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New Young Pony Club – Hard Knocks

Hailing from London, New Young Pony Club are one of the best electronic acts to slip quietly under the radar in recent years – they’ve been going in one shape or form for the best part of ten years now and Hard Knocks is their latest single, released on 13th August. To accompany it is this eerily creepy video. They’ve a great dubby, insidiously trippy sort of sound, with slightly off kilter half shouted/half sung vocals. They’ve got nice harmonies and the kind of sound that seeps into your subconscious and makes you whistle it without really knowing how it got there. Give them a little listen here and see what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3Qfq5xBq1g

Battle Lines – Hearts

Here are another little niche band that many won’t have come across but definitely deserve a moment or two of your time. A relatively new group, but one who have been making steady waves on the festival circuit this summer, Battle Lines describe themselves as ‘cerebral pop’, basically that seems to mean music that makes you concentrate. Their single ‘Hearts’ is out now and you can click this link to listen to it before you make the decision to download it with this. Years ago, these guys would have been termed as shoegazers – that kind of catch all phrase for guitar bands who also included elements of distortedelectronica into their repertoire. Battle Lines are perhaps slightly more sophisticated and not quite as noisy as your average indie/dance upstarts, but still a worthy inclusion into any new music collector’s repertoire. Check them out here and see what you think. If the New Young Pony Club was your thing, you should like this lot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG9sR1ljp3c

Fatherson – Mine For Me

If you like jangling guitars and vocals that soar, Fatherson might just be the group you want to latch onto and keep hold of. Their debut album “I Am An Island” is coming out towards the end of the year and if this single is anything to go by it should be a stormer of a record. Their songs are quite special in that they seem to combine a lot of grungy/US rock tones, but lyrically they are very adept, poetic and speak very emotionally and from the heart. “Mine For Me” which you can listen to below, is perhaps their most accessible song to date and is probably the reason it has been chosen as their upcoming single:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUkRqSor9bA

Lionhall – Soldiers

Lionhall are another sterling little niche act that really deserve a bigger worldwide audience. They’re emotionally very stirring and their latest single “Soldiers”, released on 26th August is a powerful song that is quietly punchy. The band’s vocalist has such an ethereal voice, one that has a real ability to move and the song itself is a very addictive piece of music. You can listen to it from the band’s Soundcloud page here before you decide to download it from the usual outlets, but this is a seriously dreamy piece of music:

https://soundcloud.com/tiny-lights/lionhall-soldiers-1

The Lonely Together – A Million Summers

There’s room in everyone’s collection for some real guitar based pop. The Lonely Together can provide that in big doses. They look to have a big future in front of them and “A Million Summers”, released earlier in August is the follow up single to last year’s critically acclaimed “Be Strong Frances”. Their songs follow a really traditional guitar style, but have a mellow and romantic edge to them, speaking of love, loss and hurt – and their videos are beautifully produced, glossy affairs that feel as though they are real labours of love. “A Million Summers” is a perfect piece of wistful late summer rainy window music. You can watch the video for it here and hear their wonderful sound:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U3UqhTkTaQ

A lot of the talk out of the SEC and their dominance over the National Championship for college football mentions their streak of wins in that game. Ask my buddy Brett, who lives with an Auburn fan (that must be REAL bad right now) SEC fans are crazy. No doubt it’s been a heck of a run, and they’ve beaten some very good opponents that rode strong seasons to get there. But really, lets take a look back and see just what the SEC has done to these poor teams. If you look at it, other than a thumping of Oklahoma, the SEC really hasn’t been beating the best competition in the country. They’ve been the biggest beneficiary of the lack of a playoff, in part because they’d knock eachother off, and also because they don’t face the best of the best, even if they are playing a number 1 or 2 ranked team. lets go back these last 4 years and take a look.

