30 December, 2007

One Sweet Love - Sara Bareilles

The Aorta of a Whale

"The aorta of a whale is larger in the bore than the main pipe of the water-works at London Bridge, and the water roaring in its passage through that pipe is inferior in impetus and velocity to the blood gushing from the whale's heart."

As quoted from Paley's Theology in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

I'm reading Moby-Dick now, and although I'm not very far into the story, I've already found a plethora of striking passages. Ishmael is a boy who requires the constant pulsing life of the Ocean, because although there is danger in movement, in travel and adventure, there is also an intensely exhilarating energy and life-force. Sea travel encompasses that enormous feeling of potential energy you have when you stand on the edge of a cliff (figuratively and literally). The sea is a powerful creature all on its own, and it houses some the most powerful creatures in the world.

My readers may be wondering what Ishmael and an infamous white whale have to do with music? Well mostly my wandering mind is working tangentially, finding connections between the most random experiences. I can feel a connection between this enormous potential energy that has Ishmael so addicted to the sea and my personal addiction to music. I'm one of those people who can't sit still. I am a bouncy mess of nervous energy and curiosity, and I like to think that sea-travel would be somewhat comforting to me. I like to think that my mind would be calm as my body was rocked on the waves, that the ocean would center my spirit a little, and that my feet could stop tapping and I could cease fidgeting for a minute or two. This is how I feel when I listen to great music. It has a spiritually calming effect on me, and even though I'm often in motion when I'm listening, I never feel agitated or like I'm about to implode.

I think I'm lucky: many people never find that comfortable place and time where they are completely at ease. In "Loomings", Ishmael (Melville) speaks of the sea and sea-travel as his savior and the savior and temptress of all men. That deep bond between travel and meditation is the key in this story; it is only when men are in constant movement that their minds are truly at rest. Wanderlust happens to be my close companion too, often the shadow in my heart and mind that doesn't allow me to rest. But even when my skin is crawling with the need for absolute freedom and movement, and when my mind is filled with that intoxicating potential energy of adventure, I can find solace and peace in music. It is the constantly rocking ship that lulls me into a place of rest.

29 December, 2007

Atavism and New Year's Resolutions

I've been thinking a lot about reversion and the process of self-discovery. I feel like there's a pattern to human growth, but it can't be measured in a linear way. People are more like trees: we grow in soft circles that gently pulse away from a center. For this reason, I don't think life should be measured in big, arbitrary chunks like years or even days. Life follows a more windy path, and one that's full of discoveries and re-discoveries. Relationships grow and change shape, the lingo bounces around a little, sometimes the music sounds different, but everything loops back upon itself and often atavism is right around the corner.

On Christmas night, at about 11:00, I found myself watching a VH1 show. It was a mundanely constructed countdown show that revolved around the best songs of the '90s. Now there are things about the '90s I'd rather not remember. I had some good times and I had some lousy times, but most of it was at least okay, and I made it through basically unscathed. Still, there are moments forever tied to the music of the '90s that can be intensely nostalgic and cringe-worthy at the same time. I remember cassette tapes of Gloria Estefan and Sheryl Crow. I remember singing all the words to "Whatta Man" and "You Oughta Know" at a tender age, and getting my first real CDs: Spice by the Spice Girls and Let's Talk About Love by Celine Dion. Well, my earliest musical choices were vindicated by a VH1 countdown show; "Wannabe" and "My Heart Will Go On" both made the list of greatest '90s songs. I watched with some amusement as "Mmmbop" and "Baby Got Back" were replayed on the countdown, and when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (big surprise) came in first, I glanced at the clock and noticed how time had flown by again. It was like watching my childhood on fast-forward, and feeling about ten-million emotions with every note of almost every song. Intense.

It's not like I ever really wanted to leave some of those emotions behind. The smells and the feelings of being nine are part of me, part of my life tree. I can always sit and count the rings of my life, even sometimes look at the bumps and scars that have added so much character, but there's a difference between remembering a feeling and feeling a feeling.

On Christmas night I bought the album Leaving Through the Window by Something Corporate. It's an old album by conventional standards, released in 2002 to the great excitement of almost every teenage girl with a rocker chick inside. It's lovely and unabashed emotive rock, and it makes me feel some of that enthusiasm and emotion I had when I was thirteen. I'm still enthusiastic and emotive, but a little older and less capricious, I hope. I still crave a good love song as much as anyone, and I've also realized that I don't want to lose the excitement of my youth. Why shouldn't everything be important? Why shouldn't every success be celebrated profusely, and every failure felt? I don't want to grow numb to the things that matter, and I don't want to measure my life in a straight line. My New Year's Resolution is to experience a little atavism. I don't want to revert to immaturity or forget any of the lessons I've learned, but I don't want to lose any of my life either: I want to remember that I have lived and that I am living. I think this resolution will stick.


What's better than a piano-dancing Andrew McMahon?

25 December, 2007

6-8 Black Men - A Merry Christmas from David Sedaris

If you find this video amusing, read "The Santaland Diaries". You'll have eggnog coming out of your nose. :)


24 December, 2007

What Christmas Means To Me - Stevie Wonder

"I wish you a Merry Christmas baby, and such happiness in the coming year!"

22 December, 2007

And I Found This Boy - Maia Hirasawa

This video is super-fun for indie hipsters who think that Leslie Feist's "1234" is so 2007. Maia makes sweet, folksy, and coy tunes that will make your ears smile. Listen up!

20 December, 2007

Graduation - XKCD


18 December, 2007


For awhile after my discovery of the Garden State soundtrack and my complete obsession with Elliott Smith, I thought that alternative folk could only get worse. The singer-songwriter seemed over-utilized in my musical world, and I was feeling bored with the genre. Then I found Regina Spektor, and everything went topsy-turvy as it so often does in my mind. I realized that just because you strum a sweet acoustic or play a mean piano, just because you throw obscure literary references into every other stanza and offer up images as cut and paste as "rosy-fingered dawn", doesn't mean you don't have heart and soul in your music. It also doesn't mean that you can't create a fucking gorgeous tune.

