Friday, February 12, 2016

Listen: The Cabin Fever, The Chainsmokers and a Dutch Party Sighting

Valentine's Day is almost upon us. The Saints have been beheaded, the chocolate salted and frozen and the cherries properly soured. Before getting your bark on, soundtrack it with:

For years I've confused my irrational fear of losing a limb ("apotemnophobia")  with the fear of wide open spaces and uncontrollable social situations ("agoraphobia"). It has caused some very interesting conversations on the train. Thanks to the new single by The Cabin Fever, I think I've finally got it squared away. The track, "Agoraphobic," was accompanied by a write-up discussing that the inspiration for the song came from "the fear a person feels once they stop isolating themselves from the world and personal relationships." I kept waiting for the losing a limb bomb to drop. When it never came, I knew I had mucked something up. What I find intriguing about "Agoraphobic" is its soft, floating vocals and thoughtful lyrics. Despite not being an agoraphobic person, I can relate to the picture that the band paints. Be on the lookout for The Cabin Fever's debut album which will be dropping later this spring.

The Chainsmokers tired of regular cheese on their quesadilla. So they dialed up their pal Daya and had her vocals put the finishing touches on their brand new Mexican grilled cheese. They called the quesadilla "Don't Let Me Down." Only problem was that shit crashed before it ever saw the light of day. So they went back to the drawing board, rebuilt it from scratch and came up with something even better than the original. You can catch an excerpt of the final product below:

You want the whole shebang? Click it.

Dutch Party's "Lost Boy" plays out like a magician pulling upbeat pop sounds from his Peter Pan style top hat. I have a hard time believing that anyone can listen to this song and not feel like youth and defying nature are on their side. Everyone I've polled, save for my smart aleck partner in crime, has given this song two tights way up. This is the first teaser from Dutch Party this year. They've got an EP on the way so there is sure to be more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cook: Dark Chocolate Granola Bark

It was early, way earlier than normal, when I pulled out of my apartment complex and got stuck behind a garbage crew. At three different stops I watched the man in charge of collecting the garbage, disembark from the back of the truck, grab a bag of garbage and toss the bag in the compacter. This whole sequence occurred in one fluid motion. At the fourth collection area the man's movements changed. He left the truck and was no longer on cruise control. He seemed focused on something off in the distance. I followed his gaze and saw a man, dressed in running garb, standing between two teenagers. It seemed to be some sort of pre-dawn marriage ceremony. The garbage man came upon the trio and, without hesitation, grabbed the running man and tore off his arms. He then proceeded to decapitate him. 

I've got two thoughts about what I witnessed this morning.  First, I've been watching too much of the new X-Files. Second, this garbage man couldn't have played the role of Emperor Claudius better if he tried. Emperor Claudius is the evil villain in one of the martyrdom stories that are generally associated with the Christian saint Valentinus (for whom Valentine's Day is named). I'm normally not one for celebrating Valentine's Day but after witnessing a guy be decapitated, how can you not feel the love? So, instead of abstaining from my work's Valentine's Party, I decided to do what's right and veganize the f**king thing. My approach? A batch of Dark Chocolate Granola Bark. 

Dark Chocolate Granola Bark

-2 cups vegan chocolate chips
-1 cup granola
-1/2 to 3/4 a cup of dried, tart cherries
-1/4 tsp. of coarse salt

1. Melt the chocolate in a double broiler. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in the granola. Continue until the chocolate and granola are well combined.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scrap the granola/chocolate mixture onto the parchment paper. Smooth the mixture to your desired thickness.

3. Uniformly sprinkle the cherries and salt on top. Press the cherries into the chocolate. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least half an hour. Eat with your favorite Valentine.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Listen: Pumped Up Pop from Chelsea Effect, Satchmode and Shallows

You want to brunch it. Fish and grits ain't in the cards. You're topping yours with kimchi. There's a soundtrack for that:

"As we watched the rising sun, we were youth in ‘21." I can't say with a hundred percent certainty but I'm relatively sure that when Chelsea Effect uttered those words, she had brunch on the mind. More specifically, she had grits and kimchi and brussels floating on the brain. If there were any question, just check out the second verse:

Time cannot erase
All of the beauty
Can't be replaced
And the world will always change
But there's a constant
Our love remains

Yep. totally grits and kimchi. Ahem...excuse me. I've heard that this song was inspired by an imagined conversation between Hadley Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald in 1920’s France. Go away Trebuchet, no one cares what you have to say.

