new year, new songs… “heliotropic” and “blue mountains walking”…

2014... Abyss Lake from the top of Mt. Evans. Photo by Jon Kedrowski.
Abyss Lake from the top of Mt. Evans. Photo by Jon Kedrowski.

2014… the new year. Hope yours has gotten off to a great, rockin’ start. 12 days in, things have been somewhat uneventful aside from a short trip to Santa Fe to ring in the new year (a few pictures below). Also have already learned a new term: ‘polar vortex’; I expect there will be a movie of the same name on the SyFy channel in the near future.

I’m posting a couple of new songs here, recorded in the last three months, closing out 2013. I can say that there will be a new album from Nights on Venus in 2014 – I don’t know yet whether it will be a full-length album or a couple of 5-song EPs, but there will be at least one release, most likely in the fall.

HELIOTROPIC
(© 2014 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.)

The new material is just starting to come together. This is always the fun part, when the first exploratory musical wanderings (a.k.a. “noodling”) and recordings begin to coalesce and gel into ‘something.’

One thing I’ve noticed so far: I’m playing a lot more piano – electronic though it may be (a Roland digital piano) – on these new recordings and it is featured on both of the songs posted here. “Heliotropic” is the album version… “Blue Mountains Walking”, a  mastered demo [that did not make the final album cut]. Enjoy!

BLUE MOUNTAINS WALKING
(© 2013 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.)

Currently I’m working on a song entitled “Infinity Pool” which I’ll post here probably later on this month.

San Francisco St., Santa Fe...
Hangin’ out on San Francisco St., Santa Fe…
Luminarias...
The holiday season is one of the best times to visit Santa Fe… the lights and luminarias were still up.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi...
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi…
The Plaza at night, holiday season...
And the Plaza at night, downtown…
And another visit to 10,000 Waves on a chilly afternoon...
Another visit to 10,000 Waves Japanese bathhouse on a chilly afternoon…
I-25 near Wagon Mound, New Mexico...
On the road again, the return trip home… I-25 near Wagon Mound, New Mexico…
A short 2 hours later...
A short 2 hours later… the weather has turned nasty – freezing drizzle, then snow – and we’re stuck in an hour-long traffic standstill south of Colorado Springs. Numerous accidents when the road turned icy. Here, a moving van has overturned and spilled its contents all over the highway.
Almost home...
What is usually a routine 6-hour drive turned into 9-hour ordeal, but here we’re almost home…

santa-fe_5Until next time…

Another Day in Paradox,” the third album from Nights on Venus is available on CD and as digital download (MP3) as are the eponymously-titled first album (digital download only) and “In 4 the Evening” on CDBaby, iTunes, Bandcamp, Amazon, eMusic, and other fine online retailers including the NoV website

"Another Day in Paradox" - 2013
“Another Day in Paradox” – 2013

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

Advertisements

fall pleasures…

First off… the rains have ended here, the floodwaters have receded, but Colorado is still cleaning up after the floods and there is widespread damage and much work to be done. Many people have lost everything and a number of roads in Northern Colorado will be closed well into 2014. There is much to be rebuilt here and donations are badly needed and greatly appreciated. Below are a few links to organizations that are accepting donations for flood relief, providing updates, and also a schedule of benefit concerts for flood relief, some of which have already taken place:

The Red Cross, Colorado chapter

And the Red Cross blog, providing a list of resources – check here for the latest updates.

This is a link to the Colorado Flood Foundation whose sole purpose is to raise at least $100,000 or more for the victims in a 4 county region. They are hosting a music event on October 17 in Loveland; 100% of the proceeds raised through the website and this event go directly to flood victims… so please support them. They’re based in Longmont which was heavily damaged by the floods.

And if you’re in the Front Range, check out this link to Westword for a complete list of upcoming benefit concerts here for flood victims and support them. All proceeds go to flood relief.

Hopefully, everyone who has been affected by the floods of 2013 will recover very quickly.

