Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wonder Twins Review: Elf Power & Vic Chesnutt @ The Pike Room Wednesday Jan. 28th

The first Wonder Twins Review of the new year is HERE! Hooray, hooray and let freedom ring! If you were not one of the people in attendance at last night's Elf Power/Vic Chesnutt show, we hereby offer you a magical "I feel like I was there" first hand account. It's on the Metro Times Music Blahg. Check it. Also, if you are a dwarf, I'm sorry. I even saw The Station Agent really recently! Shame on me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Record Review: Lightning Love

For whatever reason, I have trouble with the word "lightning." I always want to add an "e" in there where it doesn't go and spell it "lightening." I pretend to be highly literate, but sometimes things like this bring me right back to the fact there are some words that grade school kids have no trouble with, yet I mess up regularly. I also cannot draw lightning. This has kept me from becoming a serious comic book super star illustrator! While I'm feeling deeply confessional, I also have trouble drawing trees. Though I can spell it. And the singular ("tree"). So there.

Anyhow, the twee pop goodness of Lightning Love has forced me to better examine my inability to spell, and as an added bonus, they've made a great record called November Birthday that would have TOTALLY made my year end list had I heard it in time. Curses! No matter - it's still worth checking out. Here's my review from last week's Metro Times. And draw me a lightning bolt and mail it to me while you're at it. Better yet, draw a lightning bolt on the front of a card and mail it along with a copy of November Birthday to somebody you love who had a birthday in November. Especially if you totally forgot it or got them something really crappy the first time around. Because this will make up for it. Trust me.

Friday, January 23, 2009

CVS Update: My Patronage WILL go on…

I was beginning to wonder if my letter to CVS regarding the stale peanut butter pretzels was going to result in a response, but the other day my fears were abated after long last. As I was leaving for work Tuesday morning my phone rang. Now, I’m not trying to bring attention to my lack of popularity, but when my phone rings at ALL, my first thought is, “Who on Earth would be calling me?” My second thought is (of course), “Oh God, oh God – somebody has died.” Even if somebody does actually call me, it is a rare, rare occasion that they would do so before 9:00am on a weekday. I mean, who’s UP at that hour other than the gainfully employed? Jeez! What kind of company do you think I keep?

So my phone rings, and it is an out of state number. I answer:

“Hello, is this Laura Witkowski?”
“Hello, my name is John and I’m calling from the (indecipherable) corporation.”
“I’m sorry, where are you calling from?”
“The (indecipherable) corporation. I’m calling regarding some pretzels you purchased from us?”
“Oh, yes! The pretzels from CVS! Are you actually calling from Woonsocket, Rhode Island? Is this CVS CEO Mr. Thomas Ryan?!”
“Um, no… But I am contacting you regarding your original communication to us – it says here that the pretzels were stale? Can you describe the issue in more detail?”
“Well, I think so. They were stale – but is was really more of a moldy flavor. You know, like mold.”
“So were they moldy or stale? How did they taste?”
“Well, I would say that if a product is moldy, the likelihood of it also being stale is quite high. The product tasted moldy. You know, like mold.”
“I see. Do you still have the product?”
“Yes! I always hold on to opened and partially consumed moldy products for over a month as I wait for a response from the company regarding the issue in hopes that said retained product may be of use to the manufacturer should they choose to finally contact me.”
“Oh good. Do you have the bag handy?”
“I was kidding – I no longer have the product. I returned it to the store the very same day and took advantage of the CVS Brand product money back guarantee. I made mention of this in my original letter about the issue. You can ask Mr. Ryan.”
“Oh. Okay then. Well, we’re sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with the product. We would like to send you a replacement in the mail to show you our gratitude for bringing the issue to our attention.”
“Okay – that sounds great.”
“We’ll mail something out in the next day or so. Thanks again for contacting us.”
“You’re welcome. Thank you for your call. Goodbye.”

And like magic, a few days later, a letter arrived that contained a CVS gift card for three dollars. According to Janet, the customer relations representative who was assigned the task of responding to me, as a result of my comments, they will request that the manufacturer investigate the problem I have experienced and take the necessary action to prevent a recurrence in the future.

Now, I don’t want to tell CVS how to run their business, but I think a good start in this investigation is to insist that CVS stores take expired products off their shelves. I know this seems obvious, but just the other day I was at the same CVS location from which I purchased the pretzels, and lo and behold, I noticed that they STILL had the same expired pretzel stock on their shelves. Again, I am not a business guru, but when it is mid-January of 2009 and a product has an expiration date of November 2008, maybe it’s time to admit that this product will not and should not ever be sold. I brought it to the attention of the cashier at the store, but I won’t lie – she didn’t seem appropriately moved by this information. Our conversation went something like this:

“No thank you, I won’t need a bag. Also, just so you are aware, your CVS Gold Emblem Pretzel stock is expired. Almost every variety in fact.”
" ... "(blank stare)
“They expired back in November.”
“Oh … of what year?”
“November of 2008. So about two months ago.”
“Oh … okay.”
“Alright then.”
“Thank you. Have a good day.”
“Mmm Hmm.”

