“Basking in the Glow” with Oso Oso

Here at Irrational Confidence, our love of opening acts is well documented. Part of the reason I’ve had an almost obsessive devotion to being at shows as early as possible is that I can point to so many bands that I’ve grown to love because they played before the band I showed up to see. That’s how I fell head over heels for Long Island’s Oso Oso. Digging through the announced supporting acts for a Wonder Years show Chase and I were attending, I found 2017’s The Yunahon Mixtape. I was immediately taken in by Jade Lilitri’s lyrics, detailing a group of people falling in and out of love across the album. The album sounds like pop-punk growing up, still with big guitar riffs and decadent choruses (particularly on “reindeer games” and “shoes (the sneaker song)”) but adding in a layer of maturity in the songwriting itself.

Yunahon feels lived in, laying out these sets of doomed lovers in a way that feels like home, like it’s something I’ve done. There’s a section on “the bearer of the truths” where the couple in question trade lines, the character Mariah laying out what they both know, that what they have is good but won’t be forever and the narrator acknowledging that she’s right, but she doesn’t have to explain it. There is a familiarity to knowing the end is coming and choosing to ignore it because the now is good, or at least good enough. Small sections like this are what drew me to Oso Oso and what keep me coming back for more.

Yunahon is an album about darkness. Even the bright spots in the lives of these characters are surrounded by the acknowledgement of the big wave that is to come. In that respect, Oso Oso’s upcoming album Basking in the Glow feels like the response, if not the complete opposite. If Yunahon Mixtape is about knowing the darkness is always coming, Basking in the Glow is about fighting desperately to hold on to the light. Lilitri writes that desperation into being on “One Sick Plan,” (I see my demise, I feel it coming/I’ve got one sick plan to save me from it) showing that he knows that staying in the light is a constant battle, maybe even needing some tactics if we’re going to survive. (As a sidebar, that line reminds me of a brighter version of one of my favorite lines from The Wonder Years’ “Passing Through A Screen Door,” “The first thing that I do when I walk in/ is find a way out for when shit gets bad.” While Dan Campbell sees an ejection as inevitable, Lilitri chooses to fight to stay.) The title track is another example of this cautious optimism. Lilitri sings about only knowing the place that he’s currently in, but still choosing to believe, or at least hope, that this is the glow in which he can warm himself. The album seems to be facing up to the idea that even these moments of joy are potentially fleeting, if not illusory altogether, and while Yunahon Mixtape‘s narrators would have seen this as a depressing yet unavoidable feature of the world we live in, on Basking in the Glow we find something worth celebrating and holding on to for however long it lasts. It asks for us to bask in that joy for the amount of time we have it and to maybe go down swinging in order to keep it a little longer. As Lilitri says on “Impossible Game,” “I got a glimpse of that feeling, I’m trying to stay in that lane.”

Basking in the Glow carries over Oso Oso’s incredible knack for crafting melodies, both vocal and instrumental, and uses that craftsmanship to make it seem easy and obvious for the lyrics to do the heavy lifting. Lead single “dig (ii)” begins with this short, bursting guitar melody that feels like it’s dragging you down the path to see what the band has uncovered. The chorus begins like it would fit in on past albums, speaking of a hole in the very core of the narrator’s soul, but it shifts to invite another in. “So, how far do you want to go?” If The Yunahon Mixtape was about falling apart, together, I see Basking in the Glow as an album about putting it back together. Sometimes that’s something you have to do alone, but it helps to have someone else with you. Oso Oso creates something beautiful on this album, bringing everything that kept me coming back after a chance discovery and giving it a new direction, pointing towards that glow.

You can check out “dig (ii)” below and get Basking in the Glow when it releases on Triple Crown Records on August 16th.

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A Second Helping

Written for the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Refrain: (Joey Purp, “24k Gold/Sanctified”)

If I walk in your steps, then I may see clear
As long as you’re near, I’ll have nothing to fear
If I walk in your steps, I can see clear
If I’ve lost my way, I’ve got nothing to fear

We began at the table
Not because we must but because we may
And yet what else could we do?
How else could this start
if not us gathered together around this table
to be nourished by grace
to see God made manifest in bread and cup
And yet we do not remain here.
The point of the table is to be bread for the journey,
Filled with the spirit to be Christ for the world
To strengthen us and send us out into a world filled with increasing uncertainty
But in this meal there is hope.
There is hope that with faith we will have another meal
That we will gather to share in the work of Christ once more
God, help us follow you to the table

Refrain

Just as we came to set this table
Bringing pieces of ourselves as we gathered together
Making this table a place where we share not just with each other
But with our creator and redeemer
So we take from this table pieces so that we might set our own
And invite those who are not here to share in this mystery with us
Take the bread, take the cup
But do not stop there.
Take a chair
Because the road that brings someone to this place may be long and fraught
Offer them a place to rest
Take a plate
So you can show them what we’re serving
Put grace and hope on display
Take a knife and fork
Because we know that sometimes
Just sometimes
Things need to be taken apart before we can take them in
Take this cloth
Because even the crumbs left behind
Contain the whole of who we are
Do not let them fall
Take this font
So that we might remember
The ones who taught us to make this meal
May they be with Christ a centerpiece of our being
God, help us set the table for others