I70_at_genesee
Heading up I-70 west, snow on the Divide…

It’s Saturday, last one in September. We’re taking a break from the “Breaking Bad” marathon (many of the episodes we missed) and heading up to the high country on I-70, back to my old stomping grounds – Clear Creek County and the old mining towns of Empire, Georgetown, and Silver Plume. Cool temps and not a cloud in the sky…

We have moved into fall now and it’s the annual ritual of going up into the mountains in search of fall colors because… that’s what we do here in CO. It seems to be happening later in the season this year, in part because of all the rain we’ve had recently, but this is what we found on our drive…

Avalanche chute west of Empire...
Avalanche chute west of Empire, heading up US 40…
Fall colors...
Fall colors…
On the way to Jones Pass...
On the way to Jones Pass…
Looking up to the Divide, the effects of the wind blowing the new snow...
Looking up to the Divide, the effects of the wind blowing the new snow from this past week…
On the Jones Pass road...
On the Jones Pass road…
Coming through the tiny village of Berthoud Falls on US 40...
Coming through the tiny village of Berthoud Falls on US 40…
Next, it's on to the town of Silver Plume, just above Georgetown...
Next, it’s on to the town of Silver Plume, just above Georgetown off of I-70…
Aspen leaves...
Aspen leaves… (be sure and click on the image for the close-up)
Walking down a dirt road in Silver Plume on a perfect fall day...
Walking down a dirt road in Silver Plume on a perfect fall day…
Architectural millwork from the 19th century... This used to be a bakery up until the late 1990's... the microbrew, Silver Plume Brewing Co., used to be up the block...
Architectural design work from the 19th century… This used to be a bakery up until the late 1990’s… the microbrew, Silver Plume Brewing Co., used to be up the block…
A river runs through it... Clear Creek as it flows through Silver Plume - probably doesn't look much different than it did 100 years ago...
A river runs through it… Clear Creek as it flows through Silver Plume – probably doesn’t look a whole lot  different than it did 100 years ago…
Looking east through town...
Looking east through town…
Ski fences in Silver Plume... these are cool; I want one...
Ski fences in Silver Plume… these are cool; I want one…
Ski season is not that far away... A-Basin and Loveland open next month...
Ski season is not that far away… A-Basin and Loveland open next month…
Erin in Silver Plume... Yes, the train still runs up here - the Georgetown Loop Railroad (narrow gauge) runs all summer and into the fall...
And there’s Erin… Yes, the train still runs up here – the Georgetown Loop Railroad (narrow gauge) runs all summer and into the fall…

The "wagon wheel" waterfall in Idaho Springs from just outside the Vintage Moose...
The “wagon wheel” waterfall in Idaho Springs from just outside the Vintage Moose… ahhh, the Vintage Moose – perfect little laid-back place to stop in for a draft beer when I-70 eastbound into Denver is a parking lot and Beau Jo’s [Pizza] is insanely packed with tourists during ski season.
NoV News: I have been in the studio since the end of last month recording new tracks. New song titles added to the NoV catalog: “Infinity Pool,” “Bliss in Blue,” and currently finishing up “Heliotropic.” I should have one of them finished and up online by the end of next month.

Until next time…

fall_colors6

"Another Day in Paradox" - 2013
“Another Day in Paradox” – 2013

Another Day in Paradox,” the third and new album from Nights on Venus is available now on CD and as digital download (MP3) on CDBabyiTunesBandcampAmazoneMusic, and other fine online retailers including the NoV website.

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

drying out in the foothills… (we think)

It’s Saturday. Right now the sun is out after a week of steady and sometimes heavy rains with widespread flooding. A “once-in-a-hundred years” kind of rainstorm. Some are even calling the rains and flooding “biblical.”

colorado_ark

Well no, we’re not at that stage yet, but it is a very serious situation, especially with more rain forecast for today and tomorrow some of it predicted to be heavy at times. More rain is like the absolute last thing we need right now. Here in Jefferson County we’re under a flood warning and flash flood watch both today and tomorrow.

Road closures have been the least of the problems so far. 4 people have died in the floods and as of this morning, 172 people are unaccounted for. May all those who are currently missing turn up alive and safe as quickly as possible and in the coming days.