I've continued to listen to alterna-folk, and my ears are supremely happy for the sounds of Antje Duvekot, Jaymay, Ingrid Michaelson, and Iron & Wine. There is something about that stripped down, washed out sound that is so intensely exhilarating and thrillingly close. Listening to "Gray Or Blue" by Jaymay makes me feel that not only has someone looked inside my head, but they've also felt my scrapes and scars, bumps and bruises. The rawest part of my soul is sometimes glimpsed in the passing phrases and chords of a Billy Joel song, and I know that I'm not alone.

I listened to the Juno soundtrack all weekend long. Even though I'm not a huge Moldy Peaches fan and even though I've never owned a Belle & Sebastian album, I felt personally connected to the universe while hearing the songs "Anyone Else But You" and "Piazza, New York Catcher". This album is a gorgeous example of the frisson that can occur when music is perfectly mixed and completely established as the soundtrack to a feeling. Juno's sarcasm, spirit, loneliness, and obsession were expressed perfectly with Kimya Dawson's merrily hummed expletives and the mix of classic rock and alternative tunes that create the backbone of the rest of this album.

I've never been a pregnant sixteen-year old, but I have been lonely and afraid, intensely introverted and insanely bored, with nothing to do but perfect my sarcasm and add to my obscure musical knowledge. This is teenage angst for the 21st Century, the kind of painful growth that's equally maximized and minimized by our unintentional proximity to massive amounts of information. Our entire lives change in seconds and our minds are suddenly obsolete. With all of this progress, our relationships remain confused and tangled, a jumbled mess of emoticons (yes, I meant emoticons).

How do you navigate a world without a map? Well you glom onto things that you understand, and herein lies the beauty of the singer-songwriter genre. "So Nice So Smart" by Miss Dawson is a story of what can happen when you fall in love with friends. Dawson begins with a nursery rhyme stanza that includes mice, roofies, and blood/wine drinking, but the chorus is much more mundane and close to the heart.

you're so nice and you're so smart
you're such a good friend i hafta break your heart
tell you that i love you then i'll tear your world apart
just pretend i didn't tear your world apart

It's a plain and naked song, and you don't always have to understand it intellectually, you just have to feel the pulse of the music and the emotion therein. Follow that with the superb cover of the Moldy Peaches' "Anyone Else But You" by the Juno movie stars Michael Cera and Ellen Page. The lyrics are little celebrations of personality. These lovers are reveling in each other's geekiness and perfect individuality. My favorite lyric which isn't included in the cover version is:

Up up down down left right left right B A start
Just because we use cheats doesn't mean we're not smart
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

It's a primal song that bares its soul; and it stands alone in a jungle of wires and electric signals with its slowly beating heart. Keep singing Kimya, and I'll keep listening.

16 December, 2007

Anyone Else But You (Abridged) - The Moldy Peaches

You're a part time lover and a full time friend
The monkey on your back is the latest trend
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

Here is the church and here is the steeple
We sure are cute for two ugly people
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

We both have shiny happy fits of rage
You want more fans, I want more stage
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

You are always trying to keep it real
I'm in love with how you feel
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

I kiss you on the brain in the shadow of a train
I kiss you all starry eyed, my body's swinging from side to side
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

The pebbles forgive me, the trees forgive me
So why can't, you forgive me?
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

Du du du du du du dudu
Du du du du du du dudu
Du du du du du du dudu du
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

15 December, 2007

I'll Take You There - The Staple Singers

"I know a place..."

and everything else is soul history!

Proud Mary - Ike & Tina Turner

"Y' know, every now and then
I think you might like to hear something from us
Nice and easy
But there's just one thing
You see we never ever do nothing
Nice and easy
We always do it nice and rough
So we're gonna take the beginning of this song
And do it easy
Then we're gonna do the finish rough
This is the way we do "Proud Mary"

And we're rolling, rolling, rolling on the river
Listen to the story

I left a good job in the city
Working for the man every night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleeping
Worrying 'bout the way things might have been

Big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling, rolling
Rolling on the river

Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
Pumped a lot of tane down in New Orleans
But I never saw the good side of the city
Till I hitched a ride on a riverboat queen

Big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling, rolling
Rolling on the river

If you come down to the river
I bet you gonna find some people who live
You don’t have to worry if you got no money
People on the river are happy to give"

This video is amazing. One of the most electric live performances I've ever seen, and I'm sure actually being part of the crowd, immersed in the experienced was even more electric. Sing it Tina!

14 December, 2007

Gray or Blue by Jaymay

"i feel so helpless now, my guitar is not around
and im strugglin w/ the xylophone to make these feelins sound
and im rememberin you singin and bringin you to life
it's rainin out the window and today it looks like night

you havent written to me in a week im wonderin why that is
are you too nervous to be lovers-- friendships ruined with just one kiss
i watched you very closely i saw you look away
your eyes are either gray or blue im never close enough to say

but your sweatshirt says it all with the hood over your face
i cant keep starin at your mouth without wonderin how it tastes
im with another boy (he's asleep, im wide awake )
and he tried to win my heart, but its taken . . . . . time

i know the shape of your hands because i watch em when you talk
and i know the shape of your body cause i watch it when you walk
and i want to know it all but im giving you the lead . . . . .. . .. .
so go on, go on and take it, dont fake it, shake it

(charmin//crazy eyes have u/r they gray or blue/i wont make the move/u must make the move/if u make the move/i will then approve/if u do not move/we will surely lose)

dont second guess your feelins you were right form the start
and i notice she's your lover, but shes nowhere near your heart
this city is for strangers, like the sky is for the stars
but i think its very dangerous if we do not take whats ours

and im winnin you with words because i have no other way
i want to look into your face without your eyes turnin away
last night i watched you sing because a person has to try
and i walked home in the rain because a person can not lie"

10 December, 2007

Tell Me 'Bout It - Joss Stone

She can belt like Janis. Let's hope she doesn't burn out like Janis!

