Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Bass

I'm on an instrumental music kick lately, mostly the fault of Brokeback. Doug McCombs, of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day, has or had a solo project called Brokeback, whereby he created these gorgeous songs centering around electric or acoustic bass or both. Really nice stuff, and I wish he were still recording under this moniker, but I do not believe he is.

That led me back to Austin and Cyrus Rego, the former side project of Edward Robert, former bass player for the no-longer Paul Newman. Robert put out one release under this name on Emperor Jones Records, back in 1999, and I forgot about it until recently. Now it's digitized and in the system and sure to get loads of play time around here.

They're both accomplished pieces of music, and very different. Where Brokeback plays more to clear lines of melody, repeated and embellished and approaching minimalist jazz in places, Cyrus Rego deals in landscapes of sound and effect, complementing drone with misty pieces of song and lyric.

But they're both built around the sound of the bass guitar, and that alone makes them worth listening to.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Big Bend Ranch

Came across this official Texas Parks and Wildlife video of the new mountain bike trails in Big Bend Ranch State Park.

I rode a few days in this place when I wrote Mountain Biking Texas, for FalconGuides, way back when. There were no trail markers, mostly rough doubletrack, and so much potential for getting lost that it was more route-finding and adventure-seeking than mountain biking. But it was always a great day out.

Hopefully this will get people coming to visit and ride. It's out in the middle of nowhere, a resource that doesn't get much use--good things if you're looking for adventure in the desert.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top Ten Albums of 2010, extended version

Every year I ask myself: What are my criteria for the best record of the year? For all of the top 10 and even 20, really, but especially for the one in first. And every year I give myself a different answer.

This year there was no shortage of contenders for the top slot, unlike last year where it seemed more like a big clump of awesome #2-6s or so. The album that won out then would not have done so against this year's list. But last year was a very different year.

2010 in many ways was about new beginnings and reinvention. From the obvious quantum leap forward of Flying Lotus to the galvanization of power and sound on The National's High Violet (and to a different degree, on In Evening Air from newcomers to the Hess library Future Islands), the artists here started the year off on a different footing, with a different purpose of step.

Bradford Cox has become one of the most consistent artists in rock music. No Age have grown up, lost a little edge, and gained a huge amount of skill and a great instinct for a hook. The Walkmen finally got through to me, the Arcade Fire came back in a big way, and LCD Soundsystem just keep getting better.

But when it came to picking the best, stuffed though it may sound, I went with what seemed the boldest of steps, the most important-feeling of new directions.

Sufjan Stevens comes as close as one can come to internalizing and distilling the swirl of musical forms and sounds in his world in his time and producing something that's entirely new, but that leaves nothing out, subjugates nothing to novelty status or mere badge of credibility. His music is impressively complicated and endlessly listenable, referential but never ironic, brainy and fun, sincere and never cloying, comfortably Christian, brilliant and accessible.

The Age of Adz marks a significant point in his career. Not only has he finally abandoned the put-on ambitions of being this nation's state-by-state freak-folkie laureate, but he shocked us with the surprise release of the All Delighted People EP, and followed it closely with his most accomplished single album to date.

This is not the record I've listened to the most this year, but this is the one that offers new insights and yields new rewards with every single listen. "Impossible Soul" practically earns the honor on its own, and not solely due to its staggering length (nearly 24 minutes!). It's serious in its affirmations, but it's not heavy handed or melodramatic and doesn't take itself too lightly or too heavily. That's the thing about Sufjan Stevens' music: It does so much, reaches so high, in a way that's so unabashed and hopeful that you can't help but get swept up.

It strikes me that, in some ways, Sufjan Stevens is the David Foster Wallace of indie rock, and this album his Infinite Jest. It's everything at once, overwhelming sometimes, concise and poignant most times, not always superficially enjoyable but always yielding wisdom and rewards.

Give it a chance--or better yet, give it about 5. That's when it really started to dig in for me.

And so, with no further windbaggery, here's this year's Top Ten Albums, plus a whole lot more.

