Monday, May 9, 2011

Rajon to Derek for a pair

Yesterday, I watched clips of Rajon Rondo's incredibly tough, and thus rarefied performance against the Miami Heat on Saturday night, which featured the dislocated elbow, the matter-of-fact return to the Celtic bench, the left-handed steal off a Jeff Green deflection and ensuing baby dunk, and the post-game, just-as-matter-of-fact deflection of an interviewer's implication that Rondo’s elbow should keep him out of game four. (Friends, are we watching at Turkey’s Nest, The Gibson, or Lulu’s?) After watching the clips, I also read an article that placed Derek Jeter’s decline in context with the production of some of the other great shortstops when they reached the age of 37.

Cycling at the gym this morning—who sells their Swiss-designed road bike at the beginning of May? Yeah Ma, I can’t explain that one either—I caught part of the replay of yesterday’s Rangers-Yankees game, including Derek Jeter’s first home run of the season, an opposite field punch into the Rangers bullpen that the row of sitting relievers leaned away from as if it was a gob of plague. With Rondo’s game and the article on my mind, I recalled Jeter's return to the field in a game against the Red Sox six or seven seasons ago, when he fell like an upended toy soldier into the left-field stands after trying to catch a foul ball. This was the game that Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra famously sat out for what some in the media identified as a minor issue. Jeter has long been known throughout sports for his consistency, clutch playing, and his lack of drama (in the colloquial sense). Off the field, he was known, to the degree that an American Express commercial riffed on it, for his dating life, but a paparazzi video of he and Anna Kournikova in the back of a limo in South Florida did not affect his professional reputation.

I don’t know anything about Rajon Rondo’s romantic life—I saw in a basketball magazine that he has a young child—so I can’t compare him to Jeter as a swashbuckler, to use a stinking old term. But in other, professional respects, I think that the point guard of the Boston Celtics is becoming the Derek Jeter of the NBA. I can't support this comparison with a fanatic's knowledge of statistics, just a casual fan's observations. I did read that Jeter’s best season, by the numbers, came at age 25, and Rondo’s best season to date is probably last year, when he was 23 going on 24, or this one, when he turned 25. It doesn't hurt that Jeter's balletic, fully-extended toss to the plate against the A's in the 2001 playoffs looks a little like Rondo's signature fake-pass, back-handed scoop layup, or that a shortstop is a little bit like the point guard of the diamond.

It’s really something intangible, though, something about Rondo’s reflexive commitment to being on the court, that suggests that when Boston fans were cheering for their one-armed point guard as he dribbled towards the basket after the steal, they were cheering for a southern-raised version of the great hardball captain in the Bronx. Rajon Rondo may not have the public life to match Jeter’s, but the way that No. 9 plays, and the way that he talks about playing, betray his similarity to No. 2, a player whom Boston fans used to taunt with that now farcical chant, "Nomar's better.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Extra! Extra! Old News on Arcade Fire

It feels a little strange to be turning to the "G-d forsaken computer" just a few seconds before the end of the first Arcade Fire album, seeing as how the phrase appears at the end of the list of recording devices they used to make Funeral. It should also feel strange to be sharing my thoughts about this pretty durn good record seven years after it came out, but so what. Airs find ears in different ways and at different times. This afternoon, stirring a new jar of peanut butter, eating lunch, and then reading along with the lyrics while I listened, I finally gave Funeral some the attention it deserves. And what did I hear? Yep--a pretty durn good album, just as legions of peeps have said.

No surprises here: Une année sans lumiere, Haiti, the beginning of Rebellion (Lies), and In the Backseat are my favorite songs. I think the first two lines of Rebellion, plus the chorus, are my lyrical takeaways from the album. The ones that are usable to me, and the ones that help me understand younger people's love for this fiercely-loved band. And they are:

Sleeping is giving in, no matter what the time is. Sleeping is giving in, so lift those heavy eyelids.

Every time you close your eyes Lies, Lies!

A friend from grad school married a 25-year old woman in Tennessee who loves Arcade Fire, I think, like 11-year olds love fantasy series, or like artsy kids in my generation loved Cure t-shirts. I imagine that their songs are like illuminated texts for her, the lyrics appearing in a fiery scrawl in her mind. These lines make me feel closer to her, like I can meet her in the burn.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Night-Shining, 'nuff said

Hey folks,

If ya needed something more pleasantly atmospheric to counter the remaining gloom of February--and you fancy an occasional saber in your soundscape--try Dark Age, an older album by Mike Romeo, who records as Night-Shining. Night-Shining, by the way, is an adjective that describes a type of cloud. Who Nuage.

Here's le review:

Night-Shining is the nom de tune of Williamsburg’s Mike Romeo, and it amply describes the wandering, hazy dreampop that leaves vapor trails all over last summer’s full-length digital release, Dark Age. Opener “Ghost” also features the kind of mid-tempo, stylish electronica that could easily reside on Bibio’s Ambivalence Avenue, and the stately, minimalist beginning of “Believe.Never” could likewise grace Beach House’s Teen Dream. Skittering piano notes and dainty Wurlitzer runs ornament these promising songs, and while the lyrics are hard to make out, Romeo and a female singer lay soothing, gauzy vocals over the instruments. With acoustic guitar and shaker, “Vultures” emerges from such lush reverie into a parched, articulate menace: “After all we are just animals / Picking up the scraps,” Romeo sings. Dissolving into a threatening shimmer, the chorus continues to evoke a sense of dread.

Then, the album drifts a little. “We Wait” is a derivative example of West Coast songwriting, and “December,” “White Rose,” and “Woods” resume the starlit walks of the album’s two openers, but don’t seem to get anywhere. Like glimpses of illuminated animals in the underbrush, ghostly synths appear and disappear on the margins of the soundscapes, but they aren’t enough to offset the aimlessness here.

But Dark Age turns again on another desert dirge: the splendid, penultimate “White House.” Over a simple acoustic melody, Romeo sings about a reunion in the shadow of a place that is “lonely and dead.” Backing chants, tambourine and snare, and the quiet, steadfast guitar line complement each other perfectly. Closer “This Silence” is a piano meditation on emptiness that recalls elements of The Verve’s “Sonnet.” “Why does it always have to feel this way?” Romeo asks. Preceded by the stellar accomplishment of “White House,” the singer’s sentiment gains legitimacy, and sets the stage for future work.