1. "Therefore, all this dead air is the crowd’s fault—a judgment later affirmed by Death Cab, who enjoy a similarly embalmed reception—and we respond in kind. A request goes up for our song “Samaritan,” which we honor. John introduces it with the following words, which somehow seem to sum up not just tonight’s show, but the prevailing spirit of what has become a genuinely fun tour again: “All right,” he announces. “This one goes out by request… and the rest of you can eat shit!”"
    — Sean Nelson, 2003 Long Winters Tour Diary
     
  2. A small glimpse into the madness that is my annual non-traditional Christmas music playlist.

     

  3. If you’ve ever wanted to read me ramble on waaaaay too long about one of my favorite bands and end with a semi-coherent bit of soul-searching inspired by a late night session of cheap whiskey shots and Mario Kart discussion with a fellow local musician, this massive post is for you.

     

  4. Musings on The Long Winters, and Finding My Place in Music

    I’ve forgotten when, exactly, I first discovered the Seattle indie rock band The Long Winters (and by extension, their frontman John Roderick), but it can’t have been long ago. I do remember how I discovered them, though - that comes down to one Merlin Mann, famed Internet person.

    I was (still am) a huge fan of “You Look Nice Today,” the often-bizarre, always-hilarious podcast that Merlin co-hosted with his friends Scott Simpson and Adam Lisagor. And I’m a regular listener to Merlin’s show on the 5 by 5 network, “Back To Work,” which he co-hosts with Dan Benjamin.

    So, being a fan of Merlin’s work and also a fan of great podcasts in general, when I heard that Merlin had yet another podcast, I checked it out. This show, “Roderick On The Line,” is described as a recording of Merlin’s weekly conversation with a man named John Roderick, who I found out was a Seattle musician.

    I listened to an early episode, not knowing anything about John or his music. Right off the bat, I was a bit baffled by John - the man has a unique way with words/way of looking at the world - but after I listened to a couple of episodes I found myself laughing a lot and pondering various interesting topics and points made during the course of the show. So, naturally, I decided to check out John’s music.

    I’m not sure what prompted me to start with what is, as of this writing, the newest Long Winters album: 2006’s Putting the Days to Bed. Perhaps it was just the album’s (relative) newness. I bought the album off iTunes, unheard.

    I seem to recall that I was busy working on something as I started listening to PtDtB, so for whatever reason, the album sort of flew past. It wasn’t until days later that I re-listened. Something about the third track, “Teaspoon,” broke through that time, and grabbed me.

    (Maybe it was the horn section. I’m a sucker for a horn section.)

    I have a habit where I latch on to a new song and listen to it over and over, several times in a row, because it just moves me that much. “Teaspoon” had that effect on me. There was something in that song - the horns and their counter-melody, the rhythm section, the guitar, John’s lyrics - that worked its way deep into my head and wouldn’t leave.

    I know I wasn’t made to play on a team

    You weighed your suitcase down

    But it still wouldn’t sink

    I know that crime doesn’t pay

    But I don’t know any other way

    So from there, I dropped everything and started listening to the entirety of Putting the Days to Bed. I was startled by how great the first track, “Pushover,” is - it reminds me of a certain person in my life, a friend that I can’t say “no” to and that I just want to know likes me, respects me, and is proud of me, a friend I want to take care of and nurture the talent I see within her.

    Unkind girlish walk

    Like a deed to the world without the talk

    As you wade through the crowd

    I sit next to you, the seat’s still warm

    For you I’m a pushover

    I would, I would

    (If I could I would)

    I just want you to say, “Come on!”

    (If I could I would, and if I disappoint it’ll be only once)

    Wish me luck, wish me luck

    If the writing in “Pushover” wasn’t enough, the second track, “Fire Island, AK,” really started solidifying John’s lyrical prowess, hinting at unexpected darkness in a catchy rock tune.

    Here’s how I found out

    A man called my house

    He asked me what I knew

    They found my letter

    And I don’t have to wonder

    No I don’t have to wonder

    So I don’t have to wonder

    Did it reach you

    I was well on my way to completely loving the album when “Hindsight” started up, and John’s writing on this track is not only massively clever, but thought-provoking, and made me reflect on a lot of things in my own life and how it was going up to that point and how what I was doing with my life was making me feel, with lines like “Did you say what you wanted said / and now you’re just putting the days to bed?” and “Are you still training for the big race / by hoping the runners will die?” And on top of all the thinking, it made me laugh.

