Album Review: The Drums – Encyclopedia

30 Sep

The Drums released their third album this week in spite of two years on the rocks.

the-drums-encyclopediaThe album art, which features vocalist Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham (guitar) seated next to an empty cushion on a long, crimson couch. The suggested vacancy highlights the departure of their third founding member, Connor Hanwick. Drummer Hanwick left the group after it finished its Portamento tour in 2012, and its affect on songwriter Pierce can be heard in Encyclopedia‘s every track.

There is indeed something magical about Encyclopedia‘s first track, “Magic Mountain,” but it is probably the level of discordance achieved by the band’s normally harmonious sound.

Pierce’s songwriting often yields plentiful reverb, bouncy time signatures, synthesized whistles and the amount of percussion that warrants the group’s title, but never have his lyrics bared such suicidal thoughts and emotions.

Track 3, “I Hope Time Doesn’t Change Him,” begins with “I never thought I’d want to die, but I was looking for a gun.” The alarming depression sojourns for the second half of Encyclopedia, in which Pierce’s voice sings of letting hope die and begs the listener not to leave him to die alone.

In a 2010 interview with Vulture, Pierce mentioned, “I need to be able to stay away from the idea of committing suicide, and I think if I start trying to please people around me it’ll start heading that way.”

“Face of God” is a defiant track – main man Pierce vocally flips a post-punk finger to God while channeling Joy Division.

Side Note: I can’t remember where I read, before Encyclopedia‘s release, that Pierce discussed he intended to “stay truer to the band.” With that in mind, there is a noticeable shift from sexually ambiguous love songs to those openly geared toward Pierce’s same sex loves – a lyrical transition in serenade of “you” to “him.”

Encyclopedia maintains the cohesive fluidity of the band’s past two albums, but makes clear the most beautiful writing sometimes comes from the darkest places.


A Layman’s Guide to Wine

23 Sep

“A wineman’s guide to lay? No. A guideman’s drunk to wine? Nope. Time to close my tab.”

photo 3

This tutorial is for foodies who enjoy the consumption of fermented grapes but wouldn’t know how to choose a respectable wine or pair the selection with its respective food.

My wine world was black and white – or, should I say,  red and white – before I became a bartender. I could only tell some were dark and others light, some saccharine and others tart, and I didn’t know the lexicon to explain the subtle differences.

Here is your cheat sheet for the next time you want to host a party that requires a more sophisticated vibe than would be channeled by Natty Ice in a punch bowl (I once experienced this at a frat party).

WineFolly does a great job of explaining wine in chart form (and pretty much everything else I am about to tell you), but I will zoom in and explain each part to you. It’s easy to think you know what you’re doing until the chart is gone and someone asks you how you know your friend might have a Pinot Noir in her hand.


The pigment and opacity of wine tells the onlooker about its density, age, acidity and the kind of grapes used.

  • The denser the wine, the darker the color.
  • The older the wine, the darker hue it will be.
  • The more acid in the wine, it will be lighter in color.
  • The more opaque, the younger the wine.
  • The more dry your moth feels after a sip, the more tannin.

Now what about these words you hear all the time but don’t know what they mean in wine jargon?

Acidity – A certain sting on the tongue. The longer a wine sits, the less acidic it becomes because fruit naturally breaks down into sugar when it ferments.

Ester – Aroma, scent.

Oak – Wine is aged in oak barrels, which leave their flavors as the wine sits. The flavor depends on the origin and composition of the oak.

Tannin – A naturally occurring chemical, usually in wood, grape seeds and stems, that adds bitterness to wine..

Body – The strength of the wine’s taste in your mouth. For example, wines with higher alcohol levels are usually full-bodied.

Malolactic Fermentation – An  extra round of fermentation that uses bacteria to remove malic acid in the wine, which makes it dense, and replace it with lactic acid. This process makes wine smooth on the tongue.

photo 1White

  • The clearer or greener hue, the grassier or earthier the wine will taste.
  • The gold or copper hue gives a fruitier taste.
  • The more butter or vanilla, it has most likely been aged in oak.
  • Citrus fruits like mango pineapple are used.


  • The more smoke, mocha or caramel, the more oak.
  • The more mint, lavender or cinnamon, the more herbs or flowers were used.
  • Berries are usually used.
  • Has more tannin than white wine.

Pairing with Food

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The most important thing I learned about wine and food pairings is, the heavier the food, the heavier the wine. My boss, a wine salesman from Spain named Julio, told me:

*read in Spanish accent*

“If you’re drinking wine with your food, you have to showcase the wine.”

