Favorites: Wilco’s Summerteeth

Wilco has become, over the past twenty or so years, one of my absolute favorite bands. I first heard about them in a weird way: Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket fame) name dropped them in a song, which got me wondering about them. Long story short, I started with Summerteeth and never looked back.

Summerteeth was the third Wilco album. It came out originally in 1999, following the double album Being There. It’s a more refined album than Being There or their debut, A.M., with more organs, pianos, and odd little blips and quirks that presaged what was to come on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born.

The album kicks off with “Can’t Stand It,” which features keyboards, bells, and chugging guitars. “It’s all beginning/To feel like it’s ending,” Jeff Tweedy sings. At one point, he essentially howls, leading into a great instrumental break. From there, things slow down with “She’s a Jar,” a meditative, melodic tune which features a beautiful harmonica solo. “A Shot in the Arm” picks up the pace, starting off with a squall of static and noise and featuring heavily-strummed acoustic guitar.

Other standout tracks include “How to Fight Loneliness,” a song that encourages the listener to “Just smile all the time,” but the admonition feels rather hollow, as if the singer doesn’t quite believe that’s really the best way to fight loneliness. “When You Wake Up Feeling Old” is a lovely tune reminiscent of the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” in theme and general tone.

The title track is one of the best songs on the album. “It’s just a dream he keeps having/And it doesn’t seem to mean anything,” Tweedy sings over an upbeat tune, and the bird chirping and chorused “Oohs” and “Aahs” really make the song for me, as does the jangly, Byrdsy guitar figure played throughout.

The album closes with “In a Future Age,” a song that meditates on things ending and all falling to entropy. “Some trees with bend/And some will fall/But then again/So will us all.” The lyrics are simple, but very evocative and moving. Tweedy’s vocals are pitch-perfect for the song, and it rounds out the album in the best way possible.

Following “In a Future Age,” there are two songs that act as something of a coda: “Candyfloss,” a sugary ditty that features keyboards quite heavily, and an alternate version of “A Shot in the Arm.” Both are excellent and a wonderful way to actually finish out the album.

Ultimately, Summerteeth reflects Wilco growing in confidence and trying new things. The band shows growth and the album predicts the strange left turn their next couple of albums would take. I highly recommend it as a starting point for exploring Wilco’s discography. You could do far worse than this particular album.

The band has actually posted the entire album on Youtube. You can find it here.

Books 5 & 6 Progress Report

I rolled over 10,000 words on Book 6 today. Just blew right past it. It feels good to be writing again, to put words on the page that I’m (mostly) happy with. The story is shaping up pretty quickly, and I’ve got most of the book plotted out in my head already.

I’ve also commissioned a cover for Book 5. Yeah, I don’t even have it edited or formatted yet, but I don’t see why I can’t get a cover image figured out ahead of all that. I already knew what I wanted it to look like, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on getting that started. The plan is to have it ready to publish by the end of November.

All of which is to say: things are progressing. Things are progressing very well, and I’m looking forward to the start of November and NaNoWriMo (when I’ll really kick the Book 6 work into high gear). Wish me luck!

Book 6 Underway

Good morning (or afternoon or evening or whatever. It’s morning as I write this, so “morning” is part of the salutation)! As you may recall, I recently completed the first draft of Book 5, which is fantastic news and gladdens the very cockles of my heart. But did you know that I have already started writing Book 6? It’s true! I’m about 5,000 words into it, which doesn’t sound like much (and, frankly, isn’t actually that much), but this is coming off of a stretch where getting any words to page was a big victory, so I’ll take it!

Book 6 sees a lot of the status quo shaken up. I don’t tend to let things sit for too long in the story if I can help it in general and I’ve been building to this particular book for quite some time. I’ve got a lot of the broad strokes planned out already, and a few fun subplots to keep things interesting while I turn Hazzard’s world upside down again. And all of that leads to Book 7, the culmination of the Hazzard Pay story. Does that mean Book 7 will be the last we hear of Eddie and company? Heck no! Just that the story I’ve been crafting has a definite end game in mind, and we’re moving towards it. In the meantime, I’ve got a dozen or so short stories I’d love to get out there in the world, like Bad Press. I’ll eventually collect all of those into a single volume, too (or maybe two volumes; let’s see how many of them get out there).

All that being said, I’m hoping to have Book 5 ready to go before Christmas. Wish me luck!

Book Five Complete!

Today, I finished up the first draft to Book 5. It’s the shortest book I’ve written, at just about 45,000 words, but it’s all killer, no filler. I talked with my editor this afternoon and have arranged for it to get edited at the beginning of November. That means I should have the finished product ready for release by Christmas! Just in time for stuffing all your stockings.