    I could go on, doing a track-by-track breakdown, but essentially, this entire album worked its way into my head and wouldn’t get out. It took me a little time to warm up to a couple of tracks (“Sky is Open” and “Clouds,” specifically - I love them both now, but it was a gradual affection), but on the whole I completely fell for the album - from the touching “Honest” (wherein a mother warns her starstruck daughter not to fall for a rock singer) to the punchy “Rich Wife” to the lyrical depths of “Ultimatum” to the all-out rock of “It’s A Departure” and the pure sweet pop perfection of “Seven.”

    Honest, it’s alright to be a singer

    But don’t you love a singer whatever you do

    Is your high horse getting a little hard to ride?

    And your “little bit on the side” getting harder to find?

    When you get restless at night but it’s too late to start

    And there’s nothing left to eat in this house but your heart

    Crave translates into slave

    No one can harness the rain

    And I can make myself into rain

    You’ll feel me on your cheek

    And on your sleeve

    It’s familiar

    But not too familiar

    But not too not familiar

    It’s a new craze

    Did you see me the way I imagined?

    Every eyelash a picket or a wire?

    Did you tease me when I went out of fashion

    And your interest in me had expired?

    I wound up listening to Putting the Days to Bed constantly, drinking in every bit of the songs. And, eventually, I started working backward through the band’s albums.

    Next up was their second album, 2003’s When I Pretend to Fall. I was not prepared for the sheer amount of outstanding pop contained within. As I would come to find out, this album is full of fan favorites - I mean, you’ve got “Blue Diamonds,” “Scared Straight,” “Shapes,” “Cinnamon,” “Stupid,” “Prom Night at Hater High,” “New Girl, “The Sound of Coming Down,” “Nora”…hell, as a songwriter/band person I would kill to write ONE song as good as these.

    So you can sell yourself on blue diamonds

    Call Vice, it takes a day to explain the crime

    You laugh at what the LA Times says about us

    But delight at my first try at being sly

    Stupid, you could call it that

    Stupid, but you have no idea

    How stupid I would feel

    If fifteen years from now I see her

    And she says why didn’t it happen between us, stupid?

    You erased so many mistakes

    By sitting up and smiling

    Your solo show

    I hope it never closes

    It was the ride of my life

    Twice you burned your life’s work

    Once to start a new life

    And once just to start a fire

    John displays not only a creative mind for writing music (I still cannot get my head around the guitar part in “Shapes”), but also an incredibly unique lyrical approach that can simultaneously make you chuckle and cry.

    When I Pretend To Fall is a lush, beautiful album. From there, I picked up the band’s very first album, 2002’s The Worst You Can Do Is Harm. Born of the ashes of John’s previous band, the Western State Hurricanes, this album is at once both very different from the other two albums in terms of feel, and very similar, in terms of songwriting cleverness. The first track, “Give Me A Moment,” is instantly relatable to anybody who feels as though they’ve spent time wandering directionless before finding their calling.

    First sign of winter I want you to go

    Take nothing with you and never let it show

    Leave me alone now so I can pray

    Lord, Give me a moment I’ve been away

    (While I can’t find a YouTube video for this song, it has become a quiet favorite and it heavily inspired a song I wrote on our band’s debut EP, titled “Ten Years of Sleep.” More on that later.)

    Where When I Pretend To Fall and Putting the Days to Bed are outright pop celebrations, The Worst You Can Do Is Harm feels, to me, like an intensely personal journey, and I relate to it differently but I adore it all the same. For instance, there’s “Scent of Lime”:

    The worst you can do is harm

    Waiting for the other shoe to fall

    And shouting from your car at an empty road

    The plainest words are the finest

    I’ve been waiting half my life to find the real world

    If you find the real world, let me know

    And this gets to one of the things about the music of The Long Winters, and about John’s experiences, that I find so meaningful: John put out the first Long Winters album in his early 30s, right where I find myself now. I spent my 20s working, and didn’t do anything all that crazy or creative. Now, I find myself older, wiser perhaps, but with this creative spark in me. I had worried that I was past the age I could have done something with it - after all, Brian Wilson was 24 when Pet Sounds came out. What the hell have I been doing that’s so great?

    John’s story inspired me to get out there and try anyway (I related this to him when I met him in Dallas in December, an event I am very thankful I got to be a part of). And now, I’ve been able to get on stage and perform my own music with people I love and am honored to share a band lineup with.

    The Worst You Can Do Is Harm also contains what, I feel, is the song you’d pick if you had to pick a “definitive” Long Winters song. Like, if I had just a single song to sum up what the band is like, I’d have to go with this one: “Carparts”

    I’m leaving you all of my car parts

    I didn’t have the money or I would have gotten roses

    You poured one more highball

    But I had to go before my poor heart overflowed

    "Carparts" is like a pure distillation of The Long Winters - musically catchy as hell and just purely exhilarating, a real indie rock rush, lyrically just absurdly clever and affecting.

