The Most Heartbreaking Album Ever Recorded | Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours”

Music News, Opinion

It’s the eve before Valentine’s Day, and having been single for a few years, this time of year always draws me to songs about headache or longing. A few years ago, I was gifted a few, remastered, audiophile vinyl records from the Capitol Records vault. One of those albums was Frank Sinatra’s album “In The Wee Small Hours”.

Typhoon | El Rey Theatre | 3/6/14



There’s so much music out in the world today, it gets a bit hard, even with Spotify, or other similar streaming services, to find music that really speaks to you. I’ve always believed in the notion that the music finds you, and sometimes when it finds you, it leaves a lasting impression that can stick with you for the rest of your life.

In September of 2013, a buddy from college posted this status update to his Facebook wall:

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 10.25.59 PMI’d never heard of the band, so I stared Googling a bit to see what got my buddy all excited to post something other than pictures of his beautiful family on Facebook. I found some videos on Youtube, and started streaming tracks, all while reading some articles and interviews that I found about the band.

The music was quite impressive. I loved the lush orchestral sound and the musicality of the players on the tracks, the complex arrangements, and dour lyrical content of each composition that I heard. Even when belting out the melody, I could hear a subtle vulnerability in the lead vocalist’s voice that gave the music way more personality than the pop dribble that you hear on terrestrial radio today.

I pulled up an article from Paste Magazine’s websiteand I learned that Kyle Morton, the founder and lead singer of the band, suffered through multiple organ failures as a child caused by a serious case of Lyme. Apparently, he used those near-fatal, life experiences as a basis for the music written for Typhoon’s latest release, “White Lighter”.  That’s not to say, however, that the music is dreary in any way. In fact, the music off of  “White Lighter”, even with its heavy lyrics, is lively, boisterous and anthem-ic. An excellent, in-depth, review of “White Lighter” can be found on MuzikDizcovery’s website which, in my opinion, accurately states that the album has “two big dynamics at play […]: the first a reflection on death, typical for Typhoon; the second, a bit newer for the band, what 20th century philosopher Victor Frankl would have called a “tragic optimism” in the face of mortality,” and concludes that “White Lighter is that rarest of albums, an entire lifetime captured in music”.

Doing a little more research on what the MuzikDizcovery article mentioned, I looked up Viktor Frankl and his thoughts on “Tragic Optimism”.  I found a quote from Mr. Frankl that seemed to succintly sum up his general thoughts on the topic:

“In brief it means that one is, and remains, optimistic in spite of the “tragic triad” […] which consists of those aspects of human existence which may be circumscribed by: (1) pain; (2) guilt; and (3) death.  This chapter, in fact, raises the question, How is it possible to say yes to life in spite of all that?  […] After all, “saying yes to life in spite of everything,” […] presupposes that life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable.  And this in turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive.  [W]hat matters is to make the best of any given situation.  [T]ragic optimism […] is an optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which at its best always allows for:  (1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action,”

I was drawn to Kyle’s music because the more I knew about what the music was about, the more it felt like I was being told a personal story through music. With kids today seemingly leaning more towards the EDM and dance scenes, we have to remind ourselves that lyrics matters. Understanding lyrics matter. Understanding why those lyrics were written matter. Once you have an idea of why, or what inspired, an artist to write a song, there’s so much more enjoyment that you can get out of it. After all, did you know that “Hey Jude” by the Beatles evolved from “Hey Jules”, a song McCartney wrote to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, during his parents’ divorce? Gives the song a bit more depth, doesn’t it?

I kept looking up video clips of the band, and discovered why their sound was so full: there can be anywhere between 10 – 14 band members onstage to performing at any time. From violins and guitars, to trumpets and horns … the size of the band was enough to get me excited to look up their tour schedule to see if they would be playing in the area. As fate would have it, they had scheduled a gig at the El Rey, and I immediately purchased a ticket.

Comfortably fitting 11 players on the El Rey stage, the band’s performance was everything that I anticipated. Like the band before them, you could feel the camaraderie between the players in the band, and like a well-oiled machine, they played the music from the recordings to a tee, if not better. The sound was lush and grand, the lyrics personal and longing; it was a musical contrast that exhibited the superb live musicianship that proved that the ticket was worth the price of admission.

