Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna

I’ve long been a David Lynch fan – dating back to my early teens in the early 90’s. His films entranced me – exploring the seedy side of life, love, sex, & violence. I was also drawn to the sometimes subtle humor in his films – quirky with small town vibes. Room to Dream operates as an autobiography AND biography. Kristine McKenna writes a chapter – and was given almost unlimited access to people from Lynch’s life – while David Lynch follows up with his perspectives on that chapter. It is an engaging read that gives light to many of Lynch’s inspirations. Of particular note to me was that the 2 years that David Lynch spent in Philadelphia in the late 60’s has influenced each and every work. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I never realized that before. The diner from Twin Peaks makes a whole lot of sense now – it is a throwback to those glorious diners of Philadelphia (I’ve spent quite a bit of time growing up in those diners). There are stories of how he decided to go into film instead of painting (an afternoon breeze caused movement on his work, causing an “aha!” moment). There are behind the scenes looks at each of his films. A little light on 1990’s Wild at Heart but tons of Twin Peaks, The Elephant Man, Dune, and Mulholland Drive stories. Above all, David Lynch is dedicated to the art life. A sobering chapter near the end explores the 2017 series Twin Peaks: The Return. It is revealed that after the series wrapped, Lynch moved into his guest house – the grueling schedule put a rift in his relationship (though he is still married as of mid 2018). There’s a part of me that admires that and a part of me that can’t quite comprehend it. There is a lot to love in this book and I can’t say enough positive things about it. I’d recommend getting the physical hardback version since there are multiple images and references that won’t come across right on a tablet. Not quite a biography and not quite an autobiography though it comes across as both sometimes, this book explores his childhood, personal life, films, artistic aesthetic, and personal stories. It answers some questions and creates others – not unlike a David Lynch film. Highly recommended.

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow is the 2nd novel by Amor Towles and was published in late 2016. An unexpected delight, I stumbled into this novel accidentally and I’ve walked away with that feeling of enrichment that only great literature can provide. The main protagonist is Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov – sentenced to house arrest in 1922 for writing a poem. My kind of rebel. Rostov is sentenced to live out his days in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol and is labeled a “Former Person”. What was interesting to me was that while Russia’s political landscape changed outside of the Hotel Metropol (Lenin, Stalin, Malenkov, and Khrushchev all figure in this novel), the human interactions within the hotel are blissfully unencumbered by turmoil. How does an aristocrat go from traveling the world to living out his days under house arrest? “If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them” our main character tells us. Along the way we learn about Russian history, meet Rostov’s friends, lovers, and even his daughter. The family history and flashbacks were winning sequences. The frantic adventures and hipster intellectual dialogue reminded me quite a bit of a Wes Anderson film. I could see with my mind’s eye vivid colors, a soundtrack, and felt emotions rising within me as the novel raced towards its climax. The conclusion offers a bit of a twist ending that isn’t resolved in a deux ex machina way. The years pass quickly in the 400+ page novel and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Gruff Rhys – Babelsberg

In the late 90’s I found myself outside of Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern desperately trying to listen to a sold out Super Furry Animals show. The Welsh band were about to release another masterpiece in the form of Guerilla and were playing a mix of hit songs and yet to be released songs. Sadly, the sound was almost imperceptible from the street and I went on my way walking around the city. It was a sign of things to come, unfortunately – each time Super Furry Animals or Gruff Rhys solo came to town I’d either have a show lined up already (Black Sabbath being the most notable) or simply couldn’t make it. That’ll change this October when I finally take in a Gruff Rhys solo show in an intimate venue. He’ll be supporting his latest solo album, Babelsberg one of the finest records he’s been involved with, solo or otherwise.