Satchmode normally runs it slow and majestic. Their new track "Don't Give Up On Me" is much faster and more high energy. What stays the same is the themes at the center. "Don't Give Up On Me" is just like its predecessors in that it delves into ideas of regret and pain about a broken relationship. It is a "desperate denial about the state of things."

So Satchmode rolled right into "Summer Sucks" by Shallows and I can't help but think someone dropped the ball. Holy hell is this song fun and exciting and catchy and pretty much everything I love about music. So why wasn't it sent to me? Why did Soundcloud have to make the suggestion? Excuse me while I figure out who I need to fire.

Turns out it was sent to me. My editor just deleted it because he loves summer. He also loves being out of a job. (Editor's Note: Ha, ha. Very funny Tender.)

I'm not kidding.

Cook: Broccoli Grits and Brussels Sprouts With Kimchi

On June 5th of last year Jung Ho Kang, a South Korean baseball player, played third base for the Pittsburgh Pirates as they took on the Atlanta Braves. That night I began having dreams that centered around a fictional South Korean man named Min-jun Choi. Over the next few months Min-jun took me many places. We traveled through remote villages, across mountain tops and underwater. No matter where we went, our evening always ended in the kitchen of a southern style plantation home with the same heavy bottomed pan steaming on the stove. In this scene, Min-jun would toss something into the pan with his left hand, stir it vigorously with his right and then turn towards me mouthing something. I could never make out what he was saying.

A few weeks ago I started playing around with kimchi Brussels sprouts. At first I ate them plain. Then I started playing around with some flavor combinations. It was during this "experimental phase" that I finally realized what Min-jun had been mouthing to me all this time. He had been telling me to fuse a staple of the south, grits, with kimchi.

Well Min-jun, don't mind if I do.

Broccoli Grits and Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi
(printable version)

-5 cups of water
-2 stalks of broccoli, finally chopped
-1 1/3 cups of grits
-1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
-1 Tbs. Olive Oil
-1 tsp. salt
-full recipe of Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi

1. Using a heavy bottomed pan, bring the water to a boil. Add the broccoli and boil for five minutes.

2. Slowly pour in the grits while continuously stirring with a wooden spoon. Return the grits to a bubbling boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover and allow the grits to simmer for about 25 minutes stirring occasionally to keep them from sticking to the pan.

3. Remove the grits from the heat. Pour in the nutritional yeast and stir to combine. Do the same with the olive oil and salt.

4. Spoon one fourth of the grits into a bowl. Top with one fourth of the Brussels Sprouts and Kimchi. Pay homage to Min-jun Choi with a quick game of baduk. Eat it!

Artist's Cookbook: What's Cooking with Meresha?

"i saw you before i met you you were always picking flowers (vegan food from my garbage) you said you could see the world through a magnifying glass"
-"My Love Has Come" by Meresha (creepy garbage digging update by Tender Branson)

Little known fact about me: I didn't become a vegan to help save the animals that were being eaten and abused by the meat industry. I also didn't become a vegan for environmental or health reasons. I became a vegan because I was perusing through some garbage cans looking for free meals and I came across the one belonging to Florida (via Poland, Boston, and the rest of the World) musician Meresha. I tasted some of what she had discarded and I thought hmmm..... if it tastes that good after stagnating and discoloring for days, I can't even imagine how sweet it must be fresh from the oven. So I made the switch to an all vegan diet.

