Tuesday
OCTOBER 21
2014
Daily Drivel
February 25, 2014

We’re Post Pop. It’s about time.

I’ve had a tortuous relationship with the band My Flag is on Fire, for quite a while. Actually, since the release, and subsequent abandonment of the sound on their eponymous EP. I respect the band immensely, enjoy their music when I hear it, I like songs off all their albums, but they haven’t released a collection of songs that I wanted to listen to from beginning to end without skipping since the EP.

Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. I’m here to tell you something. They’ve done it again. They’ve made an album I want to listen to the whole way through, that is. That album is their new one, Post Pop.

Let’s start off with the most dramatic change in direction for this band in years. Songs is a sweet number that, at just under 5 minutes in length, is a pretty short MFioF song. (Hey, that’s just how it is.) Synth pads play a prominent role; this song feels decidedly electric and dare I say, organized in advance. With some horns that key to White Bicycle, this song seems to be tying all kinds of dimensions of this band’s sound into one song.

Then there are the songs the band recorded years ago. Doom Decibels & Destruction seems to be telling us, “this is a way that these songs can sound.” And Harmony seems to be saying, “… and here’s a less electric take on an old classic.” I Quit is reimagined as a country ballad. (It fares well.)

There’s new material working here, too. In Un-titles, we are requested to please “don’t fuck with my heart.” Absolved is pretty and short.

Urban Farms is a number that mixes prog and folk influences. With this 9-minute track, you’re listening to My Flag is on Fire at their best. It’s a completely new sonic dimension for them, but it uses things that you know they’re good at using. It unites the accordion and electric guitar and synthesizer instincts of this diverse group of musicians better than any previous effort.

This album has some other interesting things. For example, on Natural Love, it sounds like the band is mixing Weezer influences (Island in the Sun) with The Cure (Just Like Heaven.) They get away with it.

Rounding out the mix, New Classic gives us a moment’s pause to bask in melody and soul… albeit from a melancholy point of view. It’s a big song, and it really showcases the diversity of compositions that this group of musicians is capable of arranging and performing.

If this album has a theme, it’s that the old is new, and so is the new. Effortlessly mixing musical styles from the band’s influences as well as the band’s past, this is quite an album. Highly recommended.

February 18, 2014

Beck ‘Morning Phase’

Beck has a new album out, called ‘Morning Phase’  Clever title. Caught a track off this album on the radio a few weeks ago and have been waiting to hear more about it since. It’s more Sea Change than Hollywood Vultures. NPR will let you hear the whole thing free.

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January 16, 2014

Evil Baby. Evil, evil baby.

Apparently this is a thing that’s going around. For good reason.

*sigh* Kids these days…

January 9, 2014

5 Crazy Reasons We Need to Stop Clicking Linkbait

Hi there! You’ve reached Burncards’ shameless plea for help.

It’s getting to be time to put a little bit of work into Burncards. It ain’t easy to run a great, engaging website, and from where I’m sitting, there are a couple things that are keeping this site from being what it could be. Those things are:

1. Needs more frequent content and by more voices, too
2. Needs a bit of a design update to work better and look better on phones and tablets

If you look at this site regularly, I’d appreciate a shout-out in the comments. It would be great to know what sorts of things people would like to see. I am going to work on point #2 in the near future.

Also, if you want to get involved in posting content to this site, please send an email to editor@burncards.com

January 7, 2014

Today in pretty cool ideas: A digital trailhead for Reno

One of the great things about Reno is that it’s full of people who know how awesome it is. One such person is Eric Hatch, who wants to build a digital trailhead for downtown Reno. The vision: Anyone with a gps-enabled device could sync that device to this trailhead, and the trailhead would draw maps showing the pedestrian activity patterns of those who had synced up to the trailhead.

The video is great and highlights a very important point: Reno is a great pedestrian environment.

Better yet, there are a lot of locations around downtown that would be perfect spots for the trailhead. The one that springs to my mind immediately when I see the drawing of the trailhead is the train trench cover at Virginia and Commercial Row.

