Hidden Gems of SLC: Crosswalk To Nowhere

Crosswalks are not a destination

After all, the chicken is simply trying to get to the other side of the road. Maybe you’ve got an “aesthetic” photo you really want to take, but as it stands, the middle of a road doesn’t have a lot to offer. It’s not terribly safe either. Anyone who’s used a crosswalk at the intersection below President’s Circle can attest to this.

Despite the danger, most people will brave crosswalks. Whether it’s to get to the brand new Publik by the University or the pizzeria four doors down, we use them to get to where we want to be. But what about when there is no destination on the other side? What if, for some absurd reason, a crosswalk you found lead you to nowhere? It seems as unhelpful and meanspirited as manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor one political party over another.

The “Crosswalk to Nowhere”

To find it, drive up I Street until you reach 13th Avenue. Once you’re there, you’ll be greeted by a five-way intersection. On the right, there are two possible routes, 13th Avenue, which goes directly east, and Northcrest Drive, which veers uphill. Take Northcrest Drive, and almost immediately you will find the crosswalk, marked by a standard crosswalk sign and another sign with its “official” title.

While the sign in question looks professional, it’s made out of corrugated plastic, and one has to wonder if someone took it into their own hands to give the crosswalk a name. After all, why would the city name such a crosswalk? It connects one sidewalk of insignificance to a gutter and a bunch of bushes.

In all sense of the word, the “Crosswalk to Nowhere” is frivolous. It is because of this quality, however, that I find it appealing. In a world that seems to have stopped making sense (or never made sense to begin with), it’s oddly refreshing to find a place that so eloquently conveys the absurdity. In his time with the Talking Heads, David Bryne was the master of not making sense. I cannot think of a better song to compliment the “Crosswalk to Nowhere” then the band’s similarly titled “Road to Nowhere”.

 

 

 

Hidden Gems of SLC: Catès Café

Looking for a new place to relax and study? Wishing you didn’t have to pay for coffee? The answer to both questions is closer to campus than you may think.

Enter Catès Café

Located on the corner of 200 South and University Street, the coffee shop is just across the street from President’s Circle. It can be easy to miss at first as it is part of a Catholic Center, but if you approach the building from the east side and follow the rampway to the left you’ll find yourself right at its entrance.

Inside is a homely venue. The scent of coffee hangs in the air and an assortment of furniture beckons you to unwind and relax. Of course, if you’re a student and coffee is on your mind you’re probably looking to study instead of relax, and Catès Café has you covered. There are plenty of tables with convenient charging stations for you to situate yourself in, as well as a room off to the east side of the cafe intended for those looking for a quieter space to study.

The Coffee

Anything that is labeled “free” is as likely to be celebrated on a college campus as it is to be warranted with suspicion, but I can personally say the price is right. For free coffee, it even tastes better than what some dedicated coffee shops offer. The trade-off is that you’re making the coffee yourself. But it’s a fairly quick and straightforward process to make pour-over coffee and there is almost always someone at the cafe who is willing to help.

Such hospitality risks feeling insincere at a church, offered only in tandem with pressure to join or donate, but I’ve never experienced that at Catès Café. In the wake of more sexual abuse cases coming to light within the Catholic church, the cafe, in comparison, feels like a reminder of the values a church should strive for. Hospitality is offered for hospitality’s sake, and I’d like to see other churches make similar efforts.

With the relaxed atmosphere, the sense of accommodation at Catès Café reminds me of the ambient music of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. The music is styled to work perfectly as background music. While it is rendered beautifully through Eno’s meticulous method of composition, it never demands your whole attention. Like the cafe, you are free to visit and leave, soaking in as much or as little as you want.

 

 

Hidden Gems of SLC: Faultline Gardens

On “Hidden Gems”, we discuss some of our favorite locales you may have overlooked in the Salt Lake City area, as well as name a song that fits the place best. Today I’m looking Faultline Gardens, a cozy park with a wonderful view.

Located at 1033 East and 400 South, Faultline Gardens isn’t exactly in the most obvious location; if you’re going eastward on 400 South the road takes a bend at 1000 East and turns into 500 South. Thus, if you want to get to the park, you’ll want to approach it from the East or North. In addition, there’s no easy way to spot the park from a distance; it’s hardly a fraction of the size of Lindsey Gardens of Liberty Park, nor is there any obvious signage pointing to its location. Only when you arrive at its address will you see a sign, facing westward and nestled between some rocks and bushes.

