I Need You So Much Closer: Transaltanticism, an appreciation

<DCFC Transaltanticism>

Death Cab for Cutie “Transaltantism” (2003, Barsuk Records)

Being a teenager was tough. A little chubby and a little awkward, I desperately wanted to be part of something. Sure, there were friends, pool halls, and school clubs, but I wanted more. I wanted to belong. I eventually found music as a way to connect with others. For hours, I talked about my favorite bands to anyone who would listen. I joined message boards and MySpace and would search for all the latest news. I went to shows and talked to other fans. I wore my band t-shirts with pride. My messenger bag was decorated with small-round pins, likely purchased at Hot Topic or Warped Tour.  Armed with a discman, I’d stroll through the high school halls, listening beloved songs by Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, The Starting Line, Bright Eyes, and other bands long forgotten.

And then there was Death Cab for Cutie. The year was 2003, I was 17, and they were my favorite band. Transaltanticism was my favorite album.

This band (and specifically that album) captured what it was like be an introspective youth, eager to move into adulthood but unsure how to act or what to say.

As I made the decision to leave home and go to college out of state, I was suddenly without my safety net of childhood friends. I found solace in these lyrics and in this band.

Every New Years Eve, I’d copy the lyrics to the album’s opening track, “The New Year,” into a AIM Away Message (or later, Facebook Status) with the hopes that the upcoming year might be different. More often than not, it wasn’t. All the inspirational New Year’s resolutions was lost on my over-thinking, over-analyzing teenage (and early 20s) mind.

There was “The Sound of Settling.” How could a song about low expectations be so upbeat?! Hopeful and hopeless, I’d write lyrics like “I’ll sit and wonder/ of every love that could’ve been/ if I’d only thought of something charming to say,” on my binders and notebooks, all the while looking for that first love.

“Passenger Seat” made me yearn for an experience: the open-road car trip with windows down and not a care in the world. “I strain my eyes/ and try to tell the difference between shooting stars and satellites…/Do they collide?/I ask and you smile.” I wanted that feeling.

In “A Lack of Color,” there was quiet elegance. With power and strength, the lyrics spoke to sadness of a breakup. “I’m reaching for the phone to call at 7:03 and on your machine/ I slur a plea for you to come home./ But I know it’s too late, and I should have given you a reason to stay.” Sometimes even one’s most sincere effort is not enough to fix everything.

“We Looked Like Giants” was an example of how Death Cab could rock. But the song explored the theme of thinking that you love someone more than anyone else ever will. It is a secretive love; it is the kind of love you skip classes for.

In “Tiny Vessels,” an nod to hickeys, Gibbard sings of desiring more. “So one last touch and then you’ll go/ And we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more/ But it was vile, and it was cheap/ And you are beautiful, but you don’t mean a thing to me.” Whether or not one may want to admit it, this type of experience is typical of the college culture. Cheap booze and house parties often lead to more than one tawdry encounter (and accidental hickey).

Overall, it is a lyrics-heavy album that makes you feel so many things. There are themes of regret, disappointment, change, stagnation, meaningful relationships, and missed connections.

It’s 11 songs proclaiming “You’re not alone. I’ve felt the same way. You’ll be OK.”

Now at age 27, I still listen to this album. I think back on feeling unsure of myself. I think back on all of the false starts and wasted opportunities. The album captures that fine line between hope and hopelessness. In some songs, love is experienced while in other songs, love is fleeting. Either way, love is something to desire.

Maybe things have changed. Maybe things stayed the same. But all I know is that without this album, I might just be another inarticulate mess, too reflective for my own good.

Either way, I’ve still “got a hunger, twisting my stomach into knots”

Bah baaaah..bah baaaah.

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Death Cab For Cutie’s Transaltanticism came out 10 years ago.

Barsuk Records recently resissued the album on vinyl.

For more information, click here.

The Club Is No Longer Open: Memories of Maxwell’s

[The following is a guest post from Christopher Harris.  As a native New Jerseyian and an indie-rock fan since the early days, he has a special attachment to Maxwell’s and everything it represents. He shared his thoughts below.]

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Today is August 1, 2013 which means that Maxwell’s is officially closed.  Recently we’ve been bombarded with articles about the closing and history of the now legendary Hoboken bar and restaurant.  I still have yet to come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to see another band in what is considered to be one of the best clubs in the NYC area.  I thought I’d talk a little about the best show I ever saw there, Guided By Voices on December 30, 2010.

I have been to Maxwell’s more times than I can count at this point.  I grew up in the New Jersey suburbs and missed out on City Gardens (which closed in the 90s).  When I was in high school, Asbury Park’s The Stone Pony closed for a few years. Unless you wanted to see cover bands or travel to New York or Philly to catch a band, we were only left with Birch Hill to see live bands (until it closed in the early 2000s).  