Here we are, years later, and I'm still going strong (as a vegan, not as a dumpster diver in Meresha's garbage). So is Meresha. She is prepping for the official release of her new single "My Love Has Come," a follow up to her highly successful "New Revolution" which charted and spent some time hanging out with the likes of Adele and Bieber. What makes Meresha's new release such a fantastic track is the way she delivers it. "My Love Has Come" is presented as a low key, one-sided conversation between the artist and a memory of her former fancy. The lyrics call on images of light and dreams, growing and burning all those who come too close. Simultaneously they are able to evoke feelings of love, sadness and a faint bit of optimism and wonder. To craft a comparison that a third grader might connect with, the lyrics are like the tiny flicker of a distant star in an otherwise pitch-black night. Meresha pumps and pushes her vocals front and center. She props them up with a bed of tropically influenced storm pop. When lyrics and music and production mold together as one, they seem to inspire images of colors, like a low burning neon sign, with crisp outlines around the edge. In short, "My Love Has Come" is a lonely walk through the darkened streets of the city with only your thoughts and a distant solitary star to keep you company.

What does one cook up with a track such as this? Meresha suggests a double dose: one to represent the songs dark side and one to connect with its low burning neon heat. First, bring the dark with her chocolatey vegan brownies. When you are through with them, bring the neon heat with her vegan fruit and veggie curry. You could always reverse course as well, but eating dessert first keeps the slow burn in focus for a much longer period of time.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Click (Food): PETA Gets Sexy, Veggans Get A Name, National Hog Farmers Blog Gets Sour and Austin Possibly Gets a Vegan Milk Shake Truck

PETA gets sexy, veggans try to gain footing in the world of classifications, the National Hog Farmers blog has no sense of humor and Raw Matcha Brownies are just some of the many things that caught my eye this month. Here are some other things: 

  • Whoa boy. If you thought television execs got their panties in a wad because of Janet Jackson's nip slip during the Super Bowl halftime show, imagine how far those things would be riding up their ass if PETA was able to show their new ad. Be thankful, chicken wing eater guy, that this video won't show. Otherwise your wife/girlfriend might be seeking out someone new during the second half.
  • As if "vegetarians" who eat fish, lacto-ovo, pollo-vegetarians, flexitarians, freegans, and cannibal-vegetarians weren't enough of a cluster**** we've now got a new classification in town. Veggans and their veganism with eggs designation are tearing up Instagram to the point that Yahoo felt the need to write about it.
  • Seriously Austin, you can go (insert disgusting sexual reference here). You have a vegan taco trailer, vegan yacht, vegan bbq, vegan banana stand and vegan brunch truck roaming your streets. Why do you need a possible vegan milk shake truck? Can't we get some of that love here in Florida? 
  • A Swiss vegan is declared unfit for military service because he refuses to wear any leather. The weird thing is, and I know it is Switzerland a country that doesn't really poke their noses into other people's affairs, this dude is cool with not killing animals but okay with offing humans?

  • Vegan petroleum jelly is now available. It is made of "avocado and other types of fruit and vegetable oil that is converted into jelly." My calloused nipples thank you Keys. 
  • Minnesota's vegan butcher shop, the first in the US, saw its grand opening last week. The National Hog Farmer Blog was not amused. 

Gluten-Free Thin Mint Cookies by Where You Get Your Protein?

When that little Girl Scout Approached me and asked me to buy some cookies I took her ordering form and looked for the most vegan friendly cookie there was. Turns out Thin Mints are now vegan. So why would anyone want to go to the trouble of making their own when they can just find some cute little girl scout to order from? I can only think of two reasons to make your own. One, the Girl Scout version is expensive as f***. Two, you need a gluten free take on it. Where You Get Your Protein's version takes care of, at the very least, the latter of these reasons. 

Smoky Vegan Macaroni and Cheese by Blissful Basil

I once put smoked paprika on a piece of chewing gum covered in cat fur. That is the only time that smoked paprika has ever failed to create something fabulous. Seeing Ashley over at Blissful Basil include it in her macaroni and cheese dish makes me feel all warm and gooey inside.

Oven Fried Popcorn Cauliflower Bites from Let's Be Vegan

I've never eaten at Red Lobster or Long John Silvers or any other place that serves popcorn shrimp so I have no history with the dish. My imagination tells me that little popcorn morsels probably taste like Baltimore. I'll finally get my answer when I try these out next weekend during the Super Bowl.

Raw Matcha Brownies from Becoming Ness

These brownies look exactly like the ones my mom used to make (except they don't come from a box, have green on top, include matcha, aren't baked, include dates and cacao, are sweetened by rice malt and include nuts). Other than those few differences, I could be sitting on my mom's lap downing a plate of these. 

