Automatic for the People turned 25 last year. The reissue box set sounds great, and reveals how timeless this work is. My children can’t help but react to each song—my daughter’s flailing during Monty Got a Raw Deal is actually a pretty good Stipe impression, and she’s never seen him do it. The famous 40 Watt show from November ‘92 is included, and even though I’ve heard it countless times, this is the first professional mix of it, and it matters. At the time this album came out, I had some ambivalence about it, even though R.E.M. remained my favorite band. With time, I’ve come to embrace those elements I initially couldn’t make sense of or judged as too weak or simple. Its themes of mortality and nostalgia only resonate stronger as life goes on. The year this album came out, Sgt. Pepper’s was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and here we are 25 years later. This fact almost serves as a bonus track. And is there any better two-song closer on any album ever? I’m not sure there is. “The river to the ocean goes, a fortune for the undertow.”
Goodbye, 2017… and hello, 2018!
What happened to 2017? It seemed to go by so fast. It was definitely a year for a lot of personal events in my life, both positive and negative, but throughout the year, I managed to squeeze in some Mystics Anonymous music-making. Check it out:
In January, Mystics released the experimental track “De-Tunia, Pts. 1 & 2” featuring yours truly and fellow Mystic Steve Koziol – you can hear it here:
In March, Mystics played as a five-piece (Patrick Garland, Andrew Goulet, Brian Marchese, Matt Silberstein, and myself) at Sierra Grille in Northampton, MA, along with the bands Nanny and Endless Mike. You can watch a few of the songs from that night—“(I Want to Be A) Mathematical Rarity” and “Maudlin, You Liar,” to be exact—right here:
In May, Mystics showed up to play the Harry Nilsson tribute at The Rendezvous, this time as a three-piece (Drew Hutchison, Matt Silberstein, and myself), along with several other wonderful local artists. Truly a night of great music, and we contributed two songs: All I Think About Is You and the classic Coconut, which morphed into Tomorrow Never Knows before ending.
In July, Mystics played Luthier’s Co-op, along with the bands Tawdry and The Salvation Alley String Band. That night, we played as a four-piece (Andrew Goulet, Brian Marchese, Matt Silberstein, and myself). You can hear “Sinner’s Lament” from that night right here:
In December, Mystics played above John Doe, Jr. Records in Greenfield, MA, in a lovely, intimate room dubbed Jane Doe, Jr., along with Bob Fay, Lauri McNamara, and Wednesday Knudsen. That night, Mystics was a duo featuring Steve Koziol and myself. You can hear our first three songs, including a cover of “The Spy” by The Doors, right here:
Also in December, Mystics released our annual digital holiday single—this year’s selection was the classic R&B track “Christmas Comes But Once a Year,” recorded in one snowy afternoon over at Rick Murnane’s cozy Makeshift Sound studio. Rick and I had a lot of fun playing ukuleles, guitars, keyboards, and hand percussion to make a homey, lo-fi version of this lovable track (and I may have added a few new lyrics as well). You can listen to that track, as well as download it for free, right here:
Definitely a fun 2017. And Mystics already has plans to poke our heads out in 2018 as well. Until then, make merry and have a Happy New Year!
“Is the water warm enough?”
“Shall we begin?”
Too many thoughts about Prince’s untimely death, and I’m not sure mine would really add anything to what people have been saying. From first discovery with 1999, to the huge hit of Purple Rain (I still have my original vinyl copy), to his influence on my own writing (especially in the Go Figure years). Also, like Zappa, he was a talented studio auteur–highly idiosyncratic. You could always tell his music by the production. I think of him, along with a handful of others, every time I set foot in my studio. And finally–When Doves Cry is a great pop song with NO bass track. No bass! Love the open-mindedness and willingness to follow his instincts.
He left us a lot of good music. He also left us Batdance. But that’s OK. Let’s all continue enjoying Prince.