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Kanye West – ye

I used to love Kanye West – it’s true. Through his 1st four albums he never failed to entertain me, make laugh, and with 808 & Heartbreak, make me feel real emotions. I wrote him off before most people (how’s THAT for know it all hipster statement) and was bewildered as he increasingly became more outlandish. I was also baffled at the accolades he received for each album that was released – I’d give them cursory spins and write them off, never to listen to them again. I was wrong. In recent months, Kanye West has come out as a Donald Trump supporter (or did he?), questioned the role of slavery in US history, and pretty much turned off a large majority of the audience who loved him. I’m not sure if it is all an act or if these are legitimate feelings. But I couldn’t shake the notion that people turning their back on Kanye West now were overlooking the bizarre antics and statements he made during his peak popularity. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. But from the moment I played ye I was entranced. This is the sound of a man hurting inside. Confusion. Poetry. Maybe because it coincided with losing a friend to suicide, I’m not sure – but ye hits me in a way that no Kanye album has for years. Continue reading

Allan Feather 3/27/70 – 6/26/18 – a memory through music

Last Wednesday, June 27th, I found out that someone I grew up with had unexpectedly passed away. Suffice to say, my posts on “The Social Network” have been a bit emotional and delved into what happened, my sadness at his passing, and what he meant to me as a friend and mentor. Allan Feather was many things to many people, but to me he was a true friend. He was responsible for introducing me to “alternative music” in the early 90’s and took me to my very first show – an unknown Gin Blossoms opening for Toad the Wet Sprocket at the Trocodero in Philadelphia. I wanted to create a short post for my site that I can revisit as the years go by. I wanted to explore some of the songs and artists that Allan and I bonded over. One thing that Allan taught me was that it was OK to love underground bands and still love sports. Does that sound silly to you? In the 90’s, it was a real thing. A struggle. A battle. He made me laugh, he made me believe in myself, he made me experience nostalgia (something fake punks fight with all their might). And last week, he made me cry. This week too, in fact. And I think that’s OK. This post is for you Allan Feather.

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Harley Graves – s/t

It took me an embarrassingly long time to make the connections between punk and country music. Not so much in musical styles – in attitude. Once it sunk in (about 18 months after the last Johnny Cash show in my neck of the woods at the time), I was hooked. You couldn’t find enough Cash, Gram Parsons, or Mike Nesmith records for me (yep, that Mike Nesmith). I’m not a fan of most Nashville, radio friendly country music. But give me some outlaw country, and I”m all over that. Punk spirit and tunes that cut straight to the heart. Harley Graves fits into this mold perfectly.

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Bury Community Choir, Encore (Bury Young Voices) – The Ultimate Manchester Mash-Up

Over the last 6 years or so – ever since I started this site – I’ve made many friends in Manchester, England. Some are connected with bands you’ve heard of and some are indie musicians – on the fringe of accessibility. So it comes as no surprise that my heart was broken when I read about the attack on Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017. As it turns out, someone connected to someone I know was hurt in the blast – just a girl on a night out to enjoy music with her family. If there is one thing I know in this life it is that music has the power to unite people. So when a friend told me about this charity single featuring a mash-up of some of Manchester’s famous songs it was a no brainer – I told him I’d give it a listen and post a review on my site.

Bury Community Choir was formed in 2013 by music teacher Katie Geelan for people living in the Bury area. Encore (Bury Young Voices) are also conducted by Ms. Geelan and are made up of students in Bury Schools and Colleges. The Ultimate Manchester Mash-Up was created and directed by Andrew J. Smith. The artists featured are Elbow, The Verve, Courteeners, James, Heather Small, The Stone Roses, Take That, and Oasis. The single is just over 9 minutes and is a testament to the fighting spirit of Manchester. In my personal life I believe today’s youth are the key to the future and this single touched my heart. It has a purity that is inspiring. I’ll tell you right now that I don’t typically listen to choral recordings, but that might change going forward. My favorite pieces of this movement were the bits by The Stone Roses and Oasis.

You can stream or download this song for free here and here. Donations can be made here. It is for a worthy cause and is a testament to the power of the people to always move forward and help those in need. Never giving up always resonates with me and this will be a single I’ll always come back to. Cheers!

Verdict: Brilliant choral interpretations of Manchester favorites

For fans of: Britpop, humanitarians, people who want to make a difference,