2017 in review – my favorite albums part 1

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my favorite things of 2017. I’m starting with things that released in the calendar year, there will be categories that are devoid of new releases. This is the first half of my favorite albums, the second half will have more recognizable names but for the most part I don’t partake in a lot of massively known music. I spend a lot of time dredging through Bandcamp.com searching through tags and I’ve found some really exceptional things there. Some made this list:

Circa Survive – – The Amulet

Their last, Descensus, was fantastic, arguably their finest effort to date and knowing that, it was a pretty safe bet The Amulet would pale in comparison. After such a high there’s usually a slump but apparently no one told these guys. The Amulet is enchanting and easily their most addictive collection of songs. I especially love the cohesion here. This isn’t a collection of songs, this is a well crafted 43 minutes of sonic love. It’s so well put together that at first glance and many subsequent listens, it seems to have an underlying story- – it doesn’t. Though that didn’t stop me from writing my own (check back next year for that).
If I had to pick one album to represent 2017 it would be this one.

OHHMS – – The Fool

This one I was eagerly anticipating, having loved their EP Cold and then the track list was released, revealing a concept around Tarot cards. Tell me, what’s not to love already? While Cold was two long soundscapes, The Fool is a driving force which I wasn’t expecting. The songs are still long but there’s more variety here, more intention, much like how every turn and reveal of a Tarot card is different, each song here varies. The short intro track eases you in, the suspense builds before slamming that first card (song) down providing plenty of reason to, at the very least, nod along. I really like how right when I thought I understood what was happening and what to expect, the fourth track comes as lovely curveball. Oh, and that closer? So good, so satisfying.
Can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys. A truly stunning debut full-length.

Envy on the Coast – – Ritual

What a surprise this was. I had come to terms with the idea that I’d never hear new material from these guys again. It’s a short EP but it’s perfect much like their two full-lengths. Endlessly enjoyable. Few things are this much fun. And the shoegaze-y closing track is fucking incredible. More of this, please and thank you.

Outrun the Sunlight – – Red Bird

This is one of my favorites to write to, it’s great to focus on or to let float into the background. For fans of Pelican and the like. I find it much more engrossing and interesting than their previous release. Great to unwind to, whether it be with headphones or just filling the air around you as you read or study or what have you.

I, the Mighty – – Where the Mind Wants to Go / Where You Let It Go

I’ve been following these guys for a few years and there’s always been a feeling I’ve had about them. Each release there’s massive moments of greatness and I’ve enjoyed each one but there’s always been a sneaky, lurking feeling like they are so close they can see it. I can feel it and I can see it too. We are all so close. When this one came out, I let it lie because I was worried that they’d never get to the point I want them to reach. The point that they have been so damn close to…
and then I listened to it:
Wow. This album exceeds my expectations. It’s a drug I can’t let go of, though I’d really appreciate it if the world around me would stop intruding right when “Symphony of Skin” comes on. These guys have outdone themselves. This completes what feels like a trilogy to me. Satori was the introduction of a lot of ideas and sounds and Connector took everything a little further while also experimenting with new ideas and now, this one puts a cap on it all. They’ve mastered these sounds and ideas. Watching these guys grow and these releases flow outward has been incredible. “Where the Mind Wants to Go” has one of the smartest choruses I’ve heard this year. I could go on and on but I’ll just stop now.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found something new to listen to. Come back in a few days for part 2.

Halfway into 2017

At the beginning of the year, I decided to sit down and write what I wanted to do for the year with my writing. I broke it up in quarters. I’ve compiled a rather chaotic document that has the goals and what I accomplished, month by month. I didn’t know it at the time that the mere act of writing it all down and keeping track would inspire me to EXCEED my goals. I’ve done more writing this year than I have in awhile. A long while. Perhaps ever.

Last year I began thinking more and more about my writing career. A Circle of Temporaries is an experiment and one I learned a lot from (I’m going to write about that once it’s all available for consumption, which is REALLY soon!). I’ve learned about what I’m good at and what I struggle with and I know I’ve grown immensely over the past year. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want from my writing career and how to best approach it. I have a rough idea of a plan and how to approach it. For example, at the beginning of the year I was sure I was going to revisit a dystopian sci-fi novella that I have in 2nd draft and finish it then look into shopping that around. But then I thought about how I want to launch myself. Do I want to start with that?

The answer is no.

The plan is, without going into too much detail, to release my debut novel next year. Independently. Because it’s mine, I wrote it (am writing it, still) and I want to decide the cover and all the other aspects. In this day, it’s incredibly easy so why not? Creative freedom is priceless.