I discovered Maxwell’s in college when I heard that Yo La Tengo was going to be doing eight shows for Hanukkah. I ventured from NYC to Washington Street and 11th Street for the first time.  I got way too drunk and really don’t remember much about the show except that it was a really cool venue.

Fast forward to 2010: the year of 90’s indie rock reunions.  That fall, I had seen Superchunk, Pavement and Guided by Voices within a few weeks of each other.  The Guided By Voices show was at Terminal 5 which has a reputation for being one of the worst music venues in New York City and I left very disappointed.  I had seen GBV twice before they broke up and they sounded pretty bad on this reunion. But I figured it was the venue, not the band.  

A few weeks later, the band announced a New Years Eve show at Irving Plaza. I already had plans for that night so I had to skip this show.  Days before the show was to take place, they announced a warm up show at Maxwell’s the night before and I knew I had to go.  I have never before (or after) spent as much for two tickets to a club show then for this one but it was absolutely worth it.  

[image by Christopher Harris]When you charge $85 per ticket for a bar with a 200 person capacity you are pretty much going to guarantee that only the biggest fans show up and that they did.  

I started off in the way back of the room but somehow was pushed into the very front by the end of the night.  They played for hours, only the classic era material. Every single person in the room was hammered as they sang the words to every single song. It was probably the most respectful crowd I have ever encountered.  If anyone had their phones out, they were mindful of those fans around them as to not disrupt the line of vision straight to the band. I have not seen this type of respect ever before or anytime since.   

I’ve gone to many other Guided By Voices shows and many shows at Maxwell’s since but none have compared to that night.  The venue may move to Jersey City but who knows if it will be the same.  Brooklyn is where you have to see bands now. But for a while, New Jersey had a unique place that wasn’t filled with memories of Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi and for that I thank everyone that helped make Maxwell’s what it was.

Today, Maxwell’s is closing and the interwebs weep

Today is the last day of July.
Today is also the day Maxwell’s is closing.
Today is a sad day.

I posted my feelings after the initial announcement so I really don’t have anything else to say. But I wanted to share some links I’ve come across in the past couple of days about the closing.

NJ.com has written a few pieces about the closing. Here is one.

BrooklynVegan posted a 20 minute documentary about the historic venue, including interviews with a lot of the key people.

Here is an article from Bloomberg that I first saw on Facebook. It categorizes the “rift” between “Maxwell’s Rock Fans” and “Hoboken Moms.”

New York Magazine published an oral history of the venue in their most recent issue.

Here is a post from Stereogum that made me very sad. Especially this quote:

Abramson has made it clear the issue isn’t monetary, but a wrong place, wrong time sort of deal. Hoboken has changed. “You wanna be the town with Cake Boss or you wanna be the town with Maxwell’s?” says McCall. “Ultimately the town made the decision that Cake Boss outweighed Maxwell’s.”

Gothamist posted The Best Bands Played At Maxwell’s (live videos of Nirvana, Replacements, Bob Mould, Black Keys, and others playing in the back room).

Hopefully the Maxwell’s spirit will live on forever…even if the Washington Street location is turned into some kind of generic sports bar or something.  

Check it out: The Chris Gethard Show, bringing laughs and quirk to public access

A week or so ago, I received a message from a college friend, Kevin Feldman, who now lives in Austin, TX. He said he would be in town and that I should join him for a filming of The Chris Gethard Show. I was a bit familiar with Gethard (a 30-something comedian originally from Jersey) but I was not familiar with his show (which started at UCB and then moved to the Manhattan Neighborhood Network).

I looked through the archived hour-long variety shows, complete with call-ins, characters, and musical guests. I was instantly drawn in to this offbeat sort of humor. I contacted the audience list email and was signed up.  Awesome.

Walking into the MNN (where the show films from 11-12 on Wednesdays) was a bit jarring as it seemed though everyone knew each other and I was just a first timer. But that is just the kind of community that the show (and to my understanding, Gethard) has.
Last night’s show, which was the 100th, was a gratitude-fest from both the perspective of Gethard, his friends, and his fans.  People called into to express their appreciation for the show, what it represents and what Gethard as done. One of the people on stage said it best when she mentioned how the show was a place where people could actually be themselves. This resonated with the entire crowd and those listening, watching, or just thinking about the show.

Of course there was comedy and laughs as well. Each person who spoke on stage was forced to wear headphones attached to the Speech Jammer iPad app.