Top Ten Albums of 2010
1. Sufjan Stevens ~ The Age of Adz
2. The National ~ High Violet
3. Deerhunter ~ Halcyon Digest
4. Future Islands ~ In Evening Air
5. The Walkmen ~ Lisbon
6. Flying Lotus ~ Cosmogramma
7. LCD Soundsystem ~ This Is Happening
8. Arcade Fire ~ The Suburbs
9. No Age ~ Everything In Between
10. To Rococo Rot ~ Speculation

The Next 10
11. Andreya Triana ~ Lost Where I Belong
12. Pantha du Prince ~ Black Noise
13. Josh Ritter ~ So Runs the World Away
14. Teebs ~ Ardour
15. Matthew Dear ~ Black City
16. Shearwater ~ The Golden Archipelago
17. Les Savy Fav ~ Root for Ruin
18. Department of Eagles ~ Archive 2003-2006
19. Sin Ropas ~ Holy Broken
20. The Morning Benders ~ Big Echo
Tonea2ing enders ~ Big o
Some other really good to great stuff, sort of in order
Atlas Sound ~ Bedroom Databank Vol. 1
Balmorhea ~ Constellations
Four Tet ~ There Is Love In You
Flaming Lips ~ Dark Side of the Moon
Brian Eno ~ Small Crafts on a Milk Sea
Lali Puna ~ Our Inventions
Frightened Rabbit ~ The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Surfer Blood ~ Astro Coast
The Ponys ~ Deathbed +4 EP
Spoon ~ Transference
Best Coast ~ Crazy For You

Songwriter/troubadors/past and future legends
Shinyribs ~ Well After Awhile
Gil Scott Heron ~ I’m New Here
Sufjan Stevens ~ All Delighted People EP

I got all excited about it and thought I really dug it but I sure haven’t put it on much:
Owen Pallett ~ Heartland
Women ~ Public Strain
Holy Fuck ~ Latin
Tame Impala ~ Inner Speaker
Sam Prekop ~ Old Punch Card
White Denim ~ Last Day of Summer
Interpol ~ Interpol
The Black Angels ~ Phosphene Dream
Superchunk ~ Majesty Shredding
The Corin Tucker Band ~ 1000 Years
ck ~ 1000 Year

New (new to me, anyway) and exciting
Meursault ~ All Creatures Will Make Merry
Gauntlet Hair ~ “Out, Don’t” (single)
Cults ~ “Go Outside” (single)
Shimmering Stars ~ “East Van Girls” (single)

Great expectations; just kinda meh
JJ ~ No. 3
Avey Tare ~ Down There Now
School of Seven Bells ~ Disconnect from Desire
Blonde Redhead ~ Penny Sparkle
Caribou ~ Swim
The Hold Steady ~ Heaven Is Whenever

Captivated me
Loscil ~ Endless Falls
Dean & Britta ~ 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests
Take ~ Only Mountain
Bonobo ~ Black Sands
Tokimonsta ~ Cosmic Intoxication EP
The Gaslamp Killer ~ Death Gate EP
Shigeto ~ What We Held Onto EP

Distracted me
Gold Panda ~ Lucky Shiner
Baths ~ Cerulean
Mount Kimbie ~ Crooks & Lovers
The Sight Below ~ Murmur EP
The Album Leaf ~ There Is a Wind
Tokimonsta ~ Cosmic Intoxication EP
Local Natives ~ Gorilla Manor

Maybe I’m just sick of them...
Band of Horses ~ Infinite Arms
Vampire Weekend ~ Contra
New Pornographers ~ Together
Broken Social Scene ~ Forgiveness Rock Record

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Range Life: 2010 In Music

This week's Range Life will look back at the year in music with a focus on my Top 10 Albums. Yep, me and everyone else with an iPod, right? But I promise mine will be REALLY good.

Tune in to Wednesday 5 to 7 and Friday 1 to 3 for the full live program. There was so much great new music it'll be tough to know where to begin. Join me and find out, eh?

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Another band from Austin that's escaped my notice until now. Balmorhea make gorgeous, intricate, instrumental music that's somewhere between Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Stars of the Lid with a bit of Fahey thrown in, though very different from any of it, closer to a pop format maybe. Shorter cycles, more movement.

Long quiet stretches of miniscule variation give way to dynamic passages with percussion and melodic focus, strings bowed and plucked ala The Books, and then slide back into stillness.

I'm starting with their latest, Constellations, and I can't stop listening to it. Always nice to discover a whole new catalog to dig into.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

This Saturday: RadioBoise's Annual Practice New Year's Eve

RadioBoises 5th Annual Practice New Year’s Eve Party happens on Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight at The Empire Building on 10th and Idaho streets downtown. That's where Sleep With Grace used to be. We'll have beer and wine by Bitter Creek and other local merchants, along with some food from Idaho's Bounty.

$5 donation at the door, and all proceeds go toward getting Boise Community Radio on the air at 89.9 FM in April 2011. That's a full-power radio station that this town desperately needs. (Don't believe me? Just turn on the radio and you will.)

This year’s line-up includes Mickey The Jump, Junior Rocket Scientist, Jonn E. Combat and Boy Eats Drum Machine, who is AWESOME. Your favorite Radio Boise DJs will spin tunes, and we'll have some practice countdowns and mirror ball drops to get you ready for the end of 2010. Also, Boise Rock School will kick off the festivities.