09 December, 2007

Jazz for All Seasons

Over the Rhine is a jazz two-piece that's been making music for a happy 15 years. Their "Norah Jones" sound flowed from speakers when Norah was still known as Geethali Shankar, and in their 15 years at work they've released 18 albums. They make beautiful, soft, heavy jazz songs that keep your ears toasty or cool depending on the weather. With two full-lengths released this year, Over the Rhine doesn't seem to be slowing down with age, and that's a good thing for music-lovers who need a jazz soundtrack for all seasons.

This summer Over the Rhine released The Trumpet Child, an exploration in cool jazz. The album's chock-full of cool horn-playing and Latin grooves. The opener, "I Don't Wanna Waste Your Time" has been described by the band as a manifesto of sorts for their music. Lyrically, it's the story of two people who aren't exactly on the same page. Instrumentally, the song is fairly straightforward and jangly. It actually strikes me as a good finale song for the album, but kind of a downer way to begin your Over the Rhine experience. "Trouble" and "I'm On A Roll"are lazy summer songs perfect for picnics. "Nothing Is Innocent" is a Latin-influenced song with bitter, almost acerbic lyrics. The title song is an ode to the trumpet, with awkwardly biblical lyrics that don't gel with the rest of the album. This is a shame really, because the song is quite lovely when separated from the other songs on The Trumpet Child. The next few songs are quite diverting and experimental. "Entertaining Thoughts" is a thoughtful ode to friendly lusting, while "Who' I Kiddin' But Me" is a jangly, Susan Tedeschi-ish romp that discusses depression in an up-beat context. "Let's Spend the Day In Bed" and "Desperate for Love" move back towards the adult contemporary crowd, but inject a little life into the mundane with a few off-beat lyrics. "Don't Wait For Tom" seems to be an ode to Tom Waits. I assume that Tom Waits is the inspiration based on the title and the sound of the track itself, which has so much in common with Waits' music that it's almost impossible for me to think that the two aren't connected. The song is an interesting move away from the rest of the album, and a bit of a poor juxtaposition. Like the title song, "Don't Wait For Tom" is too much of a departure from the rest of The Trumpet Child for it to be fully appreciated in context. "If a Song Could Be President" is the final original song on the album, and it flows along on a twanging, country guitar sound that seems to slide into the sunset. The idea behind the song is quite entertaining. Well-written music becomes an allegory for a well-run country, and harmony between nations is achieved with harmonious instrumentals.

Unfortunately, The Trumpet Child isn't always a cohesive mix of sounds. There are quite a few experiments that work well on the album, and a couple that would work well on a different album but only diminish the sound of this album.

The second full-length released by Over the Rhine this year is the wintry Snow Angel, and overall I think the band does a better job of sticking to theme on this CD than on The Trumpet Child. It's not a Christmas album per se, but there are few toasty Christmas songs that will remind you more of "Baby It's Cold Outside" than of "All I Want For Christmas is You".

"All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue" starts off sad and lonely, but finishes with a twist: the girl gets the guy. Happy endings are oh so Christmas, and this first song wraps the happy ending formula in a fairly adult theme. "Darlin' (Christmas is Coming)" is so similar to "All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue" lyrically that it seems a little silly to place the two right next to each other. "White Horse" and "Little Town" are bucolic, jazz diversions. They're perfect songs to soundtrack Christmas visits home. "New Redemption Song" is a beautiful almost country-gospel request for a new song of hope. It's imploring but not begging, and the piano itself is a veritable celebration of sound. Follow that up with "Goodbye Charles", a definite homage to the late Peanuts writer that just oozes Vince Guaraldi Trio , and you have yourself a mellow Christmas party. "Snowed In With You" and "North Pole Man" are playful tunes that mix up the sound of the album while sticking to theme. "Here It Is" is home to the the wonderful chorus "I'm wrapping up my love this Christmas", which just makes me smile every time I listen. "One Olive Jingle" is a smooth cover of "Jingle Bells" and "Snow Angel" is a gentle story populated with gorgeous images. The final song - "We're Gonna Pull Through" - is less Christmas than New Year. It's a story about trouble and strength in relationships, and it's a well-executed and appropriate finale for this album.

Overall, Snow Angel is lush and comforting. Even the blue songs carry hints of red and green, and the lyrics elegantly approach the tough topics that are so repressed during the holidays. There's nothing wrong with winter melancholy, and it often comes along with all the usual Christmas cheer. I think this album will be one of my winter favorites from now on, and it makes me particularly excited for the next Over The Rhine album.

Taking Chase - RX Bandits (Live @ Bonnaroo)

08 December, 2007

"...And the Battle Begun" - RX Bandits


This band is my latest musical obsession.

Rock and Growl

The Sound of Animals Fighting is both an original and awkward name for an experimental rock band, and when I first came across this name, I was slightly put-off. For me the moniker conjured images of a messy Animal Collective, with plenty of shrieking and purring to set the tone; but, what I found was a band that loosely gathers the strings of disparate sounds and genres into a single, cohesive and slightly moody album.

Tiger and the Duke is this album, and it often reaches monumental rock heights. Drama is imperative to this album's execution, but in a way that feels only engaged and creative rather than pretentious. It's the kind of drama you find on an album by Dredg or Coheed and Cambria: introspective and perfectly progressive rock. Pink Floyd meets Rush in an all-out battle of spacey weirdness is the way I would describe most of the songs on Tiger and the Duke, but there are also odd, staticky forays into electronica and some bouncy, trip-hoppy skipping songs. This is basically the missing disk to the Children of Men soundtrack. It's dark and futuristic, rhythmic and robotic, chilling and hopeful.

"Act I: Chasing Suns" has careful, punctuating guitar solos (almost Mark Knopfleresque) placed over pulsing percussion. When the vocals fall from the sky, there isn't anything keeping this song from growing to anthemic proportions. "Act II: All Is Ash or the Light Shining Through It" rocks in a different way entirely. It begins as a more straight-forward, post-punk exploration, with choppy guitars that smash around the drums. As the song progresses, it jumps into fully experimental gear, with a little sing-shouting and some well-placed, almost jazzy background guitar. The not-so-creatively titled interludes are all little palate cleansers of super-charged electronic music. They nicely bookend the rock anthems, so that each new song is its own pearl of sound. My favorite song on the album is "Horses In The Sky (Live version)" because it's a more raw example of the talent of The Sound of Animals Fighting. This band can make songs that are aurally interesting and thought-provoking, but it's great to know that when placed in front of a live audience they can also rock the room.

