Hammock: a progression towards musical nirvana

Chasing After Shadows...Living With the Ghosts
What is left to do when each new album you put out as an artist is better than the last one? When it seems there’s nowhere else left to go, there’s heaven to reach out for Hammock, the musical duo made up of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson, from Nashville, TN (yes, their studio did get affected by the recent floodings!)

Since 2004, I have been writing about them. But in 2010’s Chasing After Shadows…Living With the Ghosts, the eerie cover showing floating bodies in water is carefully balanced with one of the most positively stimulating albums they have ever done. Very few vocal arrangements make their way into the sea of processed guitar sounds that lie at the heart of the Hammock sound. Their Sigur Ros influences can be felt here and there but their work is unmistakable and unique.

It’s hard (nearly impossible) to pick a favorite track: not only because the entire album is unbelievably great. But also because it has a unity to it, like the hand that moves the hair aside to let the light fall on the eyes that go with the smile… it’s simple but perfect, complex yet soothing, calming and elevating at the same time.

The best way for you to experience Hammock is to listen to it. Watch the video for the track “Breathturn” to get a feel for how these guys sound…

Hammock – Breathturn from David Altobelli on Vimeo.

Howard Zinn: "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train"

Sunday afternoon is always a good time for a good documentary. Today, it was time to sit down and watch Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. Until not too long ago, I admit my ignorance: I had no clue who Howard Zinn was… until I walked into a local Berkeley coffee shop with one of our new advisors at the Diabetes Hands Foundation and saw her pointing at his image on the wall, saying: “Howard Zinn! He’s one of my heroes…” I knew I had to find out more about him.

It turns out Howard Zinn wrote a seminal book titled A People’s History of the United States, a book where he sought:

“…to present American history through the eyes of working people, rather than political and economic elites.”

I learned there was a 2004 documentary about his life (good that he was alive at the time -he passed away in early 2010) so I decided to watch it today. As I watched the documentary, I live tweeted it:

Here’s a POWERFUL thought from Zinn, not unlike what Ghandi said in the day:

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”

He inspired me to write this:

Forget about trying to please everyone and focus on doing the right thing.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Howard Zinn. Have you read about him/his work?

Caetano Veloso in San Francisco

Last night I had the amazing opportunity to witness legendary Brazilian musician and activist Caetano Veloso perform in San Francisco. He was accompanied by a trio of AMAZING musicians backing him on guitar, drums and bass/Fhender Rhodes piano.

He showered us with tracks from his entire musical career with an emphasis on his latest album (you can listen to all tracks here). Below is a sample from another live performance by Caetano from a couple of years ago, singing “Desde Que O Samba E Samba.” At age 67, it’s amazing how creative and alive he continues to be!

Live “Caetano Veloso” (HD) from JuicyLime on Vimeo.