We've got tons of great silent auction items donated by cool, local businesses, too. So come do some Christmas shopping, as there are always amazing deals to be had.

Read about the event in the Boise Weekly and Idaho Statesman.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Rides

Lots of snow hit the foothills this past week. And since Bogus Basin was bound to be a circus on opening+holiday weekend, I opted for a different approach.

I try to get the mountain bike out in the snow at least once a year, and since conditions were so perfect I got it out twice.

Saturday was gray and gloomy but Sunday was sunny and clear. Gorgeous.

And I'm really excited to have the IF back in action. LOVE the straight fork on it.

2 great rides around Shane's Loop and the Reserve trails made for a nice hello to wintertime.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CAUTION: Cuteness at absurd levels ahead

I've become one of those people. But look at this!

How could I not?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snowy Monday

The ride to work this morning.

And the view from my window.

The coolest thing started to happen when the sun poked out. See all the snow stuck to the power and phone lines? As soon as the light hit them, long shafts of snow began to break free and drift downward, horizontally, wafting like long paper tubes that burst into powder when they hit the ground. It started all at once and happened fast.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bike Thieves

This is some bullshit. 4 break-ins, no help or progress in stopping them or finding out who did it.

Sure the media coverage is weak, but at least they're there, unlike Austin's finest, who don't seem to recognize the responsibility they have to developing areas in their city. This isn't some dark corner of the outskirts, this is 4 flippin blocks from Whole Foods and one of the busiest intersections in the city. C'mon.

Austin peeps: Watch out for anyone selling Orbeas or Scotts or Fujis at prices that seem too good to be true. Because they are. Let AustinBikes know if you see any such thing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Another beat manufacturer from Southern California, in the vein of Flying Lotus, sure. But there's something different here.

Just picked up the first full length from Teebs, and I'm entranced. There's a subtlety and a direct aim at overt beauty that I've not come up against so much in this type of music. It's complex without trying to be complicated, forward looking and familiar at the same time, almost as much Four Tet as FlyLo.

This is thoughtful, contemplative music with some killer beats. That's a rare thing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back on the Range

It's been a few weeks, but Range Life is live again this week. And I have no idea what direction we're gonna go.

The new Brian Eno/Jon Hopkins record has me digging into the ambient/soundtrack bins, but there's also the new free release from Girl Talk. Then there's the Gaslamp Killer, Glasser, Tennis, Lord Huron, Minks, Shimmering Stars, The War on Drugs, Future Islands, and all kinds of other new stuff.

PLUS, just got some goodies from back in the day: Ed Hall, Stars of the Lid, Starfish, Tortoise, Pavement, Red Red Meat, Slint, and other total gold.

Tune in, won't you? 5 to 7pm Wednesday, 1 to 3pm Friday,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Real Food!!!

Theo's first meal- 4 months old from cathy fischer on Vimeo.

Sort of...

Theo had his first taste of "solid" food today. He really seemed to enjoy it, though he had trouble getting it from mouth to stomach much of the time. Still, a good first experience.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

AustinBikes Break-Ins In the News

Bad enough that Austin's finest are doing NOTHING about any of this. But they interview one cop here, and what does he say? Owner negligence. Figures.

Not much lower than a bike thief. And please, don't buy stolen bikes. That just makes it worse.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Autumn Stroll with My Boys

That's Theo's hatted head at bottom. It was a lovely day.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Pin Oak

This time of year, our pin oak's got to be the purdiest tree in Boise.

Monday, November 01, 2010

We Live In Hard Times, Not End Times

"If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

Eloquence unlike anything from politicians or talk show hosts. And make sure to watch to the end and catch Tony Bennett singing "America the Beautiful."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall's Here

Rainy days have turned to chilly, sunny days. The leaves know it. The foothills are dusted high up with snow. What a great day for a ride.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Awesome coffee from... Eagle?

Anyone tried Full Circle Exchange coffee? They're a roaster in Eagle, apparently quite the socially conscious, justice-seeking, community-active local business. And they've got pretty pro marketing, too.

I bought this bag over at Cafe de Paris, and I LOVE it. It's got a delicious and mild hint of the strong chocolate flavors that made the Mexican coffee served at Ruta Maya and some of my fave breakfast Mexican joints in Austin so wonderful.

You can shop online or stop at the Cafe de Paris. Grab a loaf of bread while you're there--best in town, I think.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jens Goes to Luxembourg

Hard man Jens Voigt will join beanpole bros Andy and Frank at the new Luxembourg team being built around the Schlecks. I feel for Bjarne Riis. His team's been decimated.