Going back to knowing the meaning and lyrics of music, before the set, I got into a little conversation with a couple standing next to me. I brought up the meaning behind the band’s latest album. Half way through, they thanked me as I’m guessing that my little music tidbit may have actually enhanced the concert experience for them.

Personally speaking, I was particularly moved when Kyle sang the lyrics, “Cry, pining for the things that I could have been […] I could have been a gold digger, I could have been a fun slinger, I could have been a little bigger, I could have been an old ringer” from “Hunger and Thirst” and “Now I’m as old as you were when you had me, should I be afraid? Should I start a family” from “Young Fathers.” Something in the lyrics of those two moments made it difficult for me to breath.

A few lighthearted moments came towards the end of the set when the band covered “With a Little Help From My Friends” and right after the band came back on stage for the encore when Kyle told the audience that, “I had a little Spinal Tap moment back there. There are a lot of curtains here,” alluding to the scene in Spinal Tap where the band gets lost backstage.

After the band had finished their set, and the crowd had dispersed to head home, I hung out for a little bit to see if I could catch Kyle for a moment to ask him about music, and also to have him autograph the LPs I had tucked in my backpack. He was gracious enough to do so, and was very appreciative that I had purchased his vinyl records. I told him that I had been following a lot of good  bands from Portland. He acknowledged knowing of a couple of the bands I listed, and he went on to suggest that I check out a couple others named Genders and Wild Ones (I think his girlfriend plays in this band).

As soon as I let Kyle go, and as I am walking away from the theatre to my car, I receive a call from my mother. Calls from your parents, past midnight? Never a good thing. As it turned out, my father had a minor heart attack and was en route to the hospital. My heart skipped a beat. I ran to my car, and drove at reckless speeds to be at my dad’s bedside in the ICU.

The whole drive down to the hospital, my mind was racing with thoughts of mortality. The lyrics that had moved me during the set, came back into my head during the silent drive south. New lyrics also started to penetrate, as I started to think about the line “When am I gonna feel better” from “Common Sentiments”.

As it turns out, the minor heart attack that my dad had was the sign we needed to reveal that my dad needed to have quadruple bypass surgery. The surgery was successful, and I’m currently aiding my father in the long road back to regaining his health. Since the operation, I’ve been playing the tragic optimist, doing what I can to make life better for both my father, and myself.

Upon retrospect, I feel like that my discovery of Typhoon’s music, and the act of going to see them live, was destined to be. It all happened when I needed something tell me that if you seek it out, you can find optimism in tragedy.  Sometimes, the music finds you. Sometimes, the music becomes so intertwined with your life, it takes on new meanings and significance. These days, every other night, I’m drawn to pull the “White Lighter” disc out of its pristine sleeve, and I’ll let it play me to sleep, finding it again each time.

Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos. If the slide show below isn’t working, the Flickr has disabled their embed option for WordPress and hasn’t yet updated their HTML code, which totally BLOWS! If you can see the slide show below, hooray!

Snoop Lion | “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks” Featuring Miley Cyrus | Mourning Loss


artworks-000044590731-obuy2g-t500x500It’s been quite a surreal day for me.  Yesterday, I took my dog, Samson, to the vet as I noticed he was bleeding from his mouth. The vets noticed a growth on his tongue and diagnosed an Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Cancer. My heart broke. The vets told me that it looked bad and that I should consider getting additional tests and prep him for surgery to at least remove a portion of the growth.

I took Samson back to the vet this morning and signed the papers to have the vets do what they thought needed to be done. At around noon, I get online to check my social media platforms, and notice that a song I’ve been working, “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks” by Snoop Lion featuring Miley Cyrus on was making the rounds on Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, etc. Yes.  I work for Snoop.

The song seemed to be getting a good reaction from the interwebs, so my day was picking up.

About an hour later, the vet called me. It turns out the the growth in Samson’s mouth was actually larger than the initial observations. It was down his throat and most likely had already spread throughout my pups chest area. Then the vet broke my heart again when she recommended euthanasia. The vet considered the odds of Samson living pain-free for the next few weeks as close to nil. I lost my shit.