Before the novel fully shows itself, I hope to have a few other things published. Maybe not in ways I have previously published…

 

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve been enjoying A Circle of Temporaries. If you’ve yet to dive in, now’s the time: the final pieces are so close! Check it out here.

Five Years in a Flash – 03 Lungs

I love smoking. I’m not sure if I should make that past tense or not because I’m not sure how to feel about it now. I don’t miss it. But I always fucking loved it. Was it the taste of death? I don’t know. Was it how it always kept me on the outside of things? People always look down and cough from 100 feet away. I always took offense to that. After quitting, I understand. Having quit, the smell and everything is so loud and noxious.

Another thing that is very interesting is how easy it is to judge a smoker now that I’ve quit.  It’s something I have to remind myself to hold in and cast away because it’s really easy to say “hey you should quit.” And next to impossible for most people to actually do so.

But at the same time I find it incredibly hard to wrap my head around the difficulty people have quitting when they have reasons to quit—actual motivating reasons like small children.  I know I would have never quit for just the money side of things because why give up something that you like and benefit from to save money?  That’s ridiculous.

Oh, you got hung up on the use of benefit there? I use it loosely there but in a way it is true. The act of smoking is a curious thing because more and more it’s out the outside of acceptable. In Connecticut, there’s like one place you can still smoke inside of.  To smoke is to get away from what you’re doing. They say smoke break but what they mean is life break. You have to physically break away from whatever you’re doing to smoke and that’s nice. Rough day at work? A quick smoke can alleviate a lot of that. For me, I know it was a shield. A lit cigarette can and does keep many people away. I suppose that says a lot about me.

But after giving up drinking, taking better care of myself snowballed. That’s the point. One thing leads to another. And another. Years of hurting myself with another and another and another and I figured out how to help myself with another and another and another.

The biggest thing that helped me quit smoking was when I pulled a muscle between my ribs. It felt more like chest pains than a pulled muscle and since it’s right there between the ribs, every breath is a pain. There’s a poem I wrote during the week of the chest busting pain (Yes, that’s how I described it to the doctor, he didn’t get it and I was sad.  Still am.) that I never published because it was going to be part of the abandoned third poetry collection. I just didn’t feel it necessary to do a third like I did for the first and the second.  But writing that helped me along the way to quitting. There was another poem I wrote that helped. I could list thing after thing but it all comes down to: I wanted to quit.

Too many people make the resolution to quit and by March they are sad and feel terrible about themselves for not sticking to it. The calendar doesn’t care about your false ambitions. If you don’t care then no one else will. But sometimes it helps if someone else does care and you can see yourself through their eyes. Seeing yourself through the eyes of someone that doesn’t mean anything to you doesn’t help. But if there’s someone, hell it could be your dog, that you care about deeply then it should be easy to see through their eyes.  It was and is for me.

It’s easier to hurt yourself when you feel unloved.

I smoked my first cigarette while listening to Gift by Taproot and I listened to the album again when I smoked my last cigarette. It was something the then current drummer, Nick, suggested I do. It was odd. The way my mind travelled with every inhale. Both the first and the last were stale terrible tasting cigarettes.

Some days, I miss it. I don’t miss the smell or the taste, I miss the act. I’m not sure exactly what it is. Maybe it’s just the quiet moment to reflect. Maybe it’s the fidgety nature, my hands want to be doing things—moving and shaking. Maybe it’s just that when things are gone the brain wants to miss them. Maybe it’s just my body missing the chemicals. I don’t think about it too much. Most days I don’t think about smoking or drinking at all. Or anything else I used to do to myself.

Every day I think about Aleks and about writing. It’s a simple life.

And it’s mine.

Five Years in a Flash – 02 Liver

(ICYM the first part – click here)

Not only have I fallen in love but we’ve stayed in love. That’s an important difference. And when someone you love mentions something no matter how small it should be heard and considered. In the autumn of 2012, I was well into the idea of writing a small collection of poetry to release as an ebook. But I needed something, a reason that these poems would exist together. I didn’t realize it would come together the way it did.

From the moment I entered my 20’s, I expected and was waiting for a moment that resonated and made me feel like a man. I was resistant to the idea that it just happened. There’d have to be a catalyst. Like love, man isn’t a word to just throw around—when speaking of manhood, that is.

Towards the end of 2012, two albums came out that greatly influenced my book of poems called My Enveloping Reflection.  Not only that, they influenced and inspired me. Since we’re talking about throwing words around—inspire is another one.

To clarify: inspiration is nonexistent if you do nothing. You can’t say something is inspiring. That would be like dipping your toe in the tub and saying you went swimming. If the inspiration was real you’d do something with it.