Some great stuff in the comments section of the VeloNews article, like this:

"Some people wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas....and Chuck Norris wears Jens Voigt pajamas."

Monday, October 18, 2010

3 Bears Burnt

Rode 3 Bears on Friday and got a good look at the burn from late last week.

Looks bad, but it seems like it blew through pretty fast. Lots of the sage has one or two branches scorched and the rest left intact. There were still a few plumes of smoke smoldering on Friday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It Gets Better

Everyone should watch this. From The Dish.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In a Nutshell...

This NY Times op-ed pretty much says it all.

Mr. [Ron] Johnson, on the other hand, proudly proclaimed recently that he doesn’t “think this election is about details.” That’s as good an explanation as any of why — in Wisconsin as in so many states — candidates like Mr. Johnson are ahead in the polls. Insurgent Republicans don’t need details when they can play on the furious emotions of voters who have been misled into believing that positive changes like the health care law are catastrophic failures.

The guy's ahead of Russ Feingold in the polls, and he knows nothing. Nothing. And he's proud of it. He's mad as hell and he's taking the right-wing rubes for a ride, like so many if not all of the tea party lunatics, er, candidates. It's sad and pathetic and will do great harm in the long run. Losing a workhorse like Feingold for an idiot like this. But hey, we're mad, right? We're not sure why, or at whom, or anything, but we're mad dammit because Glen Beck says we should be.

I know that parties in power always lose seats in midterms. It's good to remember that, and to avoid the typical Democrat hysterics and handwringing over the end of the Obamaworld as we know it. But still, this has to piss off anyone with a lick of sense.

Take heed, spineless handwringers! Before it's too late!

Around the country, the Obama voters who were so energized in 2008 are rueful and dispirited, taking their cue from the timid races run by so many fearful Democratic candidates. Mr. Feingold is making the case that there is a choice to make on Nov. 2 and that there is a need for thoughtful voices in Washington.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Basil Harvest

Had to harvest basil ahead of the first frost today--so we made a mess of pesto.

And by "we" I mean me and Theodore.

He kept a good grip on his own branch and really loved the smell, not to mention the busy process.

Turned out really good. Now to bust out that shiny new pasta maker.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Matthew Dear :: The xx

Another great remix of The xx track VCR, here by Matthew Dear.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Theo Goes to Gernika

Cathy and I took Theo for his first trip to Bar Gernika on Saturday. Rigged the carseat, loaded the boy into the sidecar, and off we went.

He loved it. Well, he cried on the way, but that's because he didn't like the big bumps on the sidewalk. On the street he did just fine. And once we got there, he settled right in.

Pardon me while I brag a bit: A woman sitting at a table next to ours was watching him and smiling, as people tend to do when you're with a baby. As she got up to leave she came over to our table and said "I've been a labor and delivery nurse for 20 years, and I've seen a lot of babies, but I have to tell you that your baby is unusually cute."

Of course we think so, but it's nice to have objective verification now and then.

Four Tet :: The xx

The xx - VCR (Four Tet remix) by Four Tet

Four Tet remixes The xx's VCR. So good.

Monday, October 04, 2010


A pretty cool video from the new one by School of Seven Bells. The record, Disconnect From Desire, is not as immediately gratifying or as emotionally soaring as their first, but there are some great moments on it. I love the swirling feeling of this song.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Age of Adz

Sufjan Stevens' forthcoming record, The Age of Adz, can be streamed in its entirety over at Or, here!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter's got a new record out. It's gauzy and gorgeous and disturbing--a combination and tone that Bradford Cox is quickly becoming the master of. Here's one from it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Future Islands

Anyone out there ever heard of these guys? Future Islands, the new album In Evening Air.

Just picked it up--new release out on Thrill Jockey--and it's weird and confusing and wonderful. But at bottom I think it's just really good songs, strong and basic melodies with earnest lyrics and great beats, rounded out with a bizarre, compelling voice, off kilter and out of place synth sounds, and swirling keyboards holding it all together.

Never heard of this band before and I'm wondering how that happened.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Ride

Ran from a storm up Trail 5 and down the new FT Traverse this evening. Fun ride, and nice to get rained on a little.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mumford & Sons

Friend Steve from Denver just told me to check these guys out. Me rikey.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Big Day for Theo

First he got to go to the office with me today. The home office, anyway.

He enjoyed himself. But then he had his 2 month doctor appointment. All the vitals and measurements were great. But then he got his first vaccinations. He didn't like those so much. But I'll spare him the indignity of posting pictures of that, and just show what a good brave boy he was for the stethoscope.