Once you are there, get ready for a treat. They key to this park’s appeal comes in two parts. The first is the simplicity of it; there’s a table to sit at, two swings, and a slide (albeit a very small one). Your options are limited, but that can be a relief when so many parks offer more of the same. If the swings and table are occupied, you can always take a breather and lie down on the grass (depending on the weather of course).

Two Paths Diverge

Whichever option you take, you’ll be able to partake in the park’s second appeal, which is the view. Neither too uphill nor too far away from the city, Faultline Gardens offers an excellent view of the metropolitan area, as well as the Greater Avenues and immediately surrounding hills. It’s the kind of view that reminds why I love this city so much; here you can see both the bustle of city life and the majesty of (and the proximity of) the outdoors.

To have two such elements in tandem requires a unique song. Thus, when deliberating on a song I thought fit Faultline Gardens best, I chose Björk’s arrangement of “Like Someone in Love”. Written by Jimmy Van Heusen, the song was originally popularized by a rendition by Frank Sinatra. Björk’s take brings the song into a modern, urban context; you can hear the sound of passing cars as she sings aside ethereal melodies played on the harp. The result is grounded yet surreal, capturing the mood Faultline Gardens so easily conveys.

What’s on My Playlist?

It’s important for me to find new releases to listen to, especially when a new semester is underway. Sometimes, however, I like to look back at the older tunes that inspire me, or those I never gave a proper chance. The following playlist includes a little bit of all three.

“House of Woodcock” by Jonny Greenwood

Jonny Greenwood just received a nomination for Best Original Score for his work on Phantom Thread, and it’s not hard to see why. “House of Woodcock” gives a small but beautiful sample of the soundtrack, with luscious arrangements of strings building atop a rubato piano line. The result is both stirring and decadent, a perfect match for the film.

 

“Coyote” by Joni Mitchell

Joni’s music has been around for a while, it was only in the last month that I committed to diving into her discography. Hejira was my first stop, and from the moment the first track “Coyote” played I was hooked. Subtley is the key here, as Joni masterfully uses her voice to weave around a cyclical groove, sustained by Jaco Pastorious’ mesmerizing bass work. For any of those looking to ponder the meaningful-meaningless of the snow (or lack thereof), look no further than the unabashed glaze of this album.

“Repeater” by Fugazi

Unlike Joni Mitchell, Fugazi carries their subtleties in a much more present manner. So, where does one begin with their discography? Look no further than their (ironically) titled, and first formal album, Repeater. The title track “Repeater” in particular sets a precedent for the unrelenting pace of the album, with screeching guitars and sticky-sweet bass grooves playing over a rolling drum line.

 

“Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying” by Belle and Sebastian

The wistful nature at the core of Belle and Sebastian’s music has always given their work a weight that puts it above the average selection of jangle-pop. Nowhere is this better exemplified than on “Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying”. Coming off the band’s second LP If You’re Feeling Sinister, the song slowly builds upon Murdoch’s graceful melodies and acoustic guitar with bass, percussion, and trumpet until reaching a crescendo both stately and emotionally resonant.

“Jesus, etc.” by Wilco

How do you take influences of the western contemporary, ranging from country to folk, and recontextualize them for a suitable, modern musical context? Look no further than Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This is an album that thrives on brutal honesty, poetic semantics, and the inevitable washed-out heritage of the 21st century American. The resulting tracks, like “Jesus, etc.”, both surprise and reward in ways few songs can.

 

Looking for more music to start your week off right? Check out my other playlist here.

Album Review: “Utopia” by Björk

The topic of love is somewhat of a specialty for Björk. Whether she’s singing about intimacy on “Cocoon” or self-love on “Army of Me”, Björk manages to describe love in ways that elevate her music above the average pop tune. For her new LP Utopia, she continues her exploration of the topic, contemplating new love in a digital age.

Santiago Felipe

This new love does not only relate to people, however; Björk also uses Utopia to explore a newfound appreciation for flutes. The instrument is at the heart of almost every track on the album, breathing a lively but airy quality into her music. It’s also where Björk’s ear for harmony shines best; on tracks like “Utopia”, the counterpoint between flutes creates beautiful sonorities for her ever-agile voice to sing atop of.