Eric Hatch recently presented this idea to the City Council (link). The reception was good, but the project could still use some actual financial support.

January 6, 2014

Park Lane Promenade – ugh, another strip mall

Mike at ReReno is right on the mark when he calls the latest proposal for Park Lane Mall “absolute crap”. It’s just another strip mall. And I’ll go one further. If what this part of town needed – this far from the freeway – was another strip mall, then the strip mall with Save-Mart at Plumb and Lakeside wouldn’t be full of empty storefronts. The strip mall next to the Atlantis wouldn’t be full of empty storefronts. All of Shopper’s Square would be leased up.

This part of town needs an entirely new concept. It is an area ripe not for redevelopment – but for development. The form that development takes will determine whether the area is set back or advanced–for years.

The developer's proposal for Park Lane Promenade.

The developer’s proposal for Park Lane Promenade.

The future of the part of town between Plumb and Peckham along Virginia Street is very important to Reno’s identity – both its self identity and that which outsiders perceive. The potential is there: the transit service, the TOD plan, the three major attractions (Peppermill, Atlantis, and Convention Center ). But what has to follow along and make the area live up to its potential is a catalyst. A major developer – and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be this one – needs to take that next step forward and break out of the strip mall mold and build something that will cause the entire area to transform along those lines.

It’d be a useful thought exercise for these guys to sit down with Google Maps and look at two things side by side. Here, I’ll facilitate.

On the left, downtown Reno. On the right, the Park Lane site.

On the left, downtown Reno. On the right, the Park Lane site.

If this were a greenfield development–part of Damonte Ranch, say–it wouldn’t be weird to build a giant strip mall the size of half of downtown. But, this development is half a mile from downtown. It’s directly adjacent to the epicenter of urban Reno’s (not downtown Reno’s) renaissance. It is a slap in the face to everything that the TOD plan stands for to build the strip mall this developer is planning on this site. And we need to tell the developer, and we need to tell the planning commission.

The proposal has a few nice elements to it. These elements are included in the “intensification plan” – to be read as beyond phase 1. Phase 1 includes a pharmacy, a couple of fast food restaurants, some “shops”, parking lots, and landscaping. Despite the proposal’s language to indicate that parking areas are not visible from the street, most of the Phase 1 Plumb Lane frontage is parking.

This project should be mixed-use. It should go beyond “interfacing” with surrounding uses (in terms of where driveways connect on different sides of Plumb or Virginia), to the point of reconnecting or forming new connections in the street grid. The way forward for this part of town should be to break up these giant lots by connecting the street grid through them. Of course, modern day site planners must be subjected to electroshock therapy at the academy if they so much as say a single word in defense of the concept of well-connected street grids. This site plan is a textbook example. All the “roads” inside this giant megablock are curvy affairs that terminate in or are redirected by either culs-de-sac or small traffic circles.

Since all the architectural renderings in the plan are merely this elevation or that elevation drawings of various cookie-cutter strip mall architecture, one gets no sense of the vistas, from within, without or looking through this project. How does it relate to the surrounding scenery visually?

Finally, the language in the project proposal treats pedestrian amenities as some kind of cosmetic feature. Pedestrian orientation is a design philosophy. What are the pedestrian pathways in this project? That is not accounted for. There will be sidewalks and there will be landscaping. That is what is accounted for.

It’s good that someone wants to do something with this lot. But what they do with it matters greatly to the future of the city. This developer should try a little harder.

January 4, 2014

Surf Curse know what Rock ‘n Roll is all about

Here, have some music.

One reviewer once said of Jason Falkner’s song, I Live, paraphrasing here, that it is a song that pretty much encapsulates what rock ‘n roll is all about.

The reviewer was only part right. Jason’s right on target with part of what rock ‘n roll is all about. Surf Curse are on to another part…

October 19, 2013

Buster Blue: Sleep Less Where the Heart Is

Buster Blue’s first collection of songs, This Beard Grows For Freedom, was a big, boisterous, brassy affair. Their second, When the Silver’s Gone, introduced a more introspective sound. The following EP, Still on Conway, had the band stripping their sound down to whatever it was they could do with the instruments that they could actually use while stranded on a mountain pass.