    Oh, not to jump around in time too much, but in between When I Pretend to Fall and Putting the Days to Bed there’s an EP, Ultimatum, which contains the flip side of my “pure essence of The Long Winters” imaginary single: the epic, haunting “The Commander Thinks Aloud,” John’s moving tribute to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. It’s a song particularly meaningful to me, as I’ve always been a space nerd since I was a child, and I watched Columbia break up on reentry as it passed over Fort Worth.

    The radio is on

    And Houston knows the score

    Can you feel it? We’re almost home

    In terms of what John’s music means to me, I can think of no better summary than Merlin Mann’s own thoughts:

    I go on about John’s stuff because, as much as I love so many bands and so many songs, there haven’t been too many musical artifacts of the last 25 years that stand up to both repeated listens and repeated scrutiny as well as John’s artifacts. At least for me.

    That probably says way more about my age, sensibilities, and attention than it does about “the world.” But, I suspect it says the most about what it means to find music that grows up with you. That survives one’s own moods, jobs, addresses, bedfellows, and haircuts, and just sounds better and more satisfying as you change, but still keep hitting, “PLAY” without hesitation.

    John’s not for everybody. Nothing is for everybody. But, it does give a person a warm and weirdly rewarding feeling to find those songs with personal durability.

    John’s music is part of a rare collection of works - for me, this collection includes artists like Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys, Sleater-Kinney, Talking Heads/David Byrne, and They Might Be Giants - that stick with me even as I grow and change, works that I can never really get out of my head, works that never get old no matter how often I hit “play” on my iPhone or drop the needle into the groove of the record.

    And lately, it’s helped me come to a realization about my place in my own local music world. The big scenes in Fort Worth are things like Americana/folk, scream-y punk bands, fuzzy trippy psych rock, and blues-y bar rock (not to mention country). I respect all of these fields, and I like a lot of the bands performing in them, but I don’t feel like a part of them. I don’t feel accepted in the audience, and I know my own music doesn’t fit with them.

    Lately, I’ve been feeling like I have no place in this town’s scene. That my own music (our band is The Diabolical Machines ), recently affectionally described by the local alt weekly as “boutique pop,” doesn’t have a place here. I felt like an interloper, one without a scene to call his own.

    But between my adoration of music like John’s, and a show I went to tonight (featuring my friends Lindby and The Breakfast Machine, two of the most outstanding indie pop/rock bands in town), I’ve come to terms with two facts: A. Yes, I’m in a niche in this city, but B. I’m not alone, with bands/friends like these. I am a proud indie pop/rock aficionado in a place where that’s a little odd, but I get to share bills with remarkably talented people who are super friendly and supportive. Tonight, getting to see Lindby and The Breakfast Machine do their thing, and then driving home with my sound system blasting Putting the Days to Bed on an oddly cool, crisp Texas evening, knowing that soon I’ll be sharing a stage with these people again, I felt like I’d come home.

    This has gotten much longer and ramble-ier than I planned, but I’ll just say that The Long Winters are a deeply meaningful band to me, and John’s music has helped me find my own place in my own creativity and amongst my peers. That’s just one example that showcases the power of music, and I am very fortunate I get to be a part of it

    And I need to never forget that.

     

  5. I am working up an epically overlong post about one of my favorite bands, The Long Winters.

    Ye be warned.

     
  6. ‘Teaspoon’ by The Long Winters
    This song got me into the Long Winters, and it’s still a favorite. Pure indie rock perfection.

     
  7. Today is the 10th anniversary of the Long Winters’ amazing second album, When I Pretend to Fall. This album is foundational, in my world.

     
     

  8. fuckyeahjohnroderick:

    dustonthedash:

    Scared Straight - The Long Winters

    You were hurt so you got hard
    You were cursed and scolded and scared
    You were searched for, then ignored
    You want to burn the liars? you’ll set us both on fire

    Let me breathe fire down on you

    The horns add so much to this song.

    Oh yes.

     
  9. My songwriting approach can be distilled down to “try to write something even half as good as ‘Carparts’.”

     
     
  10. This is me wearing a Long Winters t-shirt and looking like I’m going mad for some reason, right before I appeared on the radio this morning to promote our concert tonight and participate in witty repartee with the hosts of The Good Show.

    I do not know why I look like I am losing all grip on sanity.