Despite being a new addition to her primary toolkit, the novelty of the flute does not entirely hold. While its persistent use gives the album a unique character, it at times comprises the integrity of the individual tracks. Those tracks that overly rely upon the flute, like “Paradisia”, while often beautiful, do not contain enough unique characteristics to distinguish themselves from the rest of the album. Seamless transitions between tracks often conflate this issue, blurring the line between one song ending and the other beginning.

Jesse Kanda

The tracks that do stand out typically rely upon more than just the flute, which is where Arca’s contributions come into play. Having previously worked with Björk on Vulnicura, Arca’s influence on Utopia does not have the same novelty it did on her previous LP, but his work still provides for Björk a vehicle to explore her musical interests in fascinating ways. On “The Gate”, sections of flute are put side-by-side with dazzling but minimalist electronic soundscapes. “Losss”, in comparison, joins the two, building in intensity as electronic percussion distorts and implodes upon itself.

While neither of these tracks cover particularly new ground for Björk, they prove to be enchanting none the less, which shouldn’t be a surprise. As a whole, Utopia is not her most compelling or innovative album, but it’s another deft demonstration of her ability to communicate the topic of love in ways most artists can only dream of.

 

What’s on My Playlist #4

For most college students, the workload at school ramps up around now. As Thanksgiving is the time of year people give thanks, I want to take the opportunity to give thanks to the music that keeps me going during these busy times.

“Arisen My Senses” by Björk

Björk’s newest album Utopia just came out and oh boy, one track in and it’s already a doozy. Gone is the gloom her beautiful album Vulnicura inhabited, replaced by an air of euphoria and ecstasy. Readily as ever, she wraps her voice around sweeping arrangements of synth and harp, recalling her previous work on the spectacular Vespertine. I’ll be reviewing the album in full soon, so stay tuned, but I can definitely say Utopia is off to a fantastic start.

“Dum Surfer” by King Krule

I mentioned this song in my article on records you can find at Graywhale; needless to say, it’s a spectacular take off King Krule’s new album The Ooz. If Archy’s distinct vocals or the layers of atmospheric effects don’t immediately pull you in, the saxophone definitely will. It’s the kind of tune that’s immediately catchy but has enough layers to keep your interest long past first listen.

“List of People (To Try And Forget About)” by Tame Impala

Speaking of music I’m grateful for, Tame Impala released a collection of b-sides and remixes that pleasantly surprised me. “List of People” in particular boasts the best qualities of band’s last release Currents plus some; it sports the same brilliant production and killer drumlines from Currents in addition to one of Kevin Parker’s best vocal melodies. The song has time to breath too, with a tasteful, understated ending that assures I won’t forget about this song anytime soon.

“If She Wants Me” by Belle and Sebastian

Understatement also happens to be a particularly appealing quality of Belle and Sebastian. Rather than dipping in and out of understated passages, however, the band sits in them. The resulting music feels deeply intimate, like stepping into a room with the band itself. Despite this, “If She Wants Me” is a big song for Belle and Sebastian, touting an organ and a majestic accompaniment by violins, creating a song both grand and charming.

“Extrasolar” by Baths

After reading a fascinating article about Baths on Kotaku, I decided to give his newest album Romaplasm a listen. While the whole album is an enjoyable listen, “Extrasolar” immediately caught my attention. Pianos chime and strings stir in the back of the mix, building into beautiful crescendos. Atop the instrumentation, Will Wiesenfeld creates beautiful harmonies with his vocals. “Come what may, we’re on our way” he sings over the chorus, a fitting mantra for getting through the end of the semester.

Graywhale Finds #2

I often find when I go to Graywhale Entertainment looking for one album, I end up finding something entirely different. This fact stayed true upon my last visit, and I found a number of exciting albums both new and old.

1) The Ooz by King Krule

Among my first finds was King Krule’s new hit The Ooz, an appropriately titled album given the music on here; the tracks are drenched in atmosphere, weaving around jazz-inspired riffs and Archy’s mesmerizing voice. The resulting music both soothes and bites, distinguishing it from a lot of more recent releases. With unforgettable tracks like “Dum Surfer”, it’s set to be one of my favorite albums of the year.

