Great Expectations

Even a week later, I’m still a little too numb to do a thoughtful post-mortem of the Rangers’ season but please permit me a few words: It’s times like these when I say to myself, “I think I’m done with hockey. I don’t ENJOY it.” I mean, sometimes I enjoy it very much, but the times I don’t tend to outweigh the times I do, year after year.

Perhaps the end of the Rangers’ quest for the Stanley Cup this year is more disappointing because (a) we had such high expectations and (b) we felt that this was their last best chance at the championship, that the window of excellence was closing. It’s a fact of life that the greater the expectations, the greater the disappointment when they’re not met.

This was a fantastic year – a season where they did pretty much everything right and had everything exactly the way they wanted it, even down to that last game. And yet – in keeping with a season-long tendency, especially where scoring goals was concerned – they blew it. They blew the glorious opportunity that their own hard work and dedication had earned for them.

How? Why? We will never know, because no one on the team will ever make excuses and the analysts and pundits don’t really know – they’re just speculating with the rest of us. Tampa played the game they needed to play; the Rangers did not. Tampa earned the right to win; the Rangers did not. But with that failed performance – geez, it was down to 20 freakin’ minutes! – went the entire charmed season. It’s an absolute mystery to me. After all they went through this season, they somehow didn’t seem to want it enough when it really counted. Where were all the big game players? Aside from Henrik – who admittedly looked shaky on the first Tampa goal but certainly couldn’t be blamed for the loss as he was by far the best Ranger on the ice – the rest of the team was tentative, a step slow, and looked like they were playing scared, frankly, instead of like men possessed of a will to win at all costs. As annoying as I find Pierre Maguire, he may have had a point when he said the Rangers were “on their heels” (which is ironic given that their captain Ryan McDonagh had been playing on a broken foot).

Sometimes I wish I could change history. Oh, well. Nothing to do but load up again for next year.

With the end of hockey season comes summer (in some years earlier than others), which is when I finally emerge from my house (my hermitlike tendencies have been hinted at in prior blog posts but further exploration of this issue will need to wait for another day) and enjoy the weather and my present location at the beach. And that is the absolute best time to discover and assemble as much new music as I possibly can.

Unlike hockey, music – my OTHER obsession – NEVER disappoints me or brings me anything less than joy, although for years I was frustrated at the paucity of new musical offerings. I’m sure new artists were always out there — I just didn’t know where or how to find them.  After the ground-breaking Long Island radio station WLIR went away in the 1990s, there was never another terrestrial radio station that consistently played the type and variety of music I preferred – i.e., NEW STUFF that wasn’t Billboard Top 40 or hip-hop, mixed with just a soupcon of oldies-but-goodies when the moment called for it. Within the last year or so, I discovered public radio station WFUV.  I believe this corresponded with a strengthening of their signal and a shifting of their format to more widely popular music rather than specialty “public radio” shows, but WFUV has become my car and home radio station of choice. I enjoy the mix of old and new music, even though, in my opinion they play way too much Bruce Springsteen and not nearly enough artists from the U.K. and the rest of Europe (although WFUV has introduced me to some amazing international artists, such as Icelandic singer-songwriter Aésgir and Irish crooner Hozier). I also suspect Paul Simon might be a “strings-attached” sustaining member of the station, because they play at least one Paul Simon song a day and Paul Simon hasn’t been relevant since the 1980s! He must be paying someone!

When I am on the computer, I listen almost exclusively to a station from the “other” Long Beach – in Orange County, California – called Indie 103.1 [www.indie1031.com]. According to its Wikipedia page, “The first two songs to play were The Ramones ‘We Want The Airwaves’ and The Clash’s ‘This Is Radio Clash’ followed by a list of new songs that had never seen commercial airplay before, setting the tone for what would become a musically adventurous and rebellious radio station.” A format after my own heart!

I used to be more obsessed with Indie 103.1 when I first discovered it circa 2005. They had shows by Steve Jones (“Jonesy’s Jukebox”, which featured the inimitable ramblings and eclectic spin selections by the erstwhile Sex Pistols guitarist) and Henry Rollins (“Harmony in My Head,” which title he took from a Buzzcocks’ song and which, unsurprisingly, highlighted punk music of all ilks but also threw in some poetry and rare musical nuggets, as Mr. Rollins is wont to do). Now the station is Internet-only, and there are really only two weekly shows I catch on a regular basis: “The Lopsided World of L”, which features old-timey rock DJ Jonathan L. (and his sexy-voiced German wife Gaby) broadcasting modern-day pirate radio from Berlin, Germany, my only source for on-air prog rock and a weekly dose of Joan Jett; and (other than my friend Carl from Sweden) my absolute favorite source of all emerging and independent pop and alternative music from literally all over the world, “Passport Approved”.  I am always recommending it to friends, so I’d like to use my blog to give it a more public plug.

“Passport Approved” is created, produced and hosted by Sat Bisla, who started his career as an A&R guy and who still spends his life unearthing new talent – except now he shares it directly with the hungry listening public rather than waiting until what’s left of the recording industry finds and signs the up-and-coming artists in more traditional ways. In any given week, his musical choices range geographically from Canada to South Africa, from New Zealand to Scandinavia. He was one of the first people to play artists like Adele, and Arctic Monkeys, and Lily Allen, and that’s just the A’s!!

Even if I miss the 12-2 p.m. slot (NY time) on Indie 103.1 on Saturdays, there’s the “Passport Approved” website  [www.passportapproved.com], where you can stream playlists from the current and past few weeks any time you want.  I always expect to hear at least 2 to 3 absolutely fantastic songs per show that I’ve never heard before and I am never let down. This week I enjoyed quite a few first-time songs, including Huntar (U.K.), “Love I Know”; Broken Back (France), “Happiest Man on Earth”; and Miamigo (U.K.), “Hard to Love”. Miamigo has another song called “Opinions” that I first – and only – heard on “Passport Approved”. Unfortunately, Miamigo remains unsigned at the moment (which I cannot understand because they are excellent), so their music is evidently not available for purchase in this country.

Here’s where I’m Internet-stupid and uninitiated as to alternate ways to access (and ultimately purchase) new music. There is probably a way I can download an artist’s music from their Facebook page or something – I’m certain they’re seeking to promote their music, especially to listeners in the U.S. – but in the past when I’ve tried to do that, I get error messages that say, “This song is not available for download in your region” or some such cockblock language. I frequently have the same issue with songs my aforementioned friend Carl sends me through Spotify. Why does this happen? Why can’t all music be internationally available? I thought the Internet was intended to obliterate borders to bring the world closer!

So while I wait for a worldwide music delivery system, my go-to source for the best and newest pop music from all over the planet will always be “Passport Approved”.  Unlike certain other things in my life, it never disappoints!

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