A long day of electioneering and other exciting phone calls

Hello fans!

So as you may have noticed from my lack of input and collaboration of late, I’ve been gone, far, far away… Where was I you ask? We’ll I’ll tell you! I have been working once again as a trainer for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners getting another few hundred college kids ready to troubleshoot problems that can arise with Chicago’s new(ish) electronic voting systems. So after the many long, long days that culminated into the grand finale that was yesterday, I am done. Its been a very interesting experience working and seeing just how much time and energy (and money) goes into our democracy in this country.

Yesterday was election day, and per usual myself and fellow trainers, lawyers, police investigators, and other official types were all cramped into a room downtown answering telephones troubleshooting issues that come up. It starts out with the calls like “No judges showed up at my precinct what do I do?” , or “When are you sending over my coffee and donuts?” or “Where is the television in our equipment so I can watch my training video?” and after a few hours turned into calls like “So and so is outside handing out materials for whatever aldermann” and “i just voted and the judge there was telling people who to vote for” and “Can you pick me up and take me to the precinct?, it’s icy out and I don’t want to walk.” (unfortunately we don’t offer that service)

The municipal elections bring out the best in Chicago politics, with politicians (or maybe just people supporting them in hopes to get that patronage gig at the end of the tunnel) trying to influence people into casting their hard earned votes towards them. This can happen simply by having an expensive sound truck outside the polling place constantly shouting phrases and reasons and “vote for jim person for ward wherever!” over and over. Or it can be from poll watchers handing out pamphlets directly outside the door of the polling place to try and influence that voter just before he or she votes. Or it could be from a judge who while issuing the ballots makes a “suggestion” towards one candidate or the other. From the calls we get it seems like everyone is doing this and at the same time calling to tell on the other guy for doing the same thing.

Now I wonder how many of these calls are truthful reports of what is going on or just people out there trying to use the system in whatever advantage they can to get that little edge to win. We take all of them as serious, documenting, sending out one of our investigators to check out the situation, but its really hard to tell if what people are telling you over the phone is actually what is going on. Quite amazing, you never think that in our modern age of elections (or maybe I am just naive) that it is possible to have a candidate who will hire two large intimidating men to stand outside of a precinct to “greet” voters as they show up to vote.

Well it just goes to show that elections are a big business these days, from the cost of the equipment, to the cost of training the people to run the elections, to the cost of a job for the few lucky people who get elected or get that patronage job for making that one crucial observation to push their candidate over the edge. Its been an interesting day/month, time to get back to the music.

hello.music round eight — Morning Tiger

hello.musicIt’s come down to the wire. With a last minute entry I have an all new version of “Morning Tiger” a song I wrote awhile back but shelved when I couldn’t think of how to expand or write lyrics for it.

[audio:http://smallgoodthing.org/audio/morningtiger.mp3]

I always loved the ending swell of synths and keyboards. It was very cinematic in a Jim O’Rourke kind of way (listen to his album Eureka for proof).

Anyway, a friend and co-worker said he loved it and wanted to take a crack at the lyrics and melody. When it came back from Robin, I wasn’t sure what to expect because we had never collaborated musically before. But his vocals and general tweaks to the mix really brought out the best in this song. Normally when I write, it had always been with my former bandmates in mind: writing for our former singer Kelley Gaunt, or a groove with Aryn and Greg in mind, or to serve as an improv vehicle for me.

So in a way it was strange to hear a song I had conceived alone in my bedroom or living room turn into something new and different. It might be one of my new favourites now.

We’ve got roughly 2 nights left to make any last minute things on these songs, pick our song order, album cover etc. Get the champagne ready.

NPR Playback

NPR PlaybackMany people (well the 2 people who read this site not named Aryn or Greg) might have figured out by now that I work for as a production assistant for NPR…specifically podcasting. One of the myriad projects I work on is an original to podcast show called NPR Playback. This concept was pitched to our podcasting illuminati to come up with a way to curate a podcast that looks into the NPR archives.

I came up with the idea to look back a quarter century after determining that the connective spine would have to give the listener a logical timeline so they were not alienated by strange time jumps or unmeaningful anniversaries. There is something simple and clean about that 25 year mark: a quarter century has in some ways a special ring to it in a way that is much more meaningful than those 18th year rememberances.

Every month looks back 25 years on sort of rolling calendar (in this month’s case February 2007 equated to February 1982) so that whatever month it was, we would have some new story to tell. What has been interesting is hearing the ebb and flow of news, politics and social trends and how they all interlock and evolve over time.

Today we finally published the February 1982 episode. Now in our sixth month we have started to get a bit of traction on the potential this podcast can have in showcasing weird and offbeat stories from the past. Think of it like “NPR Loves the 80’s!”
Take a listen here…or for all the past episodes, subscribe by pasting this link here into iTunes. Hope you enjoy.

hello.music round something or other — “A Call to Arms”

hello.musichere is a heroic little clip for you .. entitled “A Call to Arms” , it chronicles the invasion of some army and the native poeples of wherever gathering their weapons to fight back. Will they win? you be the judge.