Tiger and the Duke is a musical investment. It's not necessarily what you want to listen to every day, and it definitely isn't as accessible as some great rock music, but it's absolutely worth your time and energy. Each song evokes a feeling of careful craftsmanship, and there are guitar solos and percussive surprises that will excite even the most jaded listener. Save this album for a night when you have time to get lost in a sound or two, you won't be disappointed.

The Sound of Animals Fighting - "Act I: Chasing Suns"

07 December, 2007

Mrs. Potter's Lullaby - Counting Crows

"...all the blue light reflections that color my mind when I sleep,
and the lovesick rejections that accompany the company I keep,
all the razor perceptions that cut just a little too deep,
hey, I can bleed as well as anyone, but I need someone to help me sleep..."

This song was written for me. Actually, it wasn't :) Still, when I listen to the lyrics, I feel like Adam Duritz was in my head writing out my thoughts. Amazing!

06 December, 2007

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen


Definitely the classic story of American Teenage angst, with amazing lyrics and energy. Rock it, Springsteen.

04 December, 2007

03 December, 2007

Take It Off - The Donnas

I haven't really listened to these girls in about three years! There was a time when I listened to them almost exclusively. Big time nostalgia.

28 November, 2007

Nerdcore and Geek Rock

I whole-heartedly embrace nerdiness in every facet of my life, because - like blondes - I think nerds have more fun. I can hold up my end of a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings conversation, I own a bunch of "graphic novels", and I'm a big fan of Super Mario and Tetris on the Original Nintendo (you know, the one with like four buttons). Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I'm a music geek. I'm not quite "dead-head" material, because I've never kept notebooks full of set-lists from my favorite band's shows, but I get pretty freaking excited when I find an old Hendrix clip or "discover" Tuvan throat singing (I'll save that story for another post).

It always makes me happy to hear music that embraces the fresh, free, and funky side of life where the nerds reside. Not all of us can constantly connect with the super-smooth world of Justin Timberlake and the Jonas Brothers, plus why would we always want to? I'm a fan of a world with surprises, and if every boy were super-smooth there just wouldn't be many surprises to make life exciting.

In this nerd-friendly mood, I found a happy surprise on another blog (Mainstream Isn't So Bad, Is It?) in the form of Yea Big and Kid Static. This is a nerdcore duo who create hip-hop music that can tap into the geek in anyone. The beats are good, and the lyrics range from amusing to serious, but always hold onto that geek charm that's so endearing. You should check out the Mainstream blog for a real review of the new album Yea Big and Kid Static, because I'm just here to point you in the direction of nerd-greatness. I will say that the song "We've Built A Time Machine That Runs On Beats. We Shall Only Use It For Good." makes video-game bleeps fair game for the hip-hop community.

Music geeks who want their video-game sounds separated from any other genre, should listen to "chiptunes" by artists like Bubblyfish and Sayaka Suzuki. The compilation cover album - The Music of Kraftwerk Performed on 8-bit Video Game Systems makes that annoying, blippy music very cool. "Computer Love (2007 Remastered)" by Covox is an elegant bit of beeping, computer joy. "Pink Flower" by Sayaka Suzuki achieves a sound that reminds me of pink flowers and the Mario Brothers. Chiptunes aren't just for boys!

There are different kinds of geeks, and to each their own music. One kind sits in a room with headphones on and analyzes every instrument and lyric in a single song. I know this kind of music nerd would listen to Devendra Banhart's "Lover" with some satisfaction and interest. S/he would also digest the lyrics of "Anti Love Song" by Betty Davis, while taking into account the Miles influences. These songs aren't Geek Rock per se, but they are amazing songs that lend themselves to musical deconstruction.

Join the Geek squad and have fun!

27 November, 2007

If This Ain't Love (Don't Know What Is) - Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators

Neo-soul is now retro-soul, and I love it! Also, I think there should be a flute solo in every song.


Read this article and smile: Collegiate Quidditch Takes Off - Figuratively, At Least by Craig Wilson.

Once you get beyond the awkward article title, the article body is actually pretty interesting, including a play-by-play of a Quidditch game on the Middlebury campus. Three games in one (goal-scoring, tag, and dodgeball according to one of the players), the only difference between this Quidditch and the game found in the Rowling books is magic. I think it's appropriate that Quidditch finds its "mainstream" equivalent on the Middlebury campus. Those Middlebury kids are practically as bookish as I am, and Vermont has such a small population that you have to have a few eccentric hobbies to fill up all of that empty time. Apparently, Ultimate Frisbee also originated at Middlebury, but I know many students of the Five Colleges who would argue otherwise. It doesn't really matter. In the end, it just makes me happy to know that there are large groups of college kids running around on broomsticks in Vermont (and apparently, also in New York).

I think I'll be smiling all day. This is really priceless.

26 November, 2007

A Message to You Rudy - The Specials

All I can say is kudos to the keyboard man. It's hard to rock out with keys! Classic ska love.

25 November, 2007

As Green as a Christmas Tree

I was amused by the article Jolly and Green, with an Agenda by Alex Williams in this morning's New York Times. Apparently the new "grinches" of Christmas are environmentalists. They force their families to discontinue the art of wrapping; they give environmentally-friendly gifts like hugs, recycled clothing and cds, and fluorescent light-bulbs; they read Christmas stories about Global Warming; and, their grinchy hearts are two sizes too small because they want to conserve energy. Ouch!