2010 – Alabama v. Texas

Alabama rode a superb defense led by Rolando McClain, the stout Terrence Cody and a fine young corner in Javier Arenas as well as a Heisman season by Mark Ingram to the title game. nevermind that Ingram wasn’t the best player in the country but instead the best player on the best team, this game has a bit of a cloud over it. On the first drive of the game, for whatever reason Mack Brown called an option left with his hyper accurate golden-armed superboy Colt McCoy carrying it, and McCoy suffered a pinched nerve in his throwing shoulder on the hit. A freak accident that knocked the kid out of the game for good and put Garrett Gilbert in, people across the country were shocked at this turn of events. Gilbert was a blue chipper out of high school, just as the UT quarterback should be, but to throw him into the fire like this was to do a major disservice to how good this freshman could be. The Longhorns weren’t at full strength and yet they were still threatening late into the game, and had real chances to win it that, if it had been McCoy back there, they no doubt would have. Yes, injuries are a part of the game, but still, this puts a bit of a damper on the shine of the Coaches Trophy in Tuscaloosa.

2009 – Florida v. Oklahoma

There’s not much to say about this game- Tim Tebow is simply one of the greatest college football players to ever step on the field. Even with Sam Bradford at the helm, the swarming and strong Florida defense made it a hectic day to say the least for the Sooners. I’ll give this one to them, the Gators just beat Oklahoma. HOWEVER, the Sooners were neither the best nor the second best team that year. USC lost earlier in the season in a let-down game against Oregon State, and the Trojans had one of the best defenses not just that year, but in college football history. The Gators lucked out in that respect, plus the fact that the BCS had a hard-on for Tebow pretty much his entire career. The Trojans were in my eyes the best team in the country, despite that one loss. The Gators also had one loss, and if it hadn’t been for Tebow and the BCS computers artificially overrating the SEC a bit, USC would have come in and taken the trophy away. Yet another example of why a playoff is necessary. I know you can only play the teams you’re allowed to face, but nevertheless, Oklahoma got in because of a couple fluke losses, and if it had gone differently and USC had faced the Gators, I have no doubt Troy would have been victorious. Florida had Brandon Spikes leading their D, but USC had Ray Malaluga leading it, a better coaching mind in Pete Carroll, not to mention Taylor Mays and the rest of the linebacking corps in Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing. Just beastly if you ask me. A Rose Bowl was great, but the title should have been USC’s.

2007 and 2008 – Florida/LSU v. Ohio State

For the life of me I don’t understand how Ohio State got ranked so highly so much. Yes, they won a lot of games, undefeated in both these years, but the Big 10 just isn’t that good, I don’t get it. They routinely have trouble in inter-conference play, and Jim Tressell tightens up, Marty Schottenheimer style, in big games. I give little credit to Florida or LSU for these games, each a blowout and the Tigers got to play in the Superdome- it was basically a home game for them. There were definitely better teams out there than the Buckeyes both these years, if nothing else SC had some great teams, and Texas is rarely bad. But Ohio State was the lucky one in a year of upsets, riding other teams losses to victory. The luck ran out in January (compounded by playing a virtual LSU home game in New Orleans) and Tressell continued to blow it when it matters. He’s doing a great job of making that one title back in ’03 look like a fluke. There are times when you have to take a chance, but the Sweater Vest must not understand that inorder to receive great reward, there must be some risk. Woody Hayes retired (was fired, whatever) 30 years ago.

So what do we pull from all this? Obviously the SEC has had a good run these last few years, and this latest National Championship is, at least to me, on the level. Oregon is a great team, they score the hell out of the ball, and because the computers and pollsters hate the non-AQ teams, it’s the best we can get. Auburn is looking like the better team, but Chip Kelly works harder than Chizik. It’s not hard when your QB is bigger than the other team’s linebackers and faster than their corners. I still think TCU could give any of these teams a run for its money, but we’ll have to wait till next year. Plus, whatever happens, they’re still undefeated and beat a very hot Wisconsin team. But looking back, the SEC, while it has won against the teams it’s had to face, hasn’t faced the best team, just more often than not the luckiest team, or the recipient of an early-season slip up by a potential juggernaut. SEC fans will celebrate their wins and how dominant they are, but at least one school, situated in Compton of all places, and maybe some guys down in Austin, Texas, should have something to say. Wins are wins, but the wins the SEC has put together have not been the most convincing. Also, Ohio State is garbage, plain and simple, along with the rest of their terrible conference. Nebraska’s about to have a field day.