He means that the beverage should always be slightly more bolder than your steak, sweeter than your cupcake, more tart than your smelly cheese, and lighter than your broccoli.

wine food pairings

Toodles for now, and I hope this helped.

sio sig

Album Review: Jhené Aiko – Souled Out

10 Sep

Jhené Aiko released her debut album Souled Out yesterday, in succession of her 2013 Sailing Out EP and her 2011 mixtape Sailing Soul. Musically, this new record maintains the trippy, ethereal vibe of her previous releases but, this time, leaves the listener with optimistic hints of resurrection – an element highlighted by the album art, perhaps?

Many of Aiko’s lyrics read like unsent letters to a scorned lover. Listeners going through a breakup or reflecting on past relationships will most likely find solidarity in Aiko’s words.

It is obvious the minor key, guitar echoes and slow drum loops work well for Aiko’s airy voice and effortless trills, as this is the framework for nearly the whole album. The first song “Limbo Limbo Limbo” picks up the vocal tonality left to us with “3:16 AM,” but the synthesized piano and suspenseful guitar give us a sense that the mood is building.

The standout songs like Promise, which features her daughter Namiko, and Eternal Sunshine, inspired by the 2004 film starring Jim Carey and Kate Winslet, make the album’s meager happiness that much sweeter.


About the artist:

Aiko is signed with 30-year-old Def Jam Records, home to artists Iggy Azalea, Frank Ocean and Afro Jack, under NO I.D.’s Atrium label, which she represents with Common (featured on her newest album), Vincent Staples and Elijah Blake.

jhene aiko tour schedule

Despite her mixed Japanese, African American, Hispanic and German ethnic background, which compose her striking appearance, Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo is a Los Angeles native. She is the younger of two sisters who were in the ’90s R&B group Gyrl, according to Billboard.

In 2011, she opened for Nas and Lauryn Hill, Billboard wrote. But Aiko, 26, has yet to book her own tour, so fans looking a live experience will have to catch her alongside headliners like The Weeknd.

The Skinny on the Skinny Arm

17 Jul

You’re out with two girl friends and someone is holding up her smartphone with their photo-happy thumb ready to snap a pic. Your friend group quickly panics and assembles into a line facing the camera, you in the middle. Pop goes the elbow and your buddies on either side deploy the “skinny arm” like book ends.

There’s even a Tumblr page devoted to it. If you haven’t posed with the skinny arm, you’ve probably  committed one of these 12 others.

Why do people do it?

While Urban Dictionary is not the most legitimate lexicon, it does a terrific job of highlighting trends:

“A pose that the modern woman assumes in photographs to diminish the abundance of flab on her inner arm.”

To me, it means a term is significant enough to have an unofficial slang about which the public knows.

It is upsetting to see girls and women of all ages, even some men, striking this pose because of what I’m going to suggest is a common obsession with body image and probable low self-esteem.

Yes, the Center for Disease Control says that more than a third of adults are obese. But I’m going to go out on a whim and say that many perpetrators of the skinny arm are not obese. While I’m sure people have been able to bend their arms since the beginning of time, I suspect the pose arose due to social media’s perpetuation of unrealistic ideals of female perfection. View these step by step directions on how to “Look Thin in Photos.” The skinny arm no doubt makes an appearance.

If the skinniest on-camera pose was mid-cartwheel, we’d all be upside down in our Facebook profile pictures.

Despite the image of yourself you project on Facebook, you’ll still be unhappy that you can’t make your flabby arm disappear in real life.

I’m not sure what bothers me more- the fact that girls use the skinny arm, or the fact that everyone seems to be doing it in every photo always, all the time, forever. Have some originality, dammit. And if you think men haven’t noticed, this hilarious blog post will show you they have.

Positive body image doesn’t grow over night. So while you work on that (or choose to continue your starve/workout/binge perpetuation) here are some tasteful alternatives to the trite skinny arm that will  spice up your Facebook photos and stop annoying me.


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A quick post about my visit to The Cloisters:

16 Jul

I am no expert in medieval art or faux-medieval architecture, but some of these exhibits are just objectively amazing. Here are some instagram gems from @siosays:

In my humble opinion, two additional highlights include:

The Rosary Bead from South Netherlands, early 16th century, which opens up to display several well-known scenes from the bible – Adam and Eve, the Adoration of the Kings, etc – carved into a boxwood rosary bead smaller than the palm of your hand.

Harry Potter’s snitch circa Deathly Hallows came to mind:

The Gardens. Great for meditation, reflection and cloud-watching.


Purple and Gold Graduation Cake Recipe

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