The aforementioned two albums are House of Gold and Bones Part 1 by Stone Sour, which features heavily on the idea of manhood and what it means to be/grow into a man, and Spreading my Wings by World Fire Brigade which is Sean Danielson of Smile Empty Soul and Brett Scallions of Fuel singing their fucking asses off. It’s brilliant.  Buy it now.

These things were in my ears heavily (along with the new Taproot) towards the end of the year when around November, Aleks asked about my drinking. I told her, and I really believed it too, that I needed it. I was drinking to fall asleep every day, which can be helpful to an extent and I think it was when I first did it to fall asleep during the day. I work at night so I sleep during the day. But a couple beers quickly advanced to more and more and more until I was at the point that I’d sleep 5 hours and wake up still buzzed (that may be an understatement) and drive an hour to work.

I forget what her exact words were but they were enough to stick into my head and get me to really think about it. Do I need it? The doubt was enough to make me curious if it was all in my head. So December 31st, 2012 I had one beer left in the fridge. I told myself that that was it until I DESPERATELY needed more.

At that point I had already written a few of the poems that would make it into my poetry collection but when January turned I felt a new question burning inside of me. The question of–am I going to quit? Is this it? So I wrote about it. And that poem is in the collection too.

In hindsight, I think drinking was an attempt to stir up some manhood because from an outsider it looks like that’s a requirement. And it was never about getting drunk, I never liked that. I think that the source of my substance abuse is not linked just to drugs or alcohol. But an urge to get away. That’s the only way I describe the feeling I feel when drinking. It’s not about getting drunk and sloppy. It’s about where the bottle can take me. Take me away, take me wherever you want. I just want to go.

I’ve come to this thought over the past week. I’ve been sober since the start of 2013 but last month when I was in Macedonia for Aleks’s birthday I had a couple beers with her. Mostly I was curious if I was “cured” or whatever. But the same urges remain. And the urge to get away is there still. But it’s not a symptom of hating my life because I don’t. It’s similar to wanting to be swept away by a good book. Let me just get away for a second and feel like somebody else. Maybe it’s a screwed up sort of empathy like Will Graham from Red Dragon experiences. I don’t know. I just know the away thing seems the most right of anything I can think of.

I do know and understand that drinking isn’t for me. And instead of pushing my luck, I’m going to stick to that.

I actually prefer being sober, which I found to be immediately surprising since I spent so much of my younger years the opposite. For most of my life I felt out of control of everything which could be a symptom of all the drugs and so when I let sobriety sink in I was floored by how in control I felt.

I’m not giving that away.

Five Years in a Flash – 01 Heart

Time flies. You know it and I know it.

For a couple weeks now, I’ve been thinking about how this month is the 5th anniversary of Taproot’s latest album—The Episodes. Five years. Whoa.

Immediately, I found myself recounting everything that has happened in my life since that day and since I’ve found some success being open and honest online in the past (yes, over the past 5 years) I figured I’d write this and really put all my thoughts together. There’s really a lot.

Five years ago, I was a different person and I can define that person with one sentence. It’s something I made a habit of saying especially when asked about when I would quit smoking.

“I don’t want to prolong this suffering called life.”

I absolutely believed that. I didn’t feel capable of anything of real value and merely existing is exhausting. It was around this time I came into contact with a few people that began to show me what I didn’t want from life. Like really really show me. Which was very important because it all prepared me and let me see, really see, what I wanted.

My girlfriend and I consider September 2012 our anniversary but it was before that. It was the summer that I knew she was different, rather what we were building was different. I had made note of her difference long before the summer broke in.

For most of my life, I was entranced by the idea of love. Everyone is so quick to use that word like it will make something out of nothing (Protip: It doesn’t). I think what I was feeling over those summer months was the arrival of love, real love. But to jump into using that word would have put me in the category of people I never want to be lopped in with.

I’ll never forget saying it for the first time. It just came out. There were moments that week that I had thought about saying it but… overthinking is a plague, man. When the words did touch my lips there were unexpected to both of us. It was September 2014, and I went to visit her. You see, we live on opposite sides of the world.  And yes we’re still a couple. Yes, we are going on five years. FIVE YEARS.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking.

There are marriages that don’t last that long. How can a long distance relationship last that long? An across the world relationship last that long? And I have a theory about that. It’s one word. But it’s a big one, I hope you’re sitting down.

COMMITMENT.

I know. I know. It’s scary and all that. At least you’re in good company, Chandler Bing was scared of commitment too.