Click (Music): Shoegrunge Quesadillas, the Heterosexual Female Gaze, Living Forever and Rationale

"Something for Nothing" by Rationale

I watched one of my best friends ever, constantly play the fallback option. The guy she was interested in always had other girls to entertain him. But when he really needed someone to talk to it wasn't those girls that he selected, it was my friend. Unfortunately, as much as I urged her to move on, she never was able to. She finally won the guy, after she passed. In "Something for Nothing" Rationale addresses, in the soulful way that only he can, those people who take but don't give, the ones who want something for nothing.

"Melt" by Pretty City

What do you get when you cross the Jesus and Mary Chain with a quesadilla?

Pretty City's "Melt."

Second place points to those of you that said Napoleon Dynamite with a pocket full of psychocandy.

"False Names" by John Joseph Brill

I have to admit that when I first read the email that accompanied John Joseph Brill's new release “"False Names" I very nearly deleted it. There is something about musicians with three names that turns me off. I think it is because they don't make good music. I can't think of one three named artist that I really liked. On top of that, John and Joseph are pretty normal names. This is also a huge strike because I find people with normal names don't usually do it for me. For some reason, I gave John Joseph a chance and I'll have to admit that I am really glad I did. It is his warm baritone, the lines "We'll go spinning through the neon, winning new friends" and John Joseph's description of the track that won me over. About "False Names" he says "it's a song about a best mate, a tremendous, beautiful, flawed best mate who I wouldn't change for the world and how a mate like that can take you rampaging around a town and make all the darkness and nonsense disappear.”"

"Nobody Lives Forever" by Ula Ruth

When J-Fur hired a chorus of little kids to tell me that I was going to die someday, I found it quite terrifying. What does she mean "someday"? Is she planning something? I couldn't sleep for days. When Ula Ruth does pretty much the same thing (minus the cute little kids) in "Nobody Lives Forever" I find it quite the opposite. "Nobody Lives Forever" is uplifting in a go-ahead-and-eat-three-vegan-cookies-instead-of-two type of way. Don't worry so much about the day-to-day, the end result is still the same. Maybe I wouldn't find the song quite so uplifting if I was in the habit of closing my eyes next to the Ula Ruth band members.

"Baby Boy" by Lincoln Jesser (featuring Yuna)

Ever wonder what happens when you don't take a chance? You inspire a song like "Baby Boy" by Lincoln Jesser which features the fabulous vocals of Yuna. Wasting your days never felt so right.


"I Don't Care" by LANY (Flor Remix)

Flor gave LANY’s “I Don’t Care” the remix treatment. They put in an up-tempo bass line which gives the remix a simultaneously youthful and mature feel. The remix also showcases the vocals of Lany's frontman Paul.


"The Last Thing on My Mind" by The Joy Formidable

Tired of all the breasts, asses and vaginas that music videos have been shoveling before your eyes? No...well, um, this video probably isn't for you then. But if you are someone who wants to see the tables turned, check out the video for "The Last Thing on My Mind" by the Joy Formidable. Since the song is about freedom, feeling alive and sexual liberation, the band wanted to create a video that sees things from the perspective of a heterosexual female gaze. It is their small attempt at rebalancing the nudity imbalance that exists in music videos. The only weird thing about this whole situation is that all the penises in "The Last Thing on My Mind" are blurred out. I'm not sure that happens in a video where a female is the main character.

"Freak Like a Model" by Uncle Meg

Skeletons swinging golf clubs, eating crackers, reading the newspaper, playing with Barbies, finely slicing up cigarettes for dinner and breaking umbrellas. I don't know whether to laugh or be completely scared by this video.

"True Confessions" by Blondfire

Some music videos add big storylines to help prop them up. "True Confessions" is not one of those. It is a simplistic look at the band members thru a black and white lens. That isn't to say there aren't some moments of production because there are, just that those can be counted on less than two hands. By my tallies there were a few slow motion shots, a split screen or two and some wind blowing through Erica's hair.

Get All of 2016's Click Tracks (when available) in One Spotify Playlist: