well.

I didn’t engage the site with much of a strategy at first. After all, I use Facebook entirely for keeping up with people I know in real life from camp to college to grade school. It’s also not a platform I use to look for jobs and so, I’ve gone hot and cold and around the bend on the different ways to use my Linked In profile.

As I thought about it, I decided that it made sense to tailor the profile to answer questions that people generally ask me, once they get to know me. For instance, between my military time and the traveling I’ve done since then, folks generally wonder how I arrived at the place I’m at now. For those who engage me via my blog and who aren’t aware of my personal narrative — and I don’t really go out of my way to really explain it anymore…because I find it to be too distracting and I can often hyperfocus on stuff that’s meaningful to me (I’m full of stories!) but don’t really matter much in a bigger conversation — it could serve as a way for people to “fill the gaps” that they’re wondering about.

When I was explaining my need to do this to a close non-web connected friend, he didn’t understand “Why they needed to know. After all, it’s none of their business.” And I said, of course it’s not. But the great thing about the web is that it gives you the opportunity to define yourself. There might be others who try to define you in other ways or make judgments based on what they do or don’t know about you.

But if you understand the strategies involved, you can create a snapshot to cover the large majority of folks who might decide to “Google” you on a whim. It still tickles me to this day when a family member such as an aunt or someone, will call me and mention that they were tooling around online and decided to search themselves and then my own name to see what they find.

If that’s not a message that you need to be in control of the conversation, nothing is.

With the array of sites out there, you need a clear strategy for your social media dalliances, if you’re going to maximize the benefit of exposing parts of yourself publicly. I’m always revisiting how much of myself I want to “put out there” when I’m writing on my blogs and on networking sites. Sometimes, I have a throwback to the times when I started online and when the awareness of personal branding and such alike wasn’t a consideration for most of us.

I used to have a huge problem separating “what’s important versus what’s not,” when it came to things like writing bios and such alike. Again, I have so many vivid stories to tell and they often can distract from the ‘message’ if I’m not careful. After spending more time actually consuming media, reading other sites and seeing how folks I respect do things, it became easier to start to come up with a gameplan for what the right balance is.

It’s somewhere between talking about what I think is important, being able to highlight your accomplishments, without detailing everything you’ve ever done in your entire life.

Top 5 albums of 2008…at the moment

Ok, no way I can do one for the whole year. But this is one for the albums released up to right now.

Five albums means you can’t include everybody. So that means that Devotchka (A Mad and Faithful Telling), Gnarls Barkley (The Odd Couple) and Kings of Leon (Only By The Night) won’t get included, in part because their previous albums are just as good or better than this year’s release and the ones I’m gonna post are better. I also avoided posting The Raconteurs and TV On the Radio because you’re going to see them on tons of other lists. I wanted to mix it up, a bit.

The Black KeysAttack & Release
Take the best producer in the business right now (Danger Mouse) and take a grimey indy rock duo who produced their previous albums themselves in the basement and what do you get? Brilliance.

Erykah BaduNew Amerykah Pt. 1
In an era where everybody in R&B seems to need a rapper to make a remix on a track or where the singing turns into bloviating into the high heavens, Erykah Badu sings and makes actually songs. She’s conscious, but it’s good music and really unparalleled in the market right now, especially at the level of which she sells albums.

Drive-By TruckersBrighter Than Creation’s Dark
There isn’t a country-rock album released this year or last or probably next, that’ll be as good as this one. I love the way they’ve approached this and what they’ve put together is hands down one of the best releases of the year.

Sia Some People Have Real Problems
This could’ve been replaced by some others. But this former singer with Zero 7 really did a good job on this solo release and the fact that it came out in January honestly makes it better, given it’s held up so well throughout this year’s otherwise solid releases. She’s got a set of pipes on her and she uses them extremely well. Soulful, but not stuck in a genre.

Sigur Ros ~ Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
Ethereal and not in English, this Iceland band has never really been one that I had much use for. But this year’s LP really changed the game for me. I don’t know why. It just grows on you after a while. It’s also not easy to define, is equally great driving on an afternoon as well as it is great for bedtime/wind down music.

I’ll do another one of these later in the year.

Steal the Blueprints

The only thing ringing in my head this morning worth sharing was part of the song lyrics to a track called Steal the Blueprints by Plus/Minus.

Maybe I’ve just been giving too many motivational talks (to friends) lately, but something says someone might benefit from this rather this part of the song:

Do you wonder just what happened to
all the desire to carry on
without knowing where you’re going?

Of course, there is a video too.

Happy Wednesday.

Tampa Bay..all the way?

I’ve been saying all week that the Rays were going to do to Boston what the Marlins did to New York in 2003.

So far, so good.

Go (future) Brooklyn.

I know that the area where the RATner is building his cathedral for the Brooklyn Nets is supposed to be too small for a baseball stadium, but where Keyspan Park is works just fine and there is already a park there anyway.

If the Mets and Yanks don’t play ball, just build a park on the Jersey Shore. There are towns that are 75 miles from both NYC and Philadelphia, though it was a challenge for me to figure it out. :)

Sometimes, the best advertising is simply doing what you do best

On my drive home today, I recalled a bricklayer who lived down the road from us. He didn’t advertise. Barely spoke English. Didn’t have business cards. He just took a house was lackluster and turned it into a really nice place using his sons and family members. Well he had this gorgeous brick walkway up to his house.

I recall that after he did this on his own house, a neighbor two doors down — himself an entrepreneur of a family owned business — hired him to do his (much bigger) house’s walkway.

Before it was all said and done, he’d built an entire business that was financed through his sweat equity and simply by doing a great job for himself.

Now the fact that I’m reflecting on that lesson about 15 years later is anyone’s guess. But to me, there lies a message of “Your best work can sometimes be the best business card money can buy.”