This has been, in many ways, the hardest book I’ve ever written. Anxiety and depression are much to blame for that, unfortunately, but I feel like I’ve come through whatever block I was experiencing and I’m back in my groove.

In fact, I spent some time this afternoon plotting out Book 6. It’s gonna be pretty epic, and it picks up right where Book 5 left off.

I’m feeling pumped and ready to write more. It’s a good feeling.

New Short Story Available Now!

Starting today, you can pick up an electronic copy of my short story “Bad Press” for only $0.99! That is literally less than a dollar. It’s currently available (as of September 10th at noon) on iBooks and Barnes & Noble, among others, and should pop up on Amazon within the next day or two.

Here’s the brief description of the story:

Eddie Hazzard’s name is being smeared in the press, and he’s going to get to the bottom of it. To restore his honor, he’ll have to contend not just with the reporter who impugned him, but with a whole host of violent enemies who want him dead. It’s just another day in the life of Eddie Hazzard, Hard-Boiled Detective, in this speculative¬†fiction version of a cassingle. Remember cassingles? Man, those were awesome.

Go give it a read while you wait for Book Five!

On Absence and the Impossibility of Book Five

I’ve been…absent for a while, I know. Missing in action. Lost.

Well, it’s time to blow the cobwebs off the site and get to writing again.

I was…stalled on Book Five for most of the last year. I was about two-thirds done with it, with all the major beats written (or at least plotted out) and how I wanted it to end figured out. “I just have to connect the dots,” I’d tell anyone who asked how it was going. “It’s almost done,” I’d add.

But…I wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t feeling the urge, the desire, to write, and so I…didn’t. I went several months — most of last year — without putting a word on the page.

Every time I’d open up Dropbox and look at the Hazzard folder, I’d see the file sitting there, daring me to open it and type a sentence. Or a paragraph. Or even, God forbid, a whole page. Can you imagine, a whole page? But I’d open it, and stare at the words already on the page, and I’d come up with…nothing.

Just absolutely nothing, for months at a time. And then I looked and realized I hadn’t written anything here, even, for several months. I’d sort of abandoned all writing, except for my daily webcomic, and even that I took several extended breaks from in the past several months.

I felt bad about it. Really bad. Embarrassed and annoyed with myself and just angry that I couldn’t sit down and finish this damn book, or write a blog post describing why I couldn’t write. And there were an endless number of reasons I couldn’t put words on paper, though most of it boiled down to (1) depression or (2) apathy.

And I feel bad about that, too. Not the depression part — I have depression, it’s something I have to live with, and sometimes I just don’t feel like doing the things that bring me joy. The apathy is probably tied up in the depression, if I’m being honest.

As much as I hate to admit it, though, those are only part of the reason I stopped writing Book Five. I also stopped writing because of reader apathy.

Now, this isn’t an exercise in passing the blame. If readers aren’t flocking to my books, lavishing me with praise and million-dollar Hollywood contracts, that’s probably on me. I don’t do marketing, like, at all. And in the indie publishing game, if you aren’t hustling 24-7, you aren’t gonna find your readership.

All of which is a long way of saying: I was dormant for a long while, but I’m getting back in the swing of things. I’ve added a few thousand words to Book Five, and I’m hoping to have the first draft done in the next few weeks. I’ll try to post more consistently here as well.

Reconsidering the Strokes

Back in the day (2003), I purchased the Strokes’ second album, Room on Fire.

And I absolutely hated it. Despised it with every fiber of my being. I ranted and raved about it, ripped it to shreds to anyone who would listen, and refused to listen to their stuff for the next, oh, almost 16 years. The vocals were buried in the mix, the bass was weak, and I thought the lyrics were insipid. If this was the future of guitar rock, I reasoned, it was time for guitar rock to die.

Earlier this month, I downloaded their first album, Is This It?, on a whim. I listened to it a few times, and something has happened to me since those early days of 2003: I kinda liked it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think the whole “saviors of rock’n’roll” nonsense is just that: nonsense. But maybe an older, wiser me recognizes what they were trying to accomplish now, and can appreciate it for what it is: damn fine garage rock. The guitars are chugging, the vocals (while definitely buried in the mix) are evocative and fitting, and the songs are tight and almost hyperactive (their first two, 11-song albums clock in at around 30 minutes each).

Are these albums going to become my go-to for rock’n’roll? No. But they’re damn fine examples of the early-aughts garage rock revival aesthetic, one that I like more now than I did at the time.