Well, I'm enviro-conscious, as it were, but I still maintain a lovely relationship with Christmas. I don't really understand why Christmas needs to be the time of year when people proselytize anything but goodwill toward men. I mean the holiday has already been corrupted by corporate America. People are already forced to feel guilty about not giving enough or not giving the right thing. Why sully the holiday even more with environmental antics? It's neither the time nor place to instigate an argument with your family about their free-range turkey or their political beliefs. I personally find it more helpful to lead by example throughout the year, and yes, this approach is more difficult, but I'm always up for a challenge. In May, when I started hardcore recycling, my family's reaction was somewhat apathetic. Yet, through the summer my parents bought cloth bags for groceries, started investing in companies whose packaging is recyclable, and most recently, requested that we "wrap" a baby-shower gift in a nice, reusable bag. No arguments, and a nice, smooth transition towards sustainable. On the other hand, my choice to unplug all of the electronic things in my room (including my lights), has met with a little more opposition. I've tried to explain that I'm saving money by refusing to pay for phantom energy (look it up, it's real), but they just can't deal with the thought of me reading in the dark.

To get back to Christmas, I have no problem splurging once a year to celebrate the holidays. It's not like I write off all of my ideals, I just choose to make everyone's lives a little happier by refusing to argue about lifestyle choices. I think it's really very selfish to ruin the holidays by causing strife. I also think that this approach to a sustainable lifestyle is decidedly bad for the Earth.

24 November, 2007

Doo Wop - Lauryn Hill

"Don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem"
- Lauryn Hill

Dogg Starr - Ladybug Mecca

Jazzy street poet who reminds me of Lauryn Hill, what could be bad about that?

23 November, 2007


Django Reinhardt has to be my all-time favorite jazz musician. How many jazz musicians who performed in the '20s and '30s have their songs in the Matrix, huh? Django does ("Rhythm Futur"). His work sounds like it was made in the early 20th century, but it feels just as challenging and current as it did when it was released.

He used a guitar as a percussion instrument! He played rhythmically and manically, and opened the possibilities of music. He invented gypsy jazz with Stephane Grapelli. We love you Django.

22 November, 2007

Be Easy

I was reading an article about Sharon Jones and the Dap-kings on WERS, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Jones is appearing in a Denzel Washington movie (The Great Debaters) and has done work on the soundtrack.

This soundtrack is soulful, if not quite as funktastic as most of Sharon Jones' music. In general, the music tends to lean more into blues, bluegrass, jazz, and gospel territory than towards heavy soul, R&B, and funk. Some of the music really reminds me of Chicago (the musical, not the band), while other tracks are absolutely Robert Johnson influenced. The Staple Singers are also a big influence. What's most interesting and exciting about this soundtrack, is the fact that the performers are mostly contemporary, and all wonderfully talented in their diverse musical fields.

Alvin "Youngblood" Hart is a contemporary blues man (a "prisoner of hope" to quote Cornell West) who plays a mean, blues guitar and has been known to cover Led Zeppelin (who stole most of their sound from blues men in the first place.) On his many albums he bounces from straight-up acoustic, guitar blues to crackling electric rock songs to country swing. This is a musician who truly loves music, and this love is obvious no matter what he's playing. On The Great Debaters soundtrack, Alvin appears eleven times. He channels James Brown on "My Soul Is A Witness", shows his blues roots on "I've Got Blood In My Eyes For You" (which must have the coolest name of any song, ever), and harmonizes on "Two Eyes".

Sharon Jones has already been given a detailed portrait in this blog, along with her lovely Dap-Kings. David Berger, on the other hand, has never even been mentioned in this blog, a sad oversight on my part. David Berger leads David Berger and the Sultans of Swing, the jazz orchestra that truly reminds me of Chicago. "Delta Serenade" and "Rock N Rye" are pure concrete jungle jazz, the kind of horn swinging, party tunes that would make King Louis shout.

You can listen to parts of the album on iTunes, and watch the movie when it's released on Christmas.


"Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line." – B.Mandelbrot, introduction to The Fractal Geometry of Nature

I don't pretend to understand fractal geometry, but I don't have to understand it to enjoy the magnificent art that comes from fractals. Mandelbrot was the father of fractal geometry, and his "sets" laid much of the foundation for the connection of geometry and art. I've never really understood why abstract art is so, well, abstract. To me, the entire world is abstract and I like the mystery that's coupled with this abstraction. Mandelbrot's art reminds me of stars and water, deep sea creatures and the insides of flower buds. Basically, it reminds me of everything beautiful and mysterious in the world, and that's why I love Mandelbrot.

I Feel Love - Blue Man Group

These men are amazing! I want a flashing dress that strobes different colored lights to the beat of my own personal soundtrack.

Seeming Redundancy

Purple Violets is an indie film that has recently made its debut on iTunes. It's about writers and love. Wow, really original, right? Well, sort of. I haven't actually seen the movie, because I've been too busy listening to the soundtrack and puzzling out the title.

According to Wiki, the title isn't actually redundant. Purple is defined as any color in the space between red and blue, whereas violet is a spectral color with its own wavelength. All of this stuff is mind-blowing to me, because I've never thought of a science of color. I suppose there could really be a science of anything.

Applying that subtle science of color to the Purple Violets soundtrack, my first feeling is kind of pink-orange followed by a soft change to blue. This sunset effect is produced by melting the sounds of The Kings of Convenience with Calexico and Iron & Wine. "Misread" is sort of sleepily energetic (is that an oxymoron? I think not) and it's followed by "He Lays In the Reins" which feels like the ocean on a warm night. Mmmm, this is lullaby territory.

The Drive-By Truckers bring it all back home, but also make me a little blue. Not the soft blue of "He Lays in the Reins", but a sharper, colder blue. Have you ever looked at the stars in the mountains? It's that feeling of being completely lost in the world that the Drive-By Truckers achieve. Then the Blue Jackets whisper about memories over stark, almost Blue-man group beats, and I feel a little warmer.

The Doves and the Magic Numbers bring us back to the daytime, by painting a silky sunrise of yellows and oranges. You don't need to wear your rose-colored glasses when you're listening to these songs. "No Satisfaction" by Black Mountains is absolute, golden, mid-day joy. I love the rattling blues that sounds like corn husks in the wind. The Blue Jackets make another appearance with "Way Back Home" which is a veritable rainbow of sound, jangly and sweet.

Gomez and kBRANDOW drive you into the dusky afternoon. Those blue-green, bruisey shadows of the early afternoon fill the empty space in "Sound of Sounds" and "Lost". These songs are chill, with an almost free-jazz composition. They're also a little earthy: subdued and elegant.

"Everything is Talking" by the Long Winters reminds me of dinner out. Your napkin is starched and uncomfortable in your lap, and the silverware feels like it belongs to someone else. The repeated titular phrase makes sense in this atmosphere, because not only are other people talking all around you at a restaurant, but in some ways the whole room is talking. Everything is designed to get your attention, and so everything is talking to you. This song is metallic and loud, clanging for attention before bedtime.

The Blue Jackets finish off the album with a rolling song that is absolutely reminiscent of the ocean. "You Send Shivers" describes a less frolicking and more roiling ocean than that felt in the Calexico/Iron & Wine song. A more romantic ocean, in my opinion. I love this album closer because it really makes me feel purple and violet. It's the only song that achieves that playful, subtle, romance evoked by the titular colors. It's the best song on the whole album, and a grand finale of sorts, where the spectral violet and haunting purple combine in musical ecstasy.

I can't know, based on soundtrack alone, if Purple Violets is a good movie. I can't even really guess what the plot will hold or how color will come into the picture. I can tell you that the soundtrack sent shivers down my spine, and that when I listen to the music I feel a spectrum of emotions as varied as the spectrum of colors. Whoever mixed this soundtrack was definitely on my color wavelength.

21 November, 2007

My Humps - Alanis Morissette

This video is priceless. I don't know who remembers Alanis (I do!), but she was freaking popular in the early '90s. Sometimes her original work is amazing and her voice is gorgeous, and sometimes it's so annoying and overemotional. It probably all depends on my mood. One reason why this cover video is so amusing, is because she's making fun of herself while she's making fun of Fergie.

20 November, 2007

A Drop of Musical Perfection

There are certain songs that so perfectly invoke a feeling or mood that you can't help but listen to them on repeat. They're like little snowflakes of sound: unique and beautiful, playful, and hopefully plentiful when the world leaves you cold. You want to feel something? Listen carefully, thoughtfully, and openly.

"You You You You You" by the 6ths and Katherine Whalen. This song is clean, like a snowflake, but also intricate. It's delicate but strong. I love the humming and I love the strumming.

"Something to Do With My Hands" by Her Space Holiday. Like Jack's Mannequin (a.k.a. Andrew McMahon and friends, Her Space Holiday is (usually) a one-man band of Marc Bianchi. He writes deliciously careful lyrics, and by careful I mean detailed to the point of obsession. Gorgeous computer static backs his lyrics.

"Who's Gonna Take The Weight" by Gang Starr. I <3 Gang Starr. Impeccable flow and ridiculously engaging lyrics make for a beautiful experience.

"Don't Lose Touch" by Against Me! I saw these Florida boys live, and although the stadium was not as welcoming as a smaller venue would have been, I definitely felt the gospel of Against Me!. I think almost everyone takes themselves too seriously. I mean so many things are funny, it's a shame that people don't laugh at themselves more often. Maturity is absolutely knowing when and where to be immature, and it's absolutely not being serious 24/7.

"...SOS Texted from a cell phone.
Please tell me I'm not the only one
that thinks we're taking ourselves too seriously.
Just a little too enamored with inflated self purpose.
Talk is cheap. And it doesn't mean much.
Don't lose touch. Don't lose touch..."

That's all for now. I'll be back later with many more thoughts on songs and sounds.

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend - Her Space Holiday

"You can't make someone love you with a song"

Youtube and Music

As anyone who reads this blog regularly can attest, I've been a little preoccupied with Youtube lately. This preoccupation could have something to do with my recent hectic schedule, or it could be my need to fill this empty, silent space with sound, or it could be connected to my current lack of interest in reading books. The last factor took me by complete surprise, because I'm usually such a ridiculous bookworm that no one can pull me from a good story. Lately, my mind has been elsewhere and I really haven't been able to focus and connect with the written language.

Not to say that I haven't been reading, because I'm absolutely one of those people who can't stop. Magazines, newspaper articles, essays, poetry, and short stories have all worked their way into my head, but I haven't picked up my own book since last Thursday. I'm pretty sure it isn't Gogol (Dead Souls is an amazing story reminiscent of Dickens), so it just must be my new attention deficit disorder or maybe the weather. I'm puzzled.

To get back to Youtube: I absolutely think that it's an amazing resource and a happy way to waste time. Yesterday, I went on for twenty minutes (when I could have been reading Gogol)and just looked for John Cusack clips. I'm not a stalker and I don't want to marry John (unlike some of the fifty-somethings commenting under the clips), I just love some of the things he says in movies. As far as music and Youtube go, they're basically a match made in heaven for us music-lovers who don't have digital cable (and who are too impatient to watch television anyway). You can search an artist and find live footage, music videos, fan videos, and random funny stuff. Plus, if you're a multi-tasking nut, you can have a Youtube window going while you do other things. I <3 the internet.

19 November, 2007

El Scorcho - Weezer

I'm so feeling this song right now. I love the strobe-light section where everything looks like it's going to blow up. Yay for Pinkerton!

15 November, 2007

Wonderlust King - Gogol Bordello

I'm such a gypsy. Rock on Eugene! I definitely feel like this song should be called "Wanderlust King", though. Maybe it's lost in translation...

14 November, 2007

The Way I Am - Ingrid Michaelson

She's so cute. This song makes me smile!

13 November, 2007

There was a time when I could breathe

But lately it seems like things are always taking my breath away. Good music is one of those things that never fails to make me gasp. Here are a few songs that have been leaving me breathless lately:

"Paranoia In B Major" by the Avett Brothers. On Myspace these brothers claim that "it costs nothing to be honest, loyal, and true", and I certainly hope that they're right because their music aspires to all of these virtues and more. Steady banjo, roughly harmonious vocals, and dizzily logical lyrics make my heart beat like a manic drum.

"...I got secrets from you, you got secrets from me
Because you’re so worried about what I’m gonna think,
Well I’m worried too
But if love is a game, girl, then you’re gonna win
I’ll spend the rest of my life bringing victory in
If you want me to"

"Silver Lining" by Rilo Kiley. I was never enamored with Rilo Kiley (or even Jenny Lewis) until I heard this song. Maybe it's my current mood, maybe it's that deep, dark place inside of my heart that longs for life to be a musical, but I can't help but get this song stuck in my head whenever it's on the radio. It's less country-rock than most Rilo Kiley songs. I love the lyrics over softly stylish synth.

"The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson. This song was perfectly chosen by Old Navy to sell their new winter sweaters, and I bet it worked well. The sound is toasty and comfortable, just how you want your sweaters to be, and the lyrics are warm. "I love the way you call me baby..."

"Love You Madly" by Cake. I will always regret missing these boys play for free in Boston! What was I thinking? Well, apparently I wasn't thinking about this song. It's the shit. Choice lyric: "All the dishes rattle in the cupboards when the elephants arrive."

"Hush" by Kula Shaker. I love the Deep Purple original, but Kula Shaker takes this song to blues-soul heights that Deep Purple never ventured near. Shake it Kula!

Love in the Time of Magic Realism

I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love In The Time of Cholera a couple of summers ago, and I was blown away by the imagery. The story, on the other hand, struck me as a little plain. The characters are multifaceted, the language and setting gorgeous, and the big question (can true love wait fifty years?) is really somewhat of a cliche. A love triangle spanning fifty years at the end of the 19th century in South America? Can you spell romance, because I'm pretty sure Marquez can.

Seeing as I'm not the kind of girl who's knocked off her feet by romance novels, I grew slightly bored with Fermina, Florentino, and Juvenal. The back and forth, the obsession, the pride which so often leads to prejudice, and the unsatisfactory marriages were all commonplace in my mind. Instead, I was struck again and again by the small descriptions of city streets in Europe and South America, by the childhood events and observances (for instance, Fermina's description of learning to smoke a cigarette with the lit end in her mouth), and the liberal and thoughtful use of language. These small gifts built an entire world in my head, so that even when I was tired of Florentino's constant, guilt-ridden womanizing, I was still interested in the story.

I was confused to read that the book was being made into a movie (which will be released in US theaters on Friday), because I feel that this book is one that needs to be chewed carefully and digested slowly. Fifty years of unrequited love adds up not only to a passionate finale, but also to many days of monotony and seemingly random observations that should not be swallowed whole. I doubt that I'm the only reader who required all 368 pages to even begin to understand the nuances of Marquez's poetry, and I don't know how the movie will do justice to the small earthquakes of emotion that shake the book and the reader.

If the soundtrack is any indication though, the film-makers are paying close attention to the details. Released today, the majority of the soundtrack is composed of score songs by Antonio Pinto with three delicate and bold songs by Shakira. The songs rarely break the three minute barrier, yet they encompass a spectrum of emotional highs and lows. "Love" begins softly with a dark, clockwork undertone, while "White Suit" is a playful, yet almost mournful serenade (there's always some sadness in celebration). "Hildebranda", "The Widow", and "Sex Drum" play up the sensuality of Latin rhythm. "My New Life", "1900", and "The Boat" are softer, calmer, and more mature approaches to love. I can easily imagine these songs soundtracking the intertwined lives of Florentino (along with his ubiquitous lovers), Fermina, and Juvenal. The Shakira songs add a voice to the soundtrack that's particularly soothing. Shakira acts as narrator with three tracks that are as passionate as they are schizophrenic. "Hay Amores" strikes me as a nice introduction to the film, an opening credit song that hits on all the major points. On the other hand, "Despedida" simmers and boils over like the best of Carlos Santana. Instead of being governed by a guitar solo, "Despedida" is governed by Shakira's voice, which creates sounds akin to magic realism. "Pienso en Ti" shudders with delicacy, and echoes with catharsis. I hope that this triad has been placed at the beginning, middle, and end of Love in the Time of Cholera, because they strike me as appropriate guideposts in this long journey.

I am still uncertain about Love in the Time of Cholera, and my current hope (raised by the gorgeous soundtrack) may be deflated when I actually see the movie. Still, Antonio Pinto and Shakira have made me think twice about dismissing Love.

12 November, 2007

The Perfect Mixtape

I believe in the power of mixtapes to convey all kinds of emotions, and (as described in Avenue Q) confuse the receiver. Mixtapes are also a pop-culture commodity, playing a central role in the movie High Fidelity, and taking on a life of their own in the book Hairstyles of the Damned. What defines a perfect mixtape, depends most on the sentiment you're trying to convey; but, there are a few simple rules for building mixes:

1. Pick a theme. Choose songs that work together lyrically and musically, and try not to bounce from idea to idea without a connecting thread.

2. Try listening to the beginnings of songs juxtaposed against the ends of the songs they follow. If you have a song that drops off without warning, and it's followed by a song that has a long and quiet intro, you should think about rearranging your list to create a better musical progression.

3. Start your mix with an identifiable song, but follow it up with something new and refreshing.

4. Don't place two songs by the same artist next to each other in the mix, unless you're creating an artist-specific mix.

5. The cardinal rule of mix-taping is: Don't give a mix tape with love songs to someone who you're not romantically interested in, unless you have previously defined the status of your relationship (i.e: you're definitely "friends", or the receiver is related to you).

6. Have fun and be creative! Rules are meant to be broken.

Here's my latest mix, concocted with uncertainty in my mind and restlessness in my heart. As you can see, I've broken most of my own rules:

"Tears Dry On Their Own" by Amy Winehouse

"Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix

"Dark Blue" by Jack's Mannequin

"Boxcar" by Jawbreaker

"Rebellion (Lies)" by Arcade Fire

"A Message to You Rudy" by the Specials

"What Is Rock" by Blue Man Group

"J.A.R." by Green Day

"Time Bomb" by the Old 97's

"Clampdown" by the Clash

"Hey Hey What Can I Do" by Led Zeppelin

"Fear of Heights" by Apollo Sunshine

"Sweet Child O'Mine" by Guns 'n' Roses

"Rebels of the Sacred Heart" by Flogging Molly

"My Old School" by Steely Dan

"Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In" by the Fifth Dimension

09 November, 2007

The Roots of Malarkey

I'm not one of those people who makes a hobby out of "collecting" relatives. This is partially because I'm a New World girl, but also because I'm kind of afraid of what I'll find. In fact, almost every time I've looked into my heritage, I've realized something I didn't want to know.

