Thursday, September 30, 2010

Album Review: Henry Clay People – Somewhere on the Golden Coast

Thank you Slacker Radio! A few months ago, my wife and I were playing “the Game.” “The Game” consists of my wife flipping through the digital music stations on the TV and then me naming the song, artist, year, and album. I have a savant like ability at this endeavor. I’m unstoppable on 80’s new wave and 90’s altrock.

The game doesn’t end until you hear two songs by either Grand Funk Railroad or REO Speedwagon. This is not a hard and fast rule, but was pretty easy to follow on the old Music Choice Network that comes with our cable service, the 70’s Rock station played a boatload of these two artists.

Every now and again “the game” turns us onto a new artist. A few months ago we heard a song by the Henry Clay People. My initial response was “Did Pavement record a new song for their new greatest hits album?”

Wife: No
Me: So who is this? It sounds like a cross between Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., and Built to Spill!
Wife: The Henry Clay People
Me: Never heard of them, I’ll have to check them out.

I made a note to research them and never did. A few weeks ago, I finally downloaded the album. It’s great. If you like guitar-based indie rock, you should check it out. They aren’t breaking any ground or doing anything new, but the songs are catchy. They have some great guitar parts and the guitar tones are especially good. It's safe to say that they will have a spot on my Best of 2010. I'll stop short of calling them my Deer Tick for this year, but they might be my new Whigs...

Stand-out Tracks:
Keep Your Eyes Closed
Saturday Night
Slow Burn
The Digital Kid

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stink Bugs - Satan in a Shell?

Bugs! I’m not supposed to be writing about bugs, I’m supposed to be writing about wine, guitars, smoked meats, and other marvelous things that make life worth living. But no, for the third year in a row, a swarm of STINK BUGS has descended upon my home, and in particular, my screened-in deck.

I fancy myself to be a bit of a trendsetter. I like to discover new bands and share them with my friends. I love to find new little known wines and share them with friends. CA red blends – they’re great people! Drink them now, don’t wait two years until they are “deemed hip” by Food TV or some other source. But I digress, my point is that I don’t want to be a trend setter with regard to bug infestations! But stink bugs are the new black! I was just interviewed by a reporter from the local paper yesterday, and today the Washington Post has a piece on stink bugs.

So here is my stink bug story. We first started seeing stink bugs about three summers ago. As mentioned, we have a screened-in deck and we would find 5-10 a day the first year, 10-20 a day last year. This Spring, we had what at the time I referred to a “whole f**king lot of them!,” maybe 20-30 a day. I checked all of the screens, caulked any open spaces, and generally tried to seal up any entrance areas. They stopped for a while, but then started getting really bad again in July. Now we are seeing well over 100 day inside the screened area of the deck.

They annoy the crap out of me. Our neighborhood is built on central Maryland’s largest ant hill. I know nuisance bugs. But the stink bugs are pushing me over the edge. We have two small kids who love to play on the deck and constantly come in and out of the house from there. We used to leave the door leading out to the deck open any time the weather was nice. Now we have to leave it closed to keep the stink bugs from coming into the house. We eat dinner out there most nights. I now have to head out ten minutes in advance to vacuum up all of the bugs.

They are sucking the life out of me. But this brings me to the best way I have found for dealing with them. We bought a $30 shopvac at Lowes just for them. We bought it last weekend and it already seems to have a permanent stink. But sucking up the stink bugs brings me a new joy. Each one makes a satisfying little “phlupth” sound. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be hearing my guitar through a magical little germanium fuzz pedal, but I’ll take what I can get.

For those of you with just a few or a real desire to spray chemicals around your house, I have found that Terro ant and spider spray kills the bugs pretty quickly. To try to use it on the number of them we have would be impossible. Sealing should be the best method for keeping them out. That said, clearly I missed a spot or two. The shop-vac works like a charm. It smells to empty it though.

Fall used to be my favorite season. If stink bug invasions are the new changing leaves, I might be changing my tune. Rather than basking in my hammock (which let’s be honest, I don’t really have time for with two small children), I spend my outdoors time vacuuming up 100+ bugs per day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Elmo vs. Katy Perry: Which is Worse?

So, a Katy Perry clip has been pulled from Sesame Street. I’m glad. Katy Perry’s time should have ended long ago. But then again, somehow the Black-eyed Peas still exist to torment my ears.
I have kids that watch Sesame Street. I’ve made no secret of my hatred of Elmo - his piercing voice, his constant barrage of “why!” Any time I see someone wearing a red fleece jacket, I secretly hope that they have killed Elmo and made a coat from his fur. Sadly, this never manages to be the case.
I’m also guilty of not buying a Tinkerbell shirt for my daughter because I thought “Tink’s” dress was a tad too short. I guess I’m that dad. However, when it comes to Katy Perry’s outfit on Sesame Street, it offended me a lot less than her crappy song.
And on that note, here is a list of the Top 5 bands/songs I’d like to see on Sesame Street.
  1. Eels – I Like Birds: I can just see a bunch of muppet birds and Elmo and Mark Oliver Everett watching them. Bonus points because Everett goes by the name E and he and Elmo can discuss that both of their names start with the same letter.

  2. Monsters of Folk – Say Please: A lesson on manners! And I don’t know about you, but Jim James, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst seem like perfect Sesame Street people to me. Bonus points: Cookie Monster can talk to them about he is also a monster.

  3. Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines: My initial thought on this one is that it could be about maps and cartography.

  4. Death Cab for Cutie - Different Names for the Same Thing: I’m imaging a lovely lesson on synonyms...

  5. M. Ward – Here Comes the Sun Again: This one is easy. It’s either about the sun rising or it’s about photosynthesis.
And I’m still thinking that Highly Suspicious by My Morning Jacket could be a good fit. I’m thinking a piece on “stranger danger.” I can just imagine Cookie Monster singing the “Highly Suspicious” line.