Well, I tried my best. It is now in the hands of those at CVS who are assigned to tracking down the source of the problems when customer complaints arise. I imagine them to look a lot like the detectives from old film noir movies – except they have “CVS Sleuth” embroidered on their trench coat pocket. I just hope that they don’t go all rogue and shit and make up their own definition of “necessary action.” I don’t want to see anybody mowed down or any factories torched because I had a bad moldy pretzel experience. But what can I say? It really is out of my hands. As they say in AA (or so I’ve heard) I must “let go and let God.” Amen.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Year End Wrap Up: Laura's Favorite Music of 2008

Well, now that you're tired of Best of '08 lists seeing as 2009 is already almost over, let me finally get around to posting MY two cents on the matter! And by two cents, I mean two lists! I wrote a Top 10 list for The Metro Times that focuses on local music alone and a Top 30 list for Tiny Mix Tapes that has my favorites from everywheres. You can click this link to see what other people from MT were into this year, but I have cut and pasted my list using technology, so you don't have to "scroll down" so, so much!


1. Friendly Foes
Born Radical — Gangplank Records
Tight, catchy and addictive. I listened to this on repeat more than any album this year.

2. New Grenada
Energy Shortage — Jack Holmes Recording Company
Remember in the '90s when the guitars were all crunchy and good? Well, John Nelson does ... thank goodness!

3. Javelins
Heavy Meadows — Suburban Sprawl
It shimmers and floats like a hot air balloon ride in the summer. Dream pop for realists.

4. Prussia
Dear Emily, Best Wishes, Molly — Common Cloud Records
It would be nice if more kids would steal from the past and reinvent the future the way Prussia does.

5. The Pop Project
Stars of Stage and Screen — Suburban Sprawl
Melodramatic and finely crafted pop that'll have you dusting off your ELO records.

6. Champions of Breakfast
Pleasure Mountain — Duffmeister
If Daft Punk and Weird Al had a baby who was raised on role playing games, it might sound like this.

7. Invincible
Shapeshifters — Emergence
One of Detroit's finest rappers is a pro-Palestinian Jewish lesbian. Now, that rules.

I Was Raised On Matthew, Mark, Luke & Laura — Le Grande Magistry
High-brow pretentious pop for people who adore such things and have no qualms about it.

9. Love Meets Lust
Bitter Company — Self-released
For the '80s synth pop fanatic in all of us.

10. The Silent Years
The Globe — Defend Music
A concept record that somehow manages to transcend being totally ostentatious and instead is warm and inviting.

Also, I got to be a part of the Tiny Mix Tapes Favorite Albums of 2008 list, and they even posted my personal list for the viewing pleasure of the public. Again I am using "cut and paste technology" so you don't have to scroll and scroll, but check here if you are intrigued and want to read more lists! Because you are obsessed!

Laura Witkowski's Tiny Mix Tapes Top 30 of 2008:

30. The Pop Project - Stars of Stage and Screen
29. Lambchop - (OH) Ohio
28. Champions of Breakfast - Pleasure Mountain
27. Prussia - Dear Emily, Best Wishes, Molly
26. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
25. Bonnie ’Prince’ Billy - Lie Down In the Light
24. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
23. The Silent Years - The Globe
22. School of Language - Sea From Shore
21. Damien Jurado - Caught In the Trees
20. Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
19. Hot Chip - Made In the Dark
18. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
17. B-52’s - Funplex
16. Shearwater - Rook
15. Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane
14. Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
13. Ohtis - If This Country Had A Heart, That’s Where I Was Born
12. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
11. Javelins - Heavy Meadows
10. Xiu Xiu - Women As Lovers
09. Deerhunter - Microcastles
08. Death Vessel - Nothing Is Precious Enough For Us
07. Jennifer O’Connor - Here With Me
06. The New Year - The New Year
05. Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
04. Why? - Alopecia
03. New Grenada - Energy Shortage
02. Friendly Foes - Born Radical
01. Benji Hughes - A Love Extreme

Are you interested in an added bonus prize? You ARE? Well... I have made a mix CD featuring one track from each of my top 20 albums of the year. I don't want to brag, but it is awesome! I would be happy to get you a copy - all YOU have to do is let me know you want one, be willing to trade me something cool in exchange and be patient! You are welcome! Hope your 2009 has gotten off to a great start and that the Year of the Sexy Hobo will be the one that sticks out the most in your head when you're old and only ever talk about soup.

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