The thing that stood out to me, as a first timer, was how the show started.  Gethard began with a poignant monologue about how each person needs to find “their own Chris Gethard Show,” meaning that if you have a dream, do it.  Even if it is weird and you don’t think you can, you should.  People may laugh at your idea, whether to be a YouTube show, a comic book, a screenplay, or (in my case) a blog with an eventual podcast. But that is no reason not to try things.

The video for last night’s broadcast isn’t on the site yet. But for a little taste of the action, here is a video of episode 60, “Truth or Dare.” This episode features a viewer submitted game of Truth or Dare and musical guest The Shivering Brigade (which just happens to be the band of my friend, Jonathan Zuckerman – who I saw at the filming yesterday [They currently have a Kickstarter to raise money for their new album. Here is their bandcamp site.]


So seriously. If you like funny, quirky comedy and just generally cool people, check out the show.  Check out Chris and his Weird NJ/ Weird US series and his collection of stories about his life called “A Bad Idea I’m About to Do” (which he was gracious enough to sign for my boyfriend).

Edit:  As promised, here is a link to the “Hundo” episode.

We have over 10,000 hits! Wohoooo!

Hello loyal readers! Guess what?!!  

We hit over 10k views!

Although me and Jenna aren’t entirely sure how many of those views are actually us checking up on the content, this is quite a milestone in our tiny blog that was started in 2009.
So much has happened since then and we thank you for sticking with us through the years of robust content and year long lulls.
On a personal note, reaching this milestone has re-ignited my desire to blog (again).But now I am going to aim to have a weekly schedule of content (instead of just random updates whenever I come across a funny video on the internets).
So stay tuned (again).

Follow This Twitter: @ZooeySiri

I appreciate Zooey Deschanel. I watch New Girl religious.  I love her quirky mannerisms and sense of humor and her clothes and her bangs.  

But I know a lot of people think she is too much, especially after this Siri commercial. 

Yes, Zooey, it’s rain.  Duh.

A corresponding Twitter parody account has finally surfaced, called Zooey Asks Siri

Some amusing ones include:


RIP Maxwell’s: An Appreciation

Every day, it seems blogs like Gothamist report that a Lower East Side or NYC institution is closing. Former great dive bars and now changing into condos for the wealthy. Other great bars are being pushed out to Brooklyn.

NJ.com reported that Maxwell’s will be closing at the end of July. When I first read this story yesterday, I was very upset. It is just like another victim of change.

As a resident of New Jersey, I’ve really come to appreciate this place.  It is located about 6 miles from my apartment. The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail can take me there in about 10 minutes. They have good food, cheap beer, friendly bartenders, and have hosted some great shows.  It is like an oasis from the rest of Hoboken.  It was only a matter of time that this venue that has been open since the late 1970s would shut it doors.

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I first went to Maxwell’s in 2007 to see Jesse Lacey (of Brand New) and Kevin Devine play an acoustic show.  I had never been to Hoboken. I hated New Jersey.  But a friend of mine had an extra ticket to this show so I jumped at the chance. I traveled from my house in Queens, through to the tunnel to this unknown location.  30 minutes later, I was in New Jersey.  

Probably for the only time ever, I easily pulled into a parking spot right on Washington Street. When I got to the venue, I was immediately struck by how unique this place was. The front felt like an old restaurant. The walls had exposed brick and they were lined with interesting artwork.  There was no stage in sight.

After our dinner and cocktails, we traveled to the backroom. I was shocked with how tiny the venue was.  It was smaller than any NYC venue I had never been to.  It had a different feel. It felt like people really wanted to be there.

We stood on the bleachers near the sound booth and strapped in for what was one of the best acoustic shows I had ever seen. Even now, I remember how personal the vibe of the room felt.  People yelled out questions during lulls in the set.  Everyone was attentive and sang along.  I felt like I was experiencing something truly memorable with 200 of my closest friends.  As I write this, I am shocked that I remember it so well.

Suddenly, I didn’t mind New Jersey.

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Since that show in 2007, I’ve probably been to about a half a dozen shows there.  There was Ted Leo on New Years Eve, Dum Dum Girls, and a lot more I can’t remember. I will never forget those 3 Yo La Tengo Hanukkah shows, which were all a cornucopia of  surprise special guests and covers. Where else could I have seen a lecture about fake Beatles bands (by WFMU DJ Gaylord Fields) opening for underrated indie band Yo La Tengo.

In a scene where everything seems to be mostly the same, Maxwell’s was something else.

Here is a video from that show in 2007 when I really fell in love with Maxwell’s. 

I will miss it dearly.

If you’re interested, Wikipedia has a history of Maxwell’s.And if you have not had a chance to go there yet, please do. It is a gem of a place. And soon it will be gone forever (or until it relocates).