So many people see love as the end-all. Like OMG I’M GONNA FALL IN LOVE AND… DONE! But no, it’s not that way. Just because you put a ring on the finger don’t mean its set in stone. Fingers get messy. All kinds of different ways.

To say: ‘I love you’ is a promise. It’s a statement too. But it’s nothing if you don’t put the period at the end of the sentence. If you’re ending it with a question mark, I guess you can’t be faulted for not committing. But in most cases, you put the period at the end, right? That’s the commitment part. The period. To place a period at the end of a statement is to say: ‘I commit to this sentence.’ Without a period, it’s just a really poor collage of words. How is it meant to be taken? Are we alive or just breathing?

Is it a flat-line or a tumble-weed?

What you can’t see from looking at this blog is pile of unfinished, partially developed writing projects that were born over the past year or so.  I’ve read a lot about writing from various sources on the internet.  There are so many people out there helping one another but the problem is most talk/write with such confidence that it’s hard to remember it’s advice.  I suppose that’s just humanity seeping in because most don’t want to be seen as someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and/or talking about.

I have the ability and the knowledge to write fiction and I have flexed that muscle and developed that muscle over the past year.  What I wasn’t expecting is how much I’ve had to learn how I write.  It’s not about learning to write or how this or that works, it’s about how I work.

Ideas are a dime a dozen and an idea is only one piece of the puzzle.  It’s like the punctuation of a sentence, just because there is a period doesn’t mean a sentence came before it.  It could just be a dot or a mole or a pimple.  For example, the story I’m entrenched in now was born from a dream I had at least a year ago.  When I woke I wrote this fractured poem that sat on my hard drive and my mind until it clicked with other components to form a world and a coherent story.  Maybe after it’s out there in the wild I will talk about it more.

It’s exciting how close to finished it is…

A CIRCLE OF TEMPORARIES – Coming Early 2016

 

Excerpt sooner, probably.

Impatient/I’m patient

It’s quiet.  The calm during the storm, in this case.  The wind can be heard blowing through the trees and disrupting whatever it can shake loose, like the recycle bin I have to chase every week.  I’m not a fan of how loud things can get unless we’re talking about music because music is meant to be loud.  Just about everything else shouldn’t be so loud, it’s a strain and that’s not good.  Sure some strain is necessary for growth but as far as I can see it should be minimal.

I think most people strain themselves and at the end of the day what do they have to show for it?  One step closer to the edge?  One more dollar in the bank account?  Worth is absolutely relative.  One man would break his back bending over to pick up a dropped dollar and another would walk right by it because those few seconds are too much to trade.  I am an odd creature, I’d rather spend 20 or so hours watching a lackluster season of television than gamble 2-3 hours on a movie that could be unsatisfying.  Yes I am aware that is an awkward statement.  I think the story telling potential is greater within the frame of a television show versus a movie.  2 hours are not enough to tell a truly compelling story on the level I want.  Movies have to be quick and there’s not enough time to feel the emotions that are being hopped over.  It’s about patience.  And today there’s no room for such a thing.

I’ve thought of myself as a patient person for quite a few years but I never treated myself with that same sort of patience.  Then I quit drinking and I was forced to learn how to really let myself off the hook.  There are trees that will be blown around and some will break under the pressure of this incoming blizzard.  A strong tree is only strong because of the years spent growing and like a tree I’ve developed branches I didn’t have years ago.  Patience isn’t something anyone is born with, it is learned behavior.

This patience of mine was really tested over the past few months.  I quit smoking and I wrote a book.  The two are connected in a way.  I never thought I’d be able to quit smoking because it was always used as an idea booster while writing.  Hit a road block?  Okay smoke break.  There were times I smoked more cigarettes than I wrote words in a singular hour spent writing a poem.  And to clarify, this book is not a novel but a novella.  We’re talking about 100-150 pages if printed in typical book manner.  The actual act of writing wasn’t exactly a difficult test of my patience, it’s this post-writing period that is.

I desperately want to talk about the story I’ve written and just share it all over the place but it is not finished.  Far from it.  I desperately want to finish it but I know it’s best for me to take a nice large step back from it.  It’s been about a month since I finished that first draft and I think I could get back into it and work on the second draft.  But a decent sized part of me knows it’s better to wait a little longer.  I know myself and I know that I don’t need to put pressure on myself.  Everyone else can rush around.  I’m happy with how things went last year.  I’m happy with what I wrote and I have plenty of exciting unwritten ideas bouncing around my head.

And I am happy you read this.  Thank you.  And if you’re interested, I have a short story you can read: DESERVE.  You can find it (PDF) under the Short Stories tab up top or in the recent posts to the left.