A Call to Arms

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_aryn/a_call_to_arms.mp3]

hello.music round eight — Cost of Things

hello.musicGreetings friends… it is Sunday early evening and I have spent a majority of the snowy cold weekend inside reading, writing, composing, recording, mixing, mastering and then rerecording, remixing and so on and on and on. But by my calendar widget, we have less than 3 days to finish the album in a month as part of the RPM Challenge.

I will save my reaction and pep talk for another post but needless to say its been incredibly fun, challenging and all encompassing to put the music first for the first time in a long time.

Here is yet another song I created today while taking a break from mastering other things. I was talking on the phone and picked up the guitar. While talking a started playing this chord progression. It sort of just came out which is strange for me. Within an hour I had it written and tracked and another hour later it was mixed. Not so sure about the lyrics yet…but this song is all mood. Pretty proud with how it all came together so quickly.

So without further ado… the first mix of Cost of Things.

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_mike/CostofThings_v1.mp3]

NPR Song Of The Day: The Sea And Cake, ‘Crossing Line’

The Sea and Cake's Everybody is out now.
The Sea and Cake’s Everybody is out now.

Once again, here’s a short piece about The Sea And Cake’s song “Crossing Line,” from its new album Everybody, for NPR’s Song of the Day. Read the essay and listen to the song here.

Continue reading NPR Song Of The Day: The Sea And Cake, ‘Crossing Line’

hello.music round seven — I Am the King of Sad Retorts

hello.musicHere is I am the King of Sad Retorts version three.

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_mike/IAmTheKingOfSadRetorts_v3.mp3]

Okay…I finally penned some lyrics and tracked a really rough melody and harmony for this song last night. I think the song will be okay once I refine the words and make the melody clearer, not mumbled and not cracking. But the basic shell I think is there. I really wish I had a female singer to duet with this…but maybe I’m just defaulting into the Tweedy\Gibbard mode that I was trying to get away from on this song. Thoughts?

To hear past version of this song and\or discussion and lyrics go here.

The Arcade Fire Play In A Church

For five days last week the Arcade Fire played to sold out, yet intimate audiences in New York City’s Judson Memorial Church. Though I didn’t go, I certainly have been scouring the web and listening to the various songs they played from their new album, Neon Bible.

A few resources to catch up on the action:

Listen to a stream of Saturday night’s show as webcast by NPR’s All Songs Considered …or download the full show. You can also listen to Bob Boilen’s interview with the band, fan interviews before the show and a watch a slide show gallery with some great photos.

Stereogum’s review

The Onion AV Club blog review

Download a quality audience recording of Friday’s show

It seems the highlight for many people was the acoustic (kinda) performance of “Wake Up” that was performed in the crowd.

[youtube]Kbjf7OcpCio[/youtube]

After listening to a majority of the Friday and Saturday night’s shows, I have to say this band is on the cusp of peaking. These gigs at the church could very well be the last intimate experiences audiences will get with this band for some time. But the music here is more solid and revelatory than ever. Hearing the new songs in the live context mixed with the old, made me love the new album even more.

What once was a scrappy energetic performing band falling short in imitating the greatness of their album, is now a band who accentuates and even surpasses that greatness.

Aryn saw them at the genesis of their career right around the time the first LP came out in 2004. I cannot wait to try to see what they bring when they hit D.C. in a few months.

hello.music round seven — Black Moths

hello.musicI recorded the majority of “Black Moths” around New Years this year but I’ve been tweaking things here and there ever since.

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_mike/BlackMoths_v2.mp3]

Not really sure what to do with this and I feel a bit constricted by the bad drum loops, the weak low end (no bass). But I think there is a lot of potential for this guitar rock song. Reminds me of something My Morning Jacket would do. I remember it being nice and slow and cathartic when I originally dropped some of the guitar parts down.

All those years of trying to play cleanly and articulate in jazz settings and school has finally maybe gotten me here where I just want to rock out and play with feedback. Someday I would like to combine the two sides of my brain: the feedback side and the rational jazz side.

This would sound great with Greg laying down some old school 70’s rock drums (ala Bonham)… definitely sounds like a great live song. Maybe Greg can help out with this one as well when he does some drums for “Look Out.” With SEVEN days left we have a lot to work on. Let the countdown begin for the RPM Challenge. Should be fun.

hello.music round six part III — Look Out

hello.musicThis looks to be a prolific week for me. I worked on quite a few things that have potential. Now I just need to focus and finish these items off. How are you guys coming with your projects?

I still really want to do the RPM Album with this month’s EP but if we’re running short on offerings I think we could probably do something of a greatest hits of the Jan & Feb EPs for that.

As for this here is yet another song I’ve been working on. The hardest part with this one has been mixing and mastering… I’m working heavily with Live to make the instruments sound good. As you will hear, it’s still a work in progress.

Here is Look Out version two

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_mike/LookOut_v2.mp3]

…and I hope to have version three mixed sooner than later and I’ll update then. The mixing needs a lot work..and some levels and panning and maybe even redo the vocal tracks. Thoughts?

UPDATE 2\21: Here is Look Out version three

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_mike/LookOut_v3.mp3]

You might be able to tell that the mixing is slowly coming together. It’s not so muddy and the volumes are getting better but I’m still learning so cut me some slack? I am hoping Greg can track some real drums on this to help gain some intensity more naturally. Thoughts on this one coming together?