Refrain

Take all of these things and make a place
For those you love
For those you’ve never met
For those who are crying out
For those who are in need of liberation
For those who would be a part of this story
For those who wonder if they could be welcome
Make a place where they can be nourished
Where they can be lifted up
Where they can see something they’ve never seen before
Or find something they thought long lost
And above all
Remember that we we re-set our tables
We do not set our own
We set THIS table
In our various communities
Different as they may seem
This one table is set before all of us
Drawing us together
Knitting together the body of Christ
Healing wounds
Bridging divides
We experience it all together
In this place where hope is found over and over again
Because no matter what we face
There will always be another meal
There will always be enough for a second helping
God, help us come back to this table

Refrain

“Let’s Go” for the Pokemon RPG purist: Novelty as a vessel for nostalgia

This is not a video game review; this is a meditation about the nature of our temporal experience. This is about coming to terms with the fact that you can’t enjoy something for the first time more than once, and appreciating the circumstances under which you actually can.

I played Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu recently. I’ll get the mundane out of the way first: I chose Pikachu version over Eevee version because I knew in advance that you couldn’t evolve your starter in these games (I understand this game design choice, but I disagree with it). If I’d known about all the special moves your starter can attain throughout the course of the game, I’d have chosen Eevee. As it was, I ditched my starter Pikachu for an Alolan Raichu mid-game. The inclusion of Alolan forms in this game is representative of what I liked about it. There were enough deviations from the original Yellow version to keep the game from feeling stale, but it was also very, very familiar to me, a person who wore out Pokemon Blue on Game Boy Color and loved Leaf Green on the Game Boy Advance. Continue reading ““Let’s Go” for the Pokemon RPG purist: Novelty as a vessel for nostalgia”

The Shape Still Holds

For Caetlin

I found this in my suit pocket
One of Sunday’s palms saved from its fate
Delivered from becoming Wednesday’s ashes by the deft craftsmanship of a friend
Now, this empty cross
this leaf taken from its branch
It stands as a symbol
Of friendship
Of love
Of the grace that gives us the strength to even be here today
Though it no longer grows it lives on
Because the shape still holds

It refuses to wilt
Standing as a reminder of what it became
Not what it began life as
But what it was transformed into
This small token stands as a defiant reminder
That things do not fade away so easily
The shape still holds

And so it is with us
Or at least I hope so
Through our lives we are woven
Shaped and formed into something greater
Through the lessons we learn
The lessons we teach
The stories we share
The love that we have for one another
The great love shown to us
And we take a form
In the hearts and minds of those we meet
Each life we intersect with making one more fold
One more knot
One more movement towards this form that lasts

And so
We make each other remarkable
We give each other that new purpose
That second life
Beyond what we started as
Grace makes us into something new entirely
And in that grace we take the shape that was made for us

We continue on
Even when we stop growing
That shape still holds

Making an album I can’t perform

If you follow me on any social media, you probably know that I released an instrumental album called “Moments” recently. I’ve done (mostly) instrumental albums before, but this one has a tiny distinction that’s important to me: there are no “real” recorded sounds on this album (other than the background noise that fades in and out, which was not recorded by me). Previous instrumentals would always have some guitar or sampled vocals or gritty drum track or something – but not here. Continue reading “Making an album I can’t perform”

I Am Rooting For You, Opening Band

Dedicated to Shortly, a band from Detroit I did not know existed before last night but nevertheless am now hopelessly devoted to

I’m not on time for a lot of things. Most people know that about me by now, adding a few minutes on to whatever time I say I’m going to arrive to get a better picture of my involvement in an event. There’s only two things I’m incredibly punctual for.
The first is the airport, for obvious reasons. Your friends might forgive you for being a minute or twenty late to the party but the plane will absolutely leave without you and never give you a second thought.

The second is less apparent. If a concert ticket says doors at 6, show as 7 I will be there as soon as I can.

I will never miss an opening band.
I refuse.
Somewhere hidden at the top of the card might be the next band I pledge my life to.
Maybe it’s the old critic in me that constantly wants to find my next love, something that I can share with everyone I’ve ever met.
And that band that plays at 7 when the headliner isn’t going on until 9:30 might just be it. I’ll never know if I’m not there.
And even if it’s not, every band needs someone to cheer for them, to dance, to be a part of the collaborative work of performing.
I’ve dragged friends onto the dance floor to save a band from playing to no one
I’ve had my heart broken as I can see a band make the decision to play their closer a few songs early to get off the stage
And maybe that’s because I’ve been that band too.
I’ve played shows where more people helped us set up than attended, and those that did looked like they couldn’t wait to leave.
I still remember the vacant stares as we kicked into my favorite one of our songs.
It was as if each side of that stage existed in a dimension without the other.