“To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold–brothers who know now that they are truly brothers.” – A. MacLeish

I need to go to space.

The world is such a massive place, full of literally everything there is to do in the world. Everything we know is here on Earth, every existence, every action, every idea we’ve heard of. Then I’m reading Beetle Bailey today, and old dummy Zero asks the question of what space means. Is it the space between everything, or is it the distant stars?

Now, I have experienced a vast nothingness. I went to school in Illinois and vistas of nothing but cornfields were never far off. I drove from Minnesota to California, and I haven’t seen such nothing as is in Nebraska, or Utah. But even in this nothingness, there’s stuff. There’s dirt, sand, in Utah’s case, salt. Obviously corn in the corn fields. But there’s never nothing, like there is in space. I want, I need to experience this nothingness, an empty void where all that surrounds is a cold, dark vacuum. Emptiness, the true emptiness that smells strong, metallic, and unique, according to astronauts. And who doesn’t believe astronauts?

I’ve always had a place in my heart for space travel. That sounds a little weird, because who wouldn’t like to go into outer space? But even as a kid when Star Wars enraptured me I would look to the heavens and wonder. Not about anything in particular, you understand, just wonder. Let the mind travel to wherever it wanted, even to the stars. Looking at these points of light and realizing they were the same thing as the sun that was so bright during the day, sometimes even bigger and brighter. As a young’un this was incredible. When someone told me that the light we see from stars is thousands of years old, that if you were in that stars’ solar system you would see Roman centurions and whatnot, I was floored. That was incredible to me. That meant that even if I had a telescope to look that far, I would be seeing the past! That opened up whole new avenues of thought into time travel, but that’s a story for another day.

The picture entitled Earthrise (it’s at the top of this post), taken by some astronaut whose name you could find out if you were less lazy than I, is to me one of the most thought provoking pictures ever taken. Maybe not even thought provoking as contemplation provoking. Someone once said that the unexamined life is a life not worth living, and a picture like that, to me, forces a look at oneself. We all have a sense of self worth, whether high or low (personally, I feel like I’m worth my weight in gold, which equals out to $3.6 million, from my last weigh in) but a picture like that just makes you think about existence. If the light from other stars is thousands of years old, that means that all you’re looking at is dead light, and if you see another life form, you have no idea if they’re still there. It’s just a dead image. That means that if they see Earth with a telescope, they’d either see the centurions, or, if they see you they see you dead 1000 years. I don’t mean to be morbid, but more just that images of Earth as this little rock, the Blue Marble photo, things like that just make you realize how big it all is, and how small you are. Seriously, the earth is 3.6 billion years old, the sun almost 6 billion or something, and we’re around for about 80 years if we’re lucky to live in the US or whatever.  What does that mean, what do we mean, in the scheme of things?

I’m not going to sit here and say go crazy, life doesn’t matter, but I don’t think I can agree with taking life as seriously as some do. I mean really, we are only here for a little while when it gets down to it, so doesn’t it seem like there’s no room for getting all worked up over bullshit. There’s things that matter, sure, like nuclear war or global warming, things that impact future life on Earth that could impact eventual growth into space. But the bullshit? Nah, man, that’s nothing to get pissed about, that’s something to have fun with. Although I wouldn’t suggest actually finding bull feces and playing with it, that sounds unsanitary.

Earth is a big small place, just as a peanut M&M Is salty-sweet. Best of both sides I guess. We have room to look around, explore, but it’s like a big ol’ play pen before we break out into the universe. And we weren’t allowed to fight or be mean in kindergarten, it wasn’t copacetic. So what’s the deal with doing it to other countries? Anti-war, etc. Space is big, and we need to get there. So do I. I’m out of words. Good luck.