Thursday, September 27, 2018

The F Word: Eating the ALPO

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 6:15 PM

Part of my job as a music critic at CITY Newspaper is wading through a lot of music and recommending it to you all—or at least telling you what to expect and what to avoid.

The question I get asked the most is whether or not I like everything I hear. The criterion is simple: I don't have to love it, but I have to believe it. It's easy to like a band because it sounds good or plays in a style you inexplicably love. However, hating a band or style of music is a much more complex thing—in my case, especially with contemporary pop music.

I hate the over-singing, the auto-tune, the insipid lyrics, the whole phony facade of it all. It makes me angry because it takes precious time away from the bands I love. So I've decided to embrace my hate. Hell, it's worked in other aspects of my life as well—specifically when dealing with cigars, corned beef hash, and brown shoes.

About five years ago, I started smoking cigars at the rate of about one a year. I love the artwork they come packaged in and their un-lit aroma is intoxicating. They remind me of my Uncle Fred. But the love affair with cigars ends there. They taste like sucking the exhaust pipe of an overheating payloader and the cancer they promise. I don't know why I feel the need to smoke them, honestly.

Same thing goes for corned beef hash. I eat it annually just to remind myself why I don't eat it more often. Corned beef hash lies. It lures you in with its aroma and hearty appearance. You put a forkful in your mouth and you get hints of baby throw-up and ALPO.

That all changed this past weekend, when I had a bite of my wife's hash at The Original Steve's Diner on Penfield Road. It was delicious and was made all the more so when you consider I went in there with my mind made up. It didn't suck. It rivaled my French toast.

I went shoe shopping the other day and bought a pair of brown shoes. No big deal, right? Never in my adult life have I purchased or worn brown shoes. But they didn't have my size in black, so I punted and took a chance on what turned out to be a very comfortable pair of shoes. It's not like they were sandals.

Perhaps this is my age of enlightenment and maybe I should embrace more things I hate like liver and onions, crumbly blue cheese, just to remind me of my deep hatred and perhaps discover I like it (not likely). Maybe I could embrace Taylor Swift and any artist that falls under the category "new country." I could start using emojis, with my face planted in my cell phone everywhere I go. Nah, I'll just have another cigar.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fresh Cut: 'Pedaling' by The Able Bodies

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 at 9:30 AM

It's hard to imagine a lecture on bicycling merged with music that makes you want to cut loose on a dance floor, but The Able Bodies pull it off on "Pedaling." The indie pop duo's fourth single, "Pedaling" fits a couple of found sound clips to an upbeat, synth-pop template that defines the pair's musical vision. Just when you're wondering if you should be dancing or taking notes, the song spins blissfully forward with robotic vocals, anchored by a pulsing retro beat and a seamless blend of synthesized and real instruments.

The Able Bodies — consisting of Eli Flynn (vocals) and John Viviani (guitars, production) — describe the song as a statement about moving forward and focusing on life's goals. The riff to "Pedaling" floated around for a few months, and once Viviani experimented with the vocoder effect in Ableton Live, the track came together in a few weeks. It was recorded at Viviani's home studio during the summer and was mixed by audio engineer Sam Polizzi.

The video, shot around the Cobbs Hill Reservoir, casts Flynn and Viviani as fitness enthusiasts. The often humorous portrayal has the duo riding bikes around the loop and performing other physical exertions. "Pedaling" is a joy to look at and listen to, from start to finish.

For more info on The Able Bodies, visit

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The F Word: Laughing Through Tears

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 4:00 AM

If you see me crying on the street, chances are I'm actually laughing. Yet when something is sad, I cry...then laugh. As an addendum to Parkinson's, I have developed pseudobulbar affect, or PBA. It makes me feel like crying all of the time. The only problem is that I'm rarely sad, if ever. But who wants to laugh constantly?

I slipped out last Thursday to Abilene to check out Ross Falzone with Erin Futterer, who set my heart a-flutterer. It was magic. It was Tin Pan Alley ensconced in velvet. It was a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. There was nothing weird on stage: just Falzone and his guitar next to Futterer, who was parked behind a piano brandishing a French Horn.

I was enchanted, entranced, entertained. But as the duo worked through its set, I felt the laughter coming on, which meant the tears weren't far behind. My face started to screw up, and the tears began. I'm fearful of this because concerned patrons ask why I'm crying, only to be rebuked with, "It's OK, this is how I laugh."

The problem has recently brought about situations which I can address from either side--laughing maniacally, or sobbing my eyes out. My wife caught me in front of the TV, wracked in sobs and giggles the other night. The fact that Trump is actually still the President, the passing of John McCain and Aretha Franklin--all of it came crashing down in a torrent of tears followed by laughter. Why? Because it all seemed so effing funny. I mean, what will you do when you read this? Will you laugh or cry? Somebody get me a tissue, please.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Fresh Cut: 'I'm in the Pool, Man' by Passive Aggressives Anonymous

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 5:03 PM

John Valenti is at it again. Although the mastermind behind Rochester’s most darkly satirical indie band Passive Aggressives Anonymous recently relocated to sunny California, it hasn’t dislodged his tongue from his cheek. If anything, with his newly released music video, “I’m in the Pool, Man,” Valenti seems freshly inspired.

The musician and filmmaker is still busy poking fun at being self-involved—he’s just poolside this time. He assures the listener that he’s happy to help complete a task or make a kind gesture, but not now. It’s pool time. Lyrically, it’s not any more complicated than that.

Released under the PAA moniker and clocking in at just over two and half minutes, the song is electro-pop at its most minimal. Propelled by a straightforward drum ‘n’ bass hook that could be the perfect soundtrack for strutting down a fashion show runway, the quirky keyboard melody doesn’t come until the track is more than halfway done.

The visual aesthetic screams West Coast. The sun-drenched scene features Valenti and his girlfriend Tarah Venn, clad in salmon-colored swim suits. Valenti, who also occasionally sports a Members Only jacket, can be seen strutting his stuff in and around the pool, periodically floating by on an inflatable flamingo. It’s totally nonsensical and over-the-top, and delightfully so. But there’s also an important late-summer reminder, if you only look for it: get in the pool and stay there, while the weather’s still nice.

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