I’ve had family members pass away.  It’s not like I haven’t experienced heartache before. But it just seemed a little different this time around.

I remember going to the pound November of 1999 with my then girlfriend looking to adopt a dog. There was a litter of about a dozen chow-mixed pups in a cage and though each one was tumbling over each other to get our attention,  I noticed one pup sitting in the corner, looking at me with his beautifully, sad eyes.  I immediately pointed him out to the proprietor of the pound and adopted him on the spot. I find out after having adopted him, that the rest of the litter was going to euthanized the coming weekend.

I have to thank girl I was dating then for raising Samson right.  She had grown up with dogs of her own, so she was excellent at potty training Samson and teaching him how to be obedient. Really though, Sammy’s always been a mellow pup. I think anybody who has ever had the pleasure of meeting him fell in love with his demeanor, and I’m sure she’s partly responsible for how awesome Samson is.

It’s been 13 years with Samson. As cliche as it sounds, he’s always been there for me. Even when he was living with my parents while I was in law school, he’d always be waiting at the gate to my parent’s back yard each weekend when I came to stay with the folks. He was always there to console me when I had bad news that I didn’t necessarily want to share with my friends. He’s warded off animals attacking me.  He’s helped me meet cute girls. He’s just always been there.  And now, I’m torn with the thought that I’ll have to make a decision about euthanizing him soon.

13 has always been my lucky number.  I was born on the 13th. Friday the 13ths always seem to be good to me. I feel like I should resent the number now since it’s become the number of years I’ve been able to have Samson at my side.

I’ll have a few days to figure this all out. I’m hoping that Samson beats whatever odds are against him, and I’m still trying to hope for the best. I’ve never had to make this kind of decision before and it’s really making me lose it, and though I just wish I could write about how great Snoop’s newest song is, which it definitely is, I felt the need to editorialize this post with what’s happened to me today. Life is trying to tell me something, and I hope I get to figure it out sooner rather than later.

For everybody that’s ever met Samson, please say a few doggy prayers for him.

[Verse 1: Snoop Lion]

Tonight there’s gonna be a whole lot of smoke in the air
Blow it hard for the ones who ain’t here
Seems like every day we putting one six feet underground
So bless
What goes up must come down

[Hook: Miley Cyrus]
Now my buzz is gone, I need to re-up on reality
Can’t let me see them me weak I need to pause on it
Is there any possibility that everyone feels like me
Ashtrays and hearbreaks
I lost some, let’s toast one
So put ’em high, and tell ’em this
You gonna aim, but you never missed
Ashtrays and heartbreaks
I lost some, let’s toast one
So raise a glass to the memories
Set ’em free and fill up all those ashtrays
I’m gonna fill up all those ashtrays

[Verse 2: Snoop Lion]
Tomorrow when you wake up and realise life ain’t fair
Throw it back and make the whole world disappear
You never miss what you had, until it’s gone
When it’s right, something will always go wrong

[Hook] x2

UPDATE: My dog, Samson, passed away April 18, 2013.  May his beautiful soul rest in peace.


You can purchase the single on iTunes by clicking through this link:

Laura Mvula | “That’s Alright” (Video and Lyrics)



2013 may very well be a GREAT year for new female vocalists.  I’ve already been smitten by Nai Palm, the lead singer of Hiatus Kaiyote … and now Laura Mvula is looking to squeeze her way into my heart as well.

My interest in Laura Mvula had already been stirring and I’ve posted short blog entries about her songs “Jump Right Out” and “She”, but she just release a new video for her latest single “That’s Alright” and it’s blowing me away. It heavy on rhythms and chants and really comes out punching.  Definitely contrasting to her more delicate fair that I’ve grown accustomed to.  With her rich alto tone, and jazz/soul/gospel sensibilities, she sings out rebelling against an unknown antagonist, proclaiming her autonomy and self worth and chastising him/her with a chorus of “Who made you the center of the universe”.

