Well I Walked Out Onto the Jetty

After yesterday’s success with the Snail Kite, I had high hopes for the morning’s birding at Huntington Beach State Park, possibly my favorite birding location in the world. Both the quantity as well as the quality of birds that can be found at Huntington Beach are incredible, and I’ve never had a bad visit.

Which I suppose means that it was about time for one, and that’s just about what happened. This morning’s visit was a bit of a disappointment. I only got one life bird, a Wilson’s Plover on the beach at the south end of the jetty rockpile. That’s a great bird, one I’ve been seeking for a while, but usually I pick up many more new birds than that. Perhaps I’m just exhausting the park’s possibilities or something. It’s just that the last time I visited, I picked up Least Bittern, Piping Plover, and Common Ground-Dove, three absolutely fantastic birds that only Huntington Beach could have offered me, and today was just a disappointment in comparison.

Still though, a bad day at Huntington Beach is still better than the vast majority of birding walks I go on. The same beach where I found the Wilson’s Plover was also home to Ruddy Turnstones in breeding plumage, American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmers, a feeding Osprey, and a Least Tern nesting colony. The causeway was filled with Semipalmated Sandpipers, a few Greater Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilts, and various herons and egrets flying around, as well as a few American Alligators to make things even more exciting.

And that was just about it. Sandpiper Pond was completely silent. I couldn’t rustle up any Painted Buntings anywhere in the park. The only birds on the walk to the jetty were Sanderlings. I really shouldn’t be disappointed, as it really was a great day by my usual standards, but I guess I’ve just come to expect more from Huntington Beach. Regardless, I will be back for sure.

This whole trip was made possible by ten hours total of solo driving, but that driving was made possible by the fact that I put together an mp3 cd to keep me sane on the road. In all, I fit seven albums onto one disc, and I really got to know those albums pretty well, if I didn’t already.

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
I’m beginning to believe that I actually like this album more than any of the proper Beatles albums. Isn’t that amazing? I’m not even a huge fan of George’s output with the Beatles; Here Comes The Sun is probably his only composition that would make my best-of mix. Yet somehow, he was capable of crafting a double album that is completely unmatched in terms of consistent quality over its length. Starostin complained about the Apple Jam on the final third, but I actually really dig that stuff, it makes for great driving music. I guess Starostin just doesn’t know anything about driving now would he lol. Guy needs to update his site bigtime, by the way. But really, the only possible complaint I can think of it is that Phil Spector’s production is actually the real winner here, and lifts some relatively mediocre Harrison tunes into the transcendent realm. I sometimes start thinking that the album should be credited to both Harrison and Spector instead of just Harrison, as I think Spector’s production plays a completely crucial role in crafting the sound of this album, more so than the production on the vast majority of albums out there. Nevertheless, who cares about details like that, the end result is that this is one of the best albums ever. Period.

The Silver Jews – American Water
I didn’t like this album much on first listen. Random Rules is of course a near-perfect song, and the thunderous Smith and Jones Forever coupled with the fireworks of Night Society combines for one of the best opening salvos I’ve heard on an album, but after that I really wasn’t a fan of anything in the sequence. But now this record is growing on me more and more, and now I’m a huge fan of quite a bit of the thing. If I still have one complaint, it’s this: too much Malkmus. I know, if you’ve known me since high school, you’d know that the statement I just made would amount to heresy in my high school mind, but really it’s just the truth. His songwriting and singing contributions are just embarrassing next to Berman’s, and almost upset the mood of the record. Some of his guitar work is nice enough, but I think the Jews would be better off without him somehow.

Wilco – Being There
I think I’ve discussed this one enough already. See two posts previous.

Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
I still don’t know what to make of this. At times, I think it’s their best work since their masterpiece I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, and it’s a brilliant way to get out of the corner they’d been painting themselves into. But there’s also times where I actually think it’s their poorest effort since, well, their debut Ride the Tiger. But I can’t really put my finger on why that is. Something about this album sounds…forced. Or fake. Like the band isn’t having fun anymore, and is just going through the motions of ‘being eclectic’. They pick a few styles to tackle, write a formulaic song-by-the-numbers in that style, and move on, instead of incorporating that style into their own unique world. Sometimes, it just really doesn’t sound like an inspired album to me. But then of course, I hear the guitars on Pass the Hatchet I Think I’m Goodkind and I’m all like, forget that, this album frickin rules. I’m completely undecided as to which viewpoint I best hold.

The Beatles – Let it Be
Garbage. Outside of two or three songs, I completely dislike this album, especially in comparison with the rest of their untouchable catalog. Seriously, I think I even prefer Please Please Me. It’s good that this isn’t really a proper Beatles album, because it’s abundantly clear that the thing is unfinished. With a little more time spent on it, I can see Let it Be becoming a sort of concise, poor man’s White Album. But as the abandoned project that it really is, I can’t take this album seriously as a true Beatles album.

Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Brilliant. It’s amazing what this guy can do with just an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, and his voice obv. I don’t understand why it’s taken me so long to get out of my indie rock cave and discover all this classic stuff, because it is so, so glorious.

The Court & Spark – Witch Season
Not enough people have heard this album. It deserves more. Great, great album. There is some really beautiful stuff on more that needs to be heard by more people. I can’t understand why their followup Hearts sucked so hard, when an album like this can express so much sensitivity and musicality. If you haven’t heard this album, please fix that, it really is a lost gem.

And there we go.


One response to “Well I Walked Out Onto the Jetty

  1. I listened to “I Am Not Afraid of You…” for the first time in a while a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t help thinking that most of the album is crap. If that’s harsh, then let’s just say it’s really disappointing considering their previous stuff–including “Summer Sun.” I think your instinct is right about the album’s imitative bent. “Mr. Tough” is Exhibit A–nothing more that a goof off tune, it gets stuck in my head but I really wish it weren’t there. Even “Beanbag Chair,” the song that was the promotional tease before the record was released, is simply “Season of the Shark” in a different key. “Pass the Hatchet…” is awe-inspiring for sure, but it can’t carry the whole seventy minutes. My impression is that the album suffers from a lack of balance–too many throw aways and sickly saccharine “love” songs (“Sometimes I Don’t Get You”= WORST YO LA TENGO EVER) for my taste. The few chuggers are oases when they come–“The Room Got Heavy” is another exercise is style, but it works because YLT know their psychedelia. The second half of the record has never said much to me. I think I remember liking a couple of the songs, but I’m not sure why. The last track is worth another listen–a friend of mine recommended it as pure Sonic Youth. I’m not sure that I ever heard it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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