Some pictures from the last few days:

US Hwy. 6 through Clear Creek canyon this morning. Latest updates on road conditions from Jefferson County Sheriff's Office https://www.facebook.com/JeffersonCountySheriff and CDOT http://www.cotrip.org.
US Hwy. 6 through Clear Creek canyon this morning. Latest updates on road conditions from Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office https://www.facebook.com/JeffersonCountySheriff and CDOT http://www.cotrip.org.
And road conditions from Google Maps... http://www.googlemaps.com
And road conditions from Google Maps… http://www.googlemaps.com

From Evergreen, 9/13:

Photo by Scotty McWalter... Downtown Evergreen, Cactus Jack's patio
Photo by Scotty McWalter… Downtown Evergreen, Cactus Jack’s patio
Evergreen flooding, Bear Creek Mall, Cactus Jack's... Photo by Scotty McWalter
Evergreen flooding, Bear Creek Mall, Cactus Jack’s… Photo by Scotty McWalter.

When I first saw these pictures I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I used to live in Evergreen and have been going up there as far back as 1965 and had worked in this building from 1992 – ’95. There used to be a restaurant called the River Sage there until 1998 and they had the patio until they closed and Cactus Jack’s took it over. I can remember sitting out there above the creek; we’d watch the spring run-off from the mountains when the creek levels would be very high, but I’d never seen them this high before.

Photo by Scotty McWalter.
Downtown Evergreen, closed, looking east. Photo by Scotty McWalter.
Photo by Scotty McWalter
Photo by Scotty McWalter
Downtown Evergreen, showing road damage. Jefferson County Sheriff's Office...
Downtown Evergreen, showing road damage. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office…
A house in downtown Evergreen...
A house in downtown Evergreen…
Hwy. 72 through Coal Creek canyon west of Golden into the mountains, as of Thursday, 9/12/13
Hwy. 72 through Coal Creek canyon west of Golden into the mountains, as of Thursday, 9/12/13
Rain on Wednesday, 9/11, looking up Hwy. 58 toward Clear Creek canyon...
Rain on Wednesday, 9/11, looking up Hwy. 58 through Golden toward Clear Creek canyon…
Waterfall run-off on S. Table Mtn., Golden, 9/12/13...
Waterfall run-off on S. Table Mtn., Golden, 9/12/13…

So far, Erin and I have been extremely fortunate where we live – Golden has not been hit hard with the amount of rainfall here and we live on a ridge high above town – but many others have not been so lucky. Much of the flooding has been to the north of us, Boulder up to Estes Park, Lyons, Longmont, and Loveland all the way to east of I-25 onto the plains.

Parts of Denver and Aurora have been affected as well and now they’re saying that an area of 4,500 square miles has been impacted by the floods. Yes, it is widespread and it is really that bad. With the exception of a couple of years in Dallas, I’ve lived here since 1992 and I haven’t seen anything like this here.

Hwy. 34 from Estes Park to Loveland... the Big Thompson River canyon
Hwy. 34 from Estes Park to Loveland… the Big Thompson River canyon
Upper Bear Creek above Evergreen. The water crested downstream in Morrison at 9 feet.
Upper Bear Creek above Evergreen. The water crested downstream in Morrison at 9 feet.
Coal Creek canyon... road washed out
Coal Creek canyon… road washed out. Courtesy of 9News.
Hwy. 7 near Lyons... Photo from the Denver Post.
Hwy. 7 near Lyons… Photo from the Denver Post.
Aerial view of Lyons, CO... courtesy of 9News.
Aerial view of Lyons, CO… courtesy of 9News.
Downtown Lyons... the town was completely cut off on Friday. Residents had to be air-lifted out - all roads were impassable.
Downtown Lyons… the town was completely cut off on Friday. Residents had to be air-lifted out by the National Guard – all roads were impassable.
Boulder Creek, courtesy of 9News...
Boulder Creek, courtesy of 9News…
Some brief sunshine yesterday afternoon, Golden...
Some brief sunshine yesterday afternoon, Golden…
rainbow2
Double rainbow last evening in Golden – unable to get the full arc in the picture but it was amazing…
Double rainbow, Golden, 9/13/13...
Double rainbow, Golden, 9/13/13…
More storms are expecting tonight and tomorrow...
More storms are expected tonight and tomorrow…
And the skies currently...
And the skies currently…
Surf's up...
Surf’s up… Obviously Photoshopped, but you get the idea.