Her first major label album, “Sing to the Moon”, was released March 4, 2013 abroad, but the CD, LP and digital downloads don’t seem to be available yet in the U.S.  RCA needs to get on the stat. And if it’s never going to be released in the states, I may very well have to spend the extra cash to purchase imports…

For your listening pleasure, Laura Mvula’s “That’s Alright”:

I will never be what you want and that’s alright,
Cause my skin ain’t light and my body ain’t tight.
And that’s alright.
But if I might, I must stand and fight.

I will never be what you want and that’s alright,
I play my own damn tune, I shine like the moon.
And very soon, I’ll soon fly over you.
And what you gonna do when I fly over you?

Tell me who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?

And every morning when I wake up I pray for you
And then I pray for me that soon you’ll see
How love can be, our love will set you free.
And what it’s gonna be, I see the beauty in your eyes.

Tell me who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?

I will never be what you want and that’s alright,
Cause my skin ain’t light and my body ain’t tight.
I will never be what you want and that’s alright,
Cause my skin ain’t light and that’s alright.

Tell me who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?
Who made you the center of the universe?

Snoop Lion (Snoop Dogg) | “No Guns Allowed” | The Lion Assembles an All Star Team To Create Message About Gun Violence



On March 20, 2013, Snoop released a powerful new single titled “No Guns Allowed”; a song that reflects about his past ownership of guns and guns in America today.

The Boss Dogg (or these days, the Boss Lion) has a storied relationship with firearms. Whether it was when the home of his family was raided while he wife and children were present, or whether it was friends or family falling by an intended or stray bullet, the recent mass shootings seems to have inspired him to shed his gangster image, thus his evolution to the Lion from the Dog.

Quoting his recent interview with Piers Morgan:

“It affected me to where I wanted to say something and I wanted to make some music to try to help the next person who was thinking about loading a gun, going into a school and then shooting and maybe helping him put that gun down and think about what he was doing or what she was doing before they did that.”

The Lion has assemble amazing musicians to contribute to this recording.  The track was produced by Diplo and Ariel Rechtshaid with additional production from Dre SkullBeirut’s founder, Zachary Condon, inspired the keyboard chord progression. The song was co-written by Angela Hunte, and Drake and Snoop’s daughter, Cori B, are featured vocalists. Oh, and Stewart Copeland play drums on the track too.  Talk about a power ensemble.

The laid back reggae flow contrasts with the song’s strong social commentary, adding to the sense of how Snoop is simply worn and weary from the years of gun violence.  By using his daughter as a featured artist, it also shows that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with for both the present and future.

The lyrics are poignant and moving. Snoop introduces the song with, “Money makes a man, and that’s a crime. If we all were rich, we’d spend more time with our daughters and sons, they’re losing their minds. We all feel hurt, here’s mine… No Guns Allowed.”

Drake’s lyrics are especially poignant as he raps about one of the most deadly shootings in the city of Scarborough, Canada.  Truly speaking from the heart.

A strong message embedded in a powerful song.  Let’s hope the world listens.


Money makes a man, and that’s a crime
If we all were rich, we’d spend more time
With our daughters and sons, they’re losing their minds
We all feel hurt, here’s mine… hear me now

No guns are allowed in here tonight
We’re gonna have a free for all, no fight
I wanna get lost in the crowd in here tonight
I need to hear my thoughts, turn the music up loud

[Verse 1: Snoop Dogg]
Let the music play, me no want no more gunplay
When the bodies hit the ground, there’s nothing left to say
We don’t want to see more innocent blood shed
We don’t want to more youth dead (come hear me now)


[Verse 2: Drake]
News from back home, it’s when it hurts to be gone
Two more young names to be carved out of stone
One summer day that went horribly wrong
Got my dog on the phone, cryin’ and sayin’ to leave ‘em alone
But I’m not leaving his side, I know that somebody died
Somebody’s child, some people duck down and some hide
Some people just cannot react in time
Bullets do not choose a victim, it’s the shooter that picks ‘em
They just can’t wait to get you in the system
The district attorney could use a conviction
Told you no guns in there, you didn’t listen
Life is so heavy with that on your soul
Dedicate this to Shyanne and Josh
And pour something out for the lives that they stole – 416…


Money makes a man, and that’s a crime
Money makes a man, and that’s a crime
I wanna get lost in the crowd in here tonight