So maybe that’s why I’ll always be there for you, Opening Band.
You’ve made something you love and have taken it on the road to share it with the world
You’re taking incredible risk to even get to this show, driving through the night without the accessories of success.
You’re showing up dead tired to play for people who have never heard of you
Who for the most part aren’t there because they want to hear your songs.
And you deserve better than the roar of an uninvested few.

And so I hope at every show you reach at least one person who won’t stop talking about what they just saw.
I hope you turn into the show people lie about having been to.
“Oh man I saw them when they opened for…
There were like 5 people there. I couldn’t believe it!”
Or at least get to the point where a cult following loudly declares to anyone who will listen that they bought tickets for you, not the headliner
I hope your live show gets even better and that the best songs you write are still to come
I am rooting for you, Opening Band. I hope you know that
And I don’t think I’m alone.

Days when the sky is too big

I visited Oklahoma last week. It was overcast and raining when I landed at the airport, something I was grateful for. A wide blue sky would only have amplified the gnawing homesickness I felt for my immediate surroundings.

Driving under a cloudless sky is particularly oppressive. With that vast blue expanse above, everything down here feels tiny. I’m driving a tiny car to a tiny destination to do some tiny thing, and all the while, an endless blue pool stares down apathetically. A sky wide open makes me feel like one of the rare clouds that dares to puncture the monotony – isolated, small, and fleeting. These feelings are true, in a way. They’re just not great for a return to a place where everything used to feel important. Continue reading “Days when the sky is too big”

What’s my favorite movie? Part 1/5: Spirited Away

I made it through college without ever locking down an answer to the most softball icebreaker question there is: “what’s your favorite movie?” In this IC-exclusive series, I’ll write about five of my favorite movies in an attempt to arrive at a definitive conclusion. That being said, I reserve the right to change my mind at any time in the future, and it might take me six months to get around to writing about all the movies I want to write about. This is part 1/5: Spirited Away.

Spirited Away is an animated movie nominally for children. From legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away was originally released in Japan in 2001, and was distributed in North America by Disney in 2003. I saw it for the first time when I was 19 or 20, and no doubt would have found it terrifying in 2003, at the age of 11.

This is a movie that you watch and ponder for days after. You might Google “why is Spirited Away so weird,” but mostly, you just have to think about it and let it sink in. Because of that, I’m going to devote a decent portion of this post to explaining how I interpret the film, and in doing that I hope it will be apparent why it’s worthy of consideration as my favorite movie.

Spirited Away is the story of 10-year-old Chihiro stumbling into a bathhouse for spirits and growing up quickly as she’s forced to deal with ever-escalating problems. The movie has the rough outline of a coming-of-age story, but it’s more concerned with how growing up feels than what it looks like. It’s a collection of moments that elicit strong feelings and articulate a coherent philosophy about childhood; it’s not a movie for nitpicking plot points. Spirited Away is a series of lessons about growing up, and everything in the movie makes sense through that lens. Spoilers ahead, obviously. Continue reading “What’s my favorite movie? Part 1/5: Spirited Away”

Stability without stasis

Growing up, one of my favorite places was the back seat of my family’s minivan. It would probably still be one of my favorite places if it were around anymore. That seat meant familiarity even as the world flew by – I could fall asleep and wake up in a new state, and the seat was always there, my open backpack on one side and a Nintendo handheld and a couple books on the other.

The back seat wasn’t just a refuge; it was something I looked forward to. Uncertainty anchored to familiarity is exhilarating – it’s the promise of better things and of new adventures. Uncertainty by itself is exhausting. Airplane travel, for example, carries none of the fond memories or feelings of embrace that I associate with that minivan. I’ve never outgrown my fear of airplanes, hope as I might, and it always strikes me how different it feels from something so similar.

Continue reading “Stability without stasis”

The Wonder Years, “Sister Cities,” and finding refuge

There’s a small wooden torii gate in the middle of a busy intersection downtown. I hadn’t paid it any mind until a few months ago when this website’s favorite band, The Wonder Years, released a perfect teaser trailer for their upcoming album and, a few days later, released its title track “Sister Cities.” The song and the album are about interconnectedness in a world that seems increasingly to foster isolation, and since I first heard that single in mid-February, I’ve thought about the gate nearly every day. On the chorus of the track, frontman Dan Campbell sings “I’m laying low / a stray dog in the street / you took me home / we’re sister cities.” The torii gate is a monument to Fujiyoshida, Japan, Colorado Springs’s sister city, and I’ve been wondering if there’s a similar expression of Colorado Springs on the other side of the world, overlooked, but occasionally reflected on. I’ve been wondering if somebody in Fujiyoshida is wondering the same thing right now, their thoughts mirroring mine but neither of us ever knowing. Continue reading “The Wonder Years, “Sister Cities,” and finding refuge”