This musical journey is a good preparation for the band’s latest offering, Sleep Less Where the Heart Is.

The brass has been replaced with a string and bow in parts of Buster Blue’s sound. The jams and the songs have gotten longer. The band’s excellent composition skills are at play delivering songs of all kinds.

The album leads off with acapella and handclaps and takes a tremendous romp through a country-western sound, and a smattering of the blues and jazz band influences that have become a hallmark of this band.

There are some new things on this album, and they are best represented by the performance in the song Leave me in Couer D’Alene. Everything about this song is an interesting new direction for Buster Blue. It starts off very French, then quickly takes a turn into a New Orleans jazz orchestra direction. Bryan Jones’ vocals waver between quiet and wondering and tortured and desperate all in the first stanza. At just north of 4 minutes, this song pulls a unifying theme through for the listener a few times, and represents a terrific departure into longer-length songs for Buster Blue. The choral element that is present throughout the album also shines through here.

Another example of a departure from the previous Buster Blue sound, while continuing the spirit of the tradition, is Magnetic Pull. Andrew Martin’s falsetto voice starts the song and leaves you thinking you might be listening to one of his signature quiet acoustic songs. But then, something happens. Layers of sound begin to appear, and suddenly, it’s no longer a quiet song with just an acoustic guitar providing the accompaniment. Movements, concentrated bursts of energy accompany the song through to the conclusion. You will find the same thing on Hallucinating in C# Minor.

The biggest departure of all is the direction that the band takes on Visions of Laredo. This is a solid, marketable alt-country number, featuring a country yodel sound from Bryan Jones’ vocals, and Brendon Lund’s bass conjuring up a classic country sound. Then, a lead electric guitar comes in and carries the song out.

There’s more to hear on this album. Piano figures throughout much more heavily than in previous Buster Blue work. Perhaps not surprisingly, the songs are mostly fairly dark paeans to perfect love pulled away suddenly, as if the songwriters only have one way they experience love. The good news is, like on their previous efforts, the music they wed to these themes provides the perfect vehicle to convey the messages.

Get a copy of this album. You will be glad you did.

September 17, 2013

Wolpertinger: How We Are Alike

How to write about the sprawling, sometimes melancholy, collection of songs frm Wolpertinger entitled How We Are Alike, is a subject that has evaded me since I started listening to it.

My history of listening to this band goes back a while, when in the summer of 2011, the band’s album Lady Midday accompanied me on a considerable number of road trips. Wolpertinger is, if nothing else, music to travel to, especially in those cases where the lyrics are describing thoughts and feelings that might be occurring in the listener’s mind. How this band can put out music that so accurately mirrors my mood confounds me.

You might be guessing that at least for this reviewer, the second full-length album does it yet again, and to a certain extent, you’d be right. But in those cases where the music doesn’t describe my actual thoughts and feelings, it provides an excellent backdrop against which to put my thoughts and feelings in relief.

There’s nothing predictable about this album, and like a lot of good music, particularly prog rock (a genre to which the band would probably claim membership,) it takes a few listens to get the hang of it. But once you’re there with it, it’s there with you.

This album brings out a more anthemic direction from Wolpertinger, with tracks like “Friends and the Fear”, “Night”, and “Summer Isn’t Coming”. The first two tracks have a certain sort of pop appeal, and the third is quite an affair, hearkening back to musical theater with its chorale parts as well as its numerous movements and layered melodies.

The album brings out another sense that comes through in past Wolpertinger lyrics, that of a recognition, acknowledgement, and commentary on the baser bits of human existence. What in the track “Get Lost” is an offer to celebrate that baseness, we find reborn in “When We Get To The Interzone” as a callous reflection on it from the perspective of a world traveler. Where on “Stolyarny Lane”, there is a sense of yearning to get in and explore the night, on “Rockland” is the sense of the inevitable comedown. Nothing but dead neon here, indeed. God damnit.

Love comes, and it comes with pretty gay lyrics. “Alaska” conveys a sense of desire to run away, embracing a place personified as a new soul mate, or at least life partner, whereas “Psycho Boyfriend” tells a tale that is fairly self-explanatory.

9 tracks, and there are still another 6 tracks to cover, requiring more words. Those words will come, because I will hear those songs over and over again this fall – this time on walks through cities I have grown familiar and comfortable with. With How We Are Alike, Wolpertinger captures the essence of fall through tracks that explore a considerable range of human emotion and experience, and it is well produced, well played, and well sung music that spans genres at most times effortlessly. Give it a listen.

July 24, 2013

NDOT’s Kietzke Lane Safety Management Plan study is the best thing to happen to roadways in Reno since… ever?

At the July 10, 2013 Reno City Council meeting, a representative from the Nevada Department of Transportation presented a study and recommendations for improving the conditions on Kietzke Lane in Reno along the right-of-way where Kietzke is a state highway.

Usually you hear about state DOT’s as boogeymen for good urban planning. The cliché is that DOT’s are all about moving cars, and frequently as a result of this, pedestrians, people on wheelchairs, and cyclists suffer an undue burden. Nowhere in Reno is this more true than along the Kietzke Lane alignment from South Virginia Street on the south to about the DMV on the north. This is precisely the area that NDOT’s study looked at.

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A not unusual example of what it looks like on Kietzke. Imagine being a pedestrian there!

The presentation was full of photos of the current conditions. There are no sidewalks in many areas. ADA ramps for wheelchairs end at utility poles that are in the middle of an abruptly ended sidewalk with raised concrete preventing further movement in the char. Bike lanes randomly start and stop.

The proposals are exactly what would be needed to position Reno as a 21st-century city with strong infrastructure for all users. Buffered bike lanes, bike boxes (!!!!), sidewalk continuity, pedestrian island medians, improved lighting throughout the corridor… this is the kind of stuff they’re talking about.

Unfortunately, there are some problems, not least among them being the conservative elements on the city council, and the concerns those representatives have that businesses in the area will object to the street parking being taken away. Many of the businesses on Kietzke Lane are car dealerships.

image This strip of Kietzke Lane is missing the bike lane that exists just a few hundred yards south, has no sidewalks to speak of, utility poles, and a tattered assortment of fences separating it from the surrounding streets.

Consistent sidewalks conforming at least to the minimum ADA requirement of 36” width, plus buffered bike lanes, would make this area not only much more safe and functional for all users, but it would also make the area much more attractive.

A community’s aesthetics go a long way toward how it is perceived by itself and its visitors.

It’s actually possible to keep street parking, enhance bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and make the roadway safer and more efficient. NDOT’s proposal calls for using buffer strips to isolate the bicycles from the auto traffic. The buffer strips would be zones where there would be no street parking. But if the buffer strips were used as street parking, cyclists would have a layer of protection from the auto traffic in the form of the stationary vehicles separating the two. Street parking would be retained to the satisfaction of nearby businesses.

Other ways to mitigate this problem include signage directing visitors by car to offstreet parking. The NDOT rep was quite adamant that there’s adequate offstreet parking, and it’s hard to disagree. Much of this corridor is composed of strip malls with their own parking. Many of the most intensive uses have adequate parking available behind them on sidestreets. NDOT, the RTC and city traffic engineering department could work together to devise ways to flow the traffic from Kietzke Lane to the adjacent streets, taking significant strain off the one roadway and opening up opportunities for the businesses on the side streets. This would also have the advantage of promoting opportunities for street grid repair.

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A buffered bike lane. Source: City of Seattle

At the end of the day, the real issue is that the middle of town is no place for a state highway. NDOT’s proposal is visionary, and would help place Reno in a category of cities known for having top-notch transportation infrastructure for all users. This project deserves your support. Contact the city council and the mayor, and encourage them to support this innovative proposal to repair one of urban Reno’s least attractive corridors. Here’s a list of the priority 1 recommendations.