Clouds have been building to the north and west now, over the mountains to the immediate west of Golden; it’s become darker and the wind has picked up. It smells like rain.

Everyone stay safe out there

Follow Craig and
Nights on Venus
on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

what’s wrong with “free” music….?

Not too long ago I read an article in Digital Music News by Paul Resnikoff entitled “The 7 Attributes of Younger Music Fans” and if you’re on CD Baby, you may have seen it too. In case you didn’t, you can find it here. It’s a good, informative article and a short read.

Actually, this goes further back to an article on David Lowery’s Trichordist blog site – the “Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered” post. That younger fans don’t usually pay for their music has become common knowledge now or at least, a common assumption. And sure enough, there it is at #4: “If They Don’t Buy Your Stuff, Don’t Take It Personally.”

Well, I don’t… and by now artists know all this and it’s generally accepted that this is the way things are and that it’s not going to change anytime soon… However, it’s still a curious attitude as outlined in the first sentence of #4 in the Resnikoff article:

Fans, especially younger fans, have an expectation of free.  In fact, many younger listeners have never been forced to pay for music in their lives; furthermore, many believe music should be free on principle.” (emphasis mine)

OK… and what guiding “principle” would that be? Because there is more music being recorded and more artists recording that music than ever before? Does the sheer proliferation of music available somehow lessen its value? (I don’t think so.)

And where does this “expectation of free” come from? From years of downloading stuff or finding information for free on the Internet?

As an artist, it would never occur to me to not pay for another artist’s work – other than the freebies they choose to make available – because I have some idea of what the process is and what they go through to produce that work. I will always pay for an artist’s work that I like… because it supports them and their ability to do more of it.

I suppose if I were a gazillionaire and had more money than God, or Forrest Gump, maybe I would be inclined to offer all my music for free… but then again, no. Because here’s the deal: people don’t value what they get for free.

And giving away what you produce for free as a business model… is a bad business model. That may be the least appreciated and least understood aspect of the music business and environment now – that for a large number of artists today, if they are self-producing and self-releasing their own work, they are their own business, and in the absence of a record company contract, lucrative or otherwise, they are solely responsible for that business.

In one sense, you could have an argument for free music if the CD you buy from a particular artist is going to end up in the bin at a used CD store in only a couple of months or is going to be removed from your iPod because you’ve gotten bored with it in the same amount of time and have moved on to ‘the latest thing.’ Solution: listen to better music… and pay for it.

Here’s another bullet point from #4:

In that context, if they’re buying your stuff, they’re generally regarding it as a major gesture.  Indeed, 68 percent of Millennials interviewed by MTV said they only buy music out of respect for the artist, and they believe music should be free.”

There it is again – the belief that music should be free. And again, why?

If you go into an art gallery and see a work of art you want on your wall at home, that’s not free; you’re going to pay for it. That goes for most anything and everything. “Well, art’s different,” someone might say, but it’s not at all. Music is one of the arts – why would music be singled out as any different as an art form that should somehow be free? Doesn’t make sense.

“Because it’s entertainment,” someone else might say. Well, it’s a lot more than that – it’s a universal language that can (and frequently does) change the world through the hearts and minds of individual listeners. Less for entertainment purposes, more art.

If you’re a Millennial (and even if you’re not) and you’re still reading this, please explain why you think the music you claim to love should be free. Send me a comment here ’cause I’d really like to know. It’s a mindset that truly baffles me, and not because we’re of ‘different generations’ or that I’m ‘old school’ or whatever. Here’s why…

Buying an artist’s latest album is not a “major gesture” on your part – it’s called support. It’s also an exchange of energy – the time, energy, hard work, and money that an artist puts into their music and producing something to put out into the world is met with a reciprocal response in the form of appropriate value – value for value – i.e., usually money. If someone is not willing to pay for something, even if they believe they should get it for free, it simply means they don’t value it.