 

2) Masseduction by St. Vincent

I also found a couple copies of the deluxe edition of St. Vincent’s new album Masseduction. It may not be my favorite release by the artist, but there are plenty of stellar tracks. “Pills” in particular comes to mind; it shows off Annie Clark’s mastery of the guitar, and its use of saxophone is a joy rather than an irritant, out-of-place gimmick. The deluxe edition comes in yellow vinyl, which could also be considered a gimmick, but I have a soft spot for colored vinyl.

 

3) Another Green World by Brian Eno

Among the newer releases were a number of reissues, including this treasure by Brian Eno. Another Green World is Brian Eno at his best (outside his collaborations); sitting halfway between his voice-led music and his instrumental projects, it’s a collection of zany, ingenious pop tunes. Distinct, wobbly synths and guitars played with mallets are just a few testaments to Eno’s creativity on here. It’s also a testament to his immaculate attention to detail, a good quality to find in any record.

 

4) No Shape by Perfume Genius

Upon recommendation by a friend, I checked out this album earlier this year and I couldn’t be gladder. As of yet, no album has quite topped this release for me. Perfume Genius honed his craft on this album, delivering a velvety, pop sound in tandem with an emotional, intimate vocal performance. It’s the kind of album you want to listen to beginning to end, which makes it a perfect vinyl purchase.

 

5) Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown

If you haven’t seen the video for “Ain’t it Funny”, you need to make some time to watch it right now. First of all, Jonah Hill directs it. Secondly, the music is divine; it’s a macabre, unrelenting powerhouse of a track and only a taste of what the album has to offer. Haunting soundscapes and immaculate rhythm and pacing are the name of the game on Atrocity Exhibition. Pick up this album and I guarantee you’ll have its raucous, claustrophobic beats stuck in your head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concert Review: Mitski

Indie rock can oftentimes be blunt, but that is not to say it lacks finesse; to the contrary, some of the best indie rock artists only achieve their blunt sound with a great deal of finesse. Mitski’s concert at the Urban Lounge proved just so, demonstrating the extent to which practice and finesse can take a band from good to great.

You don’t have to look hard to find where Mitski mustered such skills. As Carrie Battan brings to light in her article for The New Yorker, the singer-songwriter released her first two albums, LUSH and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, while studying music composition at SUNNY Purchase. Since graduating, she has released another two albums, Bury Me at Makeout Creek and Puberty 2, both of which pushed her towards a more traditional, rock sound. Despite this, it’s evident that Mitski’s training in school has paid off; her command of her voice is impressive, and even within more traditional arrangments her attention to detail is difficult to match.

Overall, this gives Mitski a good amount of experience to work with, which stands in contrast to opener Stong Words. An up-and-coming act from Salt Lake City, Strong Words carry the sound of a band beginning to solidify their musical identity. At its best, their music conjures easy-going vibes with mellow vocals and an airy feel. At its worst, it feels too easy, collapsing in on the padding its mix overly relies upon. The sound balance at the concert didn’t help, rendering the guitar and the vocals indistinguishable, although out-of-tune harmonies in the vocals occasionally (and unfortunately) stuck out in the mix. All in all, these factors ultimately rendered Strong Words’ performance unsatisfactory.

Despite the luke-warm opening, Mitski quickly brought an air of excitement to the Urban Lounge. With a restless start, her band cut their teeth right away on newer material, including more raw cuts like “Dan the Dancer”. Contributing to the raw sound was their mix, which was both drier than Strong Words’ and better balanced. This change put the talent of Mitski and her band members front and center, and fortunately, they were more than able to impress; particularly noteworthy was the guitarist, whose adept use of effects turned the instrument into a jack-of-all-trades for the band.

Later in the set, Mitski took over duties on the guitar, dismissing her band members to play some songs by herself. The expectation at this point was to hear some of her quieter arrangements, but she began with one of her loudest, playing “My Body’s made of Crushed Little Stars”. It was the most intimate moment of the set; the space left behind by her band produced an atmosphere rawer than anywhere else in the set. It also gave her room to truly demonstrate the power of her vocals as she bellowed over the jagged-sounding guitar.

The use of space in her arrangements demonstrates just one of the ways Mitski puts time and thought into her craft. Strong Words does not lack thought when it comes to their music, but the difference in the quality of the performances demonstrates not just the importance of a good sound balance, but the extent to which practice and training can take a band from good to great.