Think about it… you purchase tickets to see your favorite bands/artists live at a festival or other venue (I’m assuming you’re not a fence-hopper here), you value that experience – why would you pay for one and not the recorded work which will provide an experience longer than that one night?

What I’m really getting at here though is this whole sense of entitlement… to “free” music, which is really the toughest thing to deal with because it’s a very specific and particular mindset.

No one is entitled to free music, fans and consumers alike (except perhaps the ever-patient, long-suffering artist’s significant other), any more than the world owes anybody, including artists, a living.

Wolf5
The Wolf, from “Pulp Fiction”…. “Lots of cream, lots of sugar…”

Buying an artist’s work allows them to make more of the music they want to make – it allows them to keep going in their business, and keep making the songs that, presumably, you want to listen to from that particular artist in the first place.

So…  whatever you listen to, pay for the music… pretty please, with sugar on it… or at the very least, question whatever sense of entitlement you may have. Food for thought…

"Another Day in Paradox" - 2013
“Another Day in Paradox” – 2013

Another Day in Paradox,” the third and new album from Nights on Venus has just been released and is available on CD and as digital download (MP3) on CDBabyiTunesBandcamp, Amazon, eMusic, and other fine online retailers including the NoV website.

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

aspen dreaming…

Nights on Venus has been on “official” vacation this week, Erin and I, while continuing work on the video of “Sundown at El Farol,” the first video from NoV. What follows is a pictorial essay of the first week of July, 2013….  Lots of pics… Enjoy!

todd_boulder3
The Official STATE Visit, Todd Rundgren, July 2, Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO

First stop, Boulder – just 20 minutes up the road from our home base in Golden to catch Todd’s STATE live.

The next day we’re on the road… to Aspen to see it again, ’cause we’re ‘Toddies’ and well, that’s just what we do.

Had a chance to reconnect with a long-lost childhood friend in Aspen – we hadn’t seen each other in 40+ years.

The STATE shows were excellent both nights. The tour has made its way west to California – definitely go see it if you have the chance…

"The Future is NOW..." Boulder Theater, 7/2/2013
“The Future is NOW…” Boulder Theater, 7/2/2013
Todd with the "Solid Gold Dancers," on stage in Boulder.... "Party Liquor" from STATE
Todd with the “Solid Gold Dancers,” on stage in Boulder…. “Party Liquor” from STATE. “And the TV’s blaring ’cause they can’t find the clicker…”
todd_boulder4
Todd making a point, 7/2/2013, Boulder…
Erin at STATE, 7/2/2013, Boulder...
The lovely and multi-talented Ms. Erin at STATE, 7/2/2013, Boulder…
And STATE the following night in Aspen, 7/3, at Belly Up...
And Todd’s STATE the following night in Aspen, 7/3, at Belly Up…
"Worldwide Epiphany..."
“Worldwide Epiphany…”
todd_aspen3
“Imagination…”
4th of July parade, Aspen...
4th of July parade, Aspen…
Would any parade be complete without a giant inflatable duck wearing sunglasses?
Would any parade really be complete without a giant inflatable duck wearing sunglasses? Of course not!
7/4/2013, Aspen, CO
7/4/2013, Aspen, CO

aspen_3

Aspen Mountain from downtown...
Aspen Mountain from downtown…
Relaxing on the balcony at Jimmy's...
Relaxing on the balcony at Jimmy’s… sitting here on a warm, but not hot, afternoon, everything just seems to make more sense. Erin: “We need to move here…” Me: “Yes, we do.”
Morning espresso at Victoria's.... ahh, fully caffeinated now...
Morning espresso at Victoria’s…. ahh, fully caffeinated now…

And finally, there’s always plenty of time for a little hike in the high country…

Hiking on the Lost Man Loop trail near Independence Pass...
Hiking on the Lost Man Loop trail near Independence Pass…
Near Independence Lake, up around 12,000 feet...
Erin on the trail near Independence Lake, up around 12,000 feet…
Looking back down the valley...
Looking back down the valley…
On the way up...
On the way up…
On the way down...
On the way down…
Mountains, mountains, all around...
Mountains, mountains, all around…

lostman_6

Erin and me... the requisite tourist shot...
Erin and me… the requisite tourist shot…
Heading down the Independence Pass, east side...
Heading down Independence Pass, east side…

postcard
Here in Colorado, we say: “When in doubt, move higher.”

Fun week… they should all be like this. ‘Til next time…

"Another Day in Paradox" - 2013
“Another Day in Paradox” – 2013

Another Day in Paradox,” the third and new album from Nights on Venus has just been released and is available on CD and as digital download (MP3) on CDBabyiTunesBandcamp, Amazon, eMusic, and other fine online retailers including the NoV website.

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

“another day in paradox”…. released 6/18

This week, “Another Day in Paradox,” was released on June 18th, almost a year to the day that I began recording what I thought was going to be a 4-song EP. It evolved into something considerably more ambitious.

In contrast to “In 4 the Evening,” which was about the simple joys of staying home (with your honey), not having to go out anywhere, and establishing a consistent ‘evening’ mood throughout, “Another Day…” is kind of all over the map, literally, both geographically and musically. Back out into the fray, into the world again…

Basically “Another Day’s” themes come down to an East/West thing… Yin/Yang, maintaining balance… It’s part travelogue and partly autobiographical – 13 indie/ether rock instrumental “meditations” on everyday life and life in the American West. Less ambient, more uptempo pop/rock than its predecessors, but still spacy with plenty of surf guitar twang and electronica. Much of it is about following the path of a more-or-less inwardly-directed life while living and trying to make a living in a relentlessly outwardly-based culture and society – Eastern practice in a Western world.

It’s also about the migration from east to west personally, having been born on the East Coast, then growing up in Texas and having spent the majority of my life here as a Westerner. There have been many stretches of empty road with sky… with a few breakdowns along the way (“Stranded in San Jon”).

Presented here are the remaining 3 songs from the album that I haven’t put up already in this blog. The first 2 are available as free downloads through the month of June from the Nights on Venus page on ReverbNation along with “Agave Blues.”

SUNDOWN AT EL FAROL
(© 2012 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.)

El Farol on Canyon Rd.... Excellent restaurant with a tapas menu (all of the food delicious), and the oldest operating bar in Santa Fe - the building dates back to 1835. Live music here on most nights and occasionally, flamenco dancing.....
El Farol on Canyon Rd. in Santa Fe…. Excellent place to chill on the patio at sunset – the building dates back to 1835. Live music here on most nights and occasionally, flamenco dancing…..

Along with “Between Two Worlds,” probably my favorite song off the album. More jazz than before, more Latin percussion… new territory in a familiar place. Just hangin’ out in Santa Fe… where I used to live from 1984 – ’86.

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS (High Altitude Mix)
(© 2012 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.)

There’s lots of organ on this album and probably most prominently here. This song only came together fully about a week before it went to mastering. If it sounds “church-y,” well yeah, that’s no accident since my primary influence was church organ music (from my dad) and since I was there so much – lifelong friends know this is true – well, I kind of absorbed it. Rather than downplaying that influence as I’ve done for years, this may be the first song where I truly embraced it, although I was going for more of a Jimmy Greenspoon/Three Dog Night organ sound on this.

THE WEST, 2097
(© 2012 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.)

insidetray_CD
The 8-minute mini-epic of ‘The West,’ recorded around the time of the wildfires and the Aurora theater shooting here in the summer of 2012… and pondering what things will be like in the not completely far-off future…

I25_morning

Currently I’m taking a short break and getting caught up on a few things, though working on very simple videos (.wmv Flash files)  for a couple of songs, “Vanishing America” being one of them. Next time on the blog, Erin and I will be up in Aspen for a few days taking a mini-vacation…

In the meantime, happy listening! and go catch the Super Moon (in Capricorn) tonight!

super_moon

"Another Day in Paradox" - 2013
“Another Day in Paradox” – 2013

Another Day in Paradox,” the third and new album from Nights on Venus has just been released and is available on CD and as digital download (MP3) on CDBabyiTunesBandcamp, Amazon, eMusic, and other fine online retailers including the NoV website.

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

todd rundgren’s brave new world…. a review of ‘STATE’

“All of these songs are about a paucity of truth. At first they may seem to be about other things, but that is just a reflection of how much dishonesty we have accepted in our daily lives. We are raised from birth to believe things that cannot be proven or that are plainly not true…. The fact is, we are terrified of the truth.” – Todd Rundgren, from the liner notes of Liars, 2004

Fast forward 9 years to 2013. Back to the future… and Todd’s new album STATE, the first set of new songs from Todd since 2006’s Arena.

The word “state” can have a number of connotations, as both noun and verb, as in “state your name,” “state your case, your truth,” “state of mind, being” “state of the nation, world,” “state of the music industry,” and perhaps most ominously, THE State. The ambiguous, open-ended title gives a clue as to what Todd’s going to be delving into and he covers all bases here.

STATE  is definitely a headphone album, so…. “you’ll want to get ’em out and get ’em cranked up, ’cause they’re really gonna help you on this one.”

Todd Rundgren's new album, "STATE"
Todd Rundgren’s new album, “STATE”

The opening track, “Imagination,” kicks off with an ethereal, skittering synth line – pleasant, reassuring enough and then it changes key and starts to wobble a bit…. something’s wrong here…  And then in come the thunderous drums followed by an ominous chord progression on bass, keys, and guitar. “I am what I am and that’s all that I am, I tell myself,” Todd sings – things are all right again.  The individual states his case in a world where “nothing’s ever right or wrong,” and all he has to do is “just go along and get along.”

The response? The musical furies are unleashed and ask “what is hell?” That “same old smell” and the “same old situation.” He has “no imagination.” The song features a wicked guitar solo and its call and answer interplay between the individual and the forces arrayed around/against him – to remind him where he is and to not think foolishly or naively that things “will just work out” – is brilliant. Cautionary tale indeed.

Like “Truth,” the opening track from Liars, “Imagination” grabs your attention immediately and sets the tone for the rest of the album. What’s different here: it’s not the search for truth or meaning anymore in the glaring lack of it. Instead we get reality, or “Sir Reality” (wonderful play on words there) in the glaring lack of real critical thinking, free-thinking, and… imagination. Blissful unawareness and mental laziness ain’t gonna cut it in this brave new world. It’s a brave new world because only the brave will be able to inhabit (and inherit) it.

For this album, Todd “reinvented” himself into “DJ Odd” and recorded the songs in the same way that many electronica/EDM (Electronic Dance Music) artists do now, using just a laptop, keyboard controller, and guitar. He also said in interviews that he did some research into the genre by listening to Skrillex, among others.

That infleuence seems most evident in the songs “Serious,” “Collide-A-Scope,” and the appropriately titled, “Party Liquor.” But it’s not as dubsteppy as it sounds or in the way one might think. Todd injects his own prodigious melodic sense and ways with a ‘toon’ into these ten songs and into a genre that, more often than not, is badly in need of it. Having adopted EDM’s prevailing M.O., he remakes the genre as his own (interesting to note that in the month-and-a-half since STATE was released, the album has charted on Billboard… in the electronica/EDM category).

“Serious” treads similar lyrical ground as “Mad” from Arena (“Clear!”). “Ping Me” explores the tenuous nature of relationships in general in the age of social media – “just let me know that I have crossed your mind.” It’s a similar sentiment as you would find in his signature song, “Hello, It’s Me” – “I take for granted that you just don’t care”…. so [in 2013] “ping me.” “Smoke” and “Something From Nothing” are both gorgeous songs, full of textural, rhythmic synths, either of which would have been right at home on Liars. Todd’s vocals are in fine form throughout.

For as open-ended and subject to interpretation as the lyrics tend to be here, there are some that definitely are not, but the intent always seems to be one of getting the listener to question the things they see and hear in their life or habitually think (as in many of Todd’s songs). He tosses out clues in the lyrics, particularly where they have to do with cultural assumptions, e.g. “money brings you joy” and “the rich deserve to be” (“Sir Reality”). They are far weightier than one might think upon first listening. And sometimes they’re not (a big LOL for the line “and the TV’s blaring ’cause they can’t find the clicker” from “Party Liquor”). She’s an “Angry Bird”…  and she’s also an app on your android.

STATE feels like a companion piece to Liars – a check-in 9 years later to see what conditions the “paucity of truth” might have led to and where things stand because the future IS now. It’s hard to call STATE  futuristic, at least not in the same way Liars  sounded futuristic when it came out in 2004, but that’s sort of the point: it’s an accurate reflection of the state of various elements of societal life, social interactions and our cultural diversions in 2013 with 9 more years of computer-based recording under our belts. As that relates to the music one might hear (especially on mainstream radio geared towards a younger audience), it’s how it sounds, how it looks, and how it gets made, keeping in mind that computer-based recording has pretty much become the standard in the industry now, particularly for certain genres. Todd is simply holding up a mirror to all of this.

todd_state_poster_2013_best
Artwork by Rose Wassel.

Since my co-worker and office-mate, Brian, does listen to Skrillex – though he will tell you he prefers Tech N9ne, Bassnectar, and Pretty Lights – this set the stage for an interesting experiment…

“We’ve secretly replaced Brian’s stash of techno/electronica with STATE…. Let’s watch what happens”…..

Which brings us to “Sir Reality”…. it’s a bookend to “Imagination.” The keyboard crescendos and guitar on this are particularly effective as Todd serves up a litany of questionable truisms  (“girls are girls and boys are boys” references “Happy Anniversary” from Liars). No Imagination = Your Reality…. if you go along and believe things that are “plainly not true.” And in the next line he tells you “The truth is plain to see…” if you but have the eyes – and the mind – to see (it is telling that in all the pictures on STATE, Todd is wearing goggles…. hmmm…).

The lack of truth is still with us in 2013, the lies just as blatant much of the time, more pervasive, but worse – we’ve gotten that much more used to them and they’re simply accepted as “normal.” What we get is “surreality” – a deeply uncertain time when the theme becomes one of discernment – realize where you are, think for yourself and figure things out (question), and don’t blindly go along – don’t be dumb, lest you find yourself in a “less than ideal” state.

todd-rundgren-state-2Sound unsettling?… bleak? Perhaps… but these are unsettling times and Todd has captured that perfectly on STATE. Maybe “unsparing” would be a better word, but it all sounds great and it’s a strong album. First and foremost, it is a ‘Todd album’ that fits in well and takes its place comfortably in his overall body of work. It’s an album that grows stronger – and whose lyrics more fully reveal their meanings – with repeated listenings.

STATE may well be the most important album released so far in 2013. The techno/electronica generation is listening and yeah, you can dance to it.

The 2nd disc is Todd performing with the Metropole Orchestra live at the Paradiso in Amsterdam in 2012. Spend the few extra bucks and spring for the Deluxe Edition of STATE, if you haven’t bought it already, because the live performances here are truly superb. You get fully orchestrated versions of Todd classics – “Hello, It’s Me,” “Can We Still Be Friends,” and “We Gotta Get You a Woman” – alongside lesser-known songs (“Frogs,” “Fascist Christ”), with some Utopia thrown in (“Another Life”). “Pretending to Care” (from A Capella) in particular benefits from a full orchestra and Todd’s voice has never sounded better on it. Other standouts include “If I Have to Be Alone,” “Mammon,” and the closer, “Fade Away.” The 2nd disc rounds out the listening experience and is definitely a must-have.

The Official STATE Tour is currently underway and coming to a venue near you. Check tour dates at http://www.toddstore.com/. I look forward to seeing it in July here in CO.

‘Til next time….

"Another Day in Paradox" - 2013
“Another Day in Paradox” – 2013

Another Day in Paradox,” the third and new album from Nights on Venus will be released officially on June 18th and available on CD and as digital download (MP3) on CDBabyiTunesBandcamp, Amazon,  and other fine online retailers and also on the NoV website.

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.