Yes, it's true that if you shake anyone's family tree, you're bound to come across a few criminals and con-men, but I've realized that such types make up the majority of my ancestors. It's not that I don't want to be associated with criminals and con-men, it's more that I realize that I'm attracted to alternative lifestyles. I could be an itinerant, a bard, someone without debts. Wanderlust is not a new plague, but it's one that I'm still learning to reconcile with my current life.

Long story short, I was pleased to see this article in the New York Times tonight: "Humdinger of a Project: Tracing Slang to Ireland" by Corey Kilgannon

The creation of slang is absolutely something of which I can be proud, along with the art of a good con (on television of course), and the amazing humor of the American-Irish. Really, without the Irish there would be no "dude" or "twerp", no "gimmick" or "scam". You couldn't tell someone to "scram", or laugh at your friend for reciting an event that was a load of "malarkey".

I think this is amazing, especially since I'm a word fiend. In the spirit of American-Irish slang, I'll continue to create words like ridiculawesome (with a lot of help from my friends), while pulling out the occasional, almost obsolete word like bumbershoot and using it in regular conversation. Join me and we can change the world of words!

07 November, 2007

Why everyone should love Rolling Stone

Lately, I've been slightly annoyed by all of the Rolling Stone 40th anniversary issues. Do we really need to live in the past? Flower power and revolution were all the rage, but that's no longer the case, and most of the people who were calling for social change in the 1960s are now very happy with the money they're making on their Halliburton stock.

My cynicism just added to my surprise when I opened the cover of the latest Rolling Stone. I found interviews that don't predict the past, but that challenge our conceptions of the future. What's really interesting is that they don't just challenge the future of music (although there are a few exciting sections on the future of music), they challenge politics, the environment, globalism and international economic structure, the feasibility of peace, medicine, technology, religion, and art. Among the interviewed are political commentators/comedians Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, Professor of Religion and hip-hop artist Cornell West, Jane Goodall, William Gibson, Bono, Eddie Vedder, and Mr. Gore. I personally think Neil Gaiman was short-changed, but I was very happy that Cornell West was included. I recently saw him speak at a Black History celebration. He's a powerful orator and an articulate and educated man. His grasp of language is really quite beautiful with a certain cadence similar to music. Here's an excerpt from the Rolling Stone interview:

"RS: So you're optimistic about the future?

Cornell West: The categories of optimism and pessimism don't exist for me. I'm a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future - what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn't generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I'm a prisoner of hope. I'm going to die full of hope..."

If you get a chance, then you should check out these articles. They make me feel a little better about the future.

Conscious Pilot - Apollo Sunshine

"Pull our pockets inside out
Our hips have grown wings
And with the block and tackle or dumbwaiter
We'll hoist ourselves up with strings

If someone were to pull and tug
It would only make us flat
Once our pockets think they're wings
We're guaranteed to fly

We'll flutter for change
Collecting strangers
But they'll all look the same
So let's float away for good

The fighters aren't fighting
They're just dancin' round the ring
And so their butterflies have been lit off
They're in the alley, down the street

They're rallying in cardboard boxes
They're trying to find the ring
They're trusting the caterpillar instincts
That they'll soon be flown away

They'll flutter for change
And warm up their wings
Cause today is only today
Soon it will float away for good

And I remember everything
So I'll remember everything
And I remember everything
So I'll remember everything"

06 November, 2007

Ghosts of Blues Folk

I'm about a week late for haunting reviews, but I happened to stumble upon a spooky band this morning and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pick apart their sound.

The band is the Pine Hill Haints, and they call Alabama home. Before I heard the Pine Hill Haints' new album Ghost Dance, I just thought Jim Morrison was being dramatic and artsy when he wrote "Alabama Whiskey Bar", but actually I think he was picking up on the macabre air of Alabama. The word spirited takes on a double meaning when listening to the Pine Hill Haints. On the one hand, their music is truly celebratory. Songs like "Spirit of 1812" and "Say Something, Say Anything" are the type of campfire songs that would make Morrison's ghost proud. To put it plainly, they rock.

On the other hand, there are the twin covers of Louis Armstrong's "St. Louis Blues" and "St. James Infirmary" which were a little haunting to begin with and which now seem to channel the ghost of Armstrong. This ghost isn't something to fear, per se, actually it's a kind of sad, wan shadow of a blues man with intense musical talent. I enjoy these covers, but more than anything, they make me long for the originals. The strength and exuberance of Armstrong's trumpet is missing from this campfire music, but maybe that's the most fitting way to pay homage to the master. The obvious lack of horn swing makes these songs a little lonely, echoing, and much less hopeful than the originals.

Once you get into the album Ghost Dance you start to realize that it's composed of more than just the ghosts of great musicians. There's a talent here that's still alive and it shines through all of the lurid melodrama of the album. Songs like "I Never Thought The Day Would Come When You Could Hate Me So Dearly" and "Death by Stereo" play up the ghastly theme but are also just incredibly fun songs. The former is a guitar/accordian driven Southern anthem that is filled with the sarcasm of much country music. The lyrics are playful and well-written, but not over-written. The latter - "Death By Stereo" - sounds like it was recorded in a cave, near a swamp, by a hermit. Alright, maybe I'm being dramatic, but this song is far from overproduced. I like the grit and dirt of the percussion and guitar, and I like the intimate feeling that this grime evokes.

There are more than a few great songs on this twenty-song album. I personally recommend "Raggie Taggie Gypsy", "Cuckoo Bird", and "For Every Glass That's Empty". I would also recommend that you catch the Pine Hill Haints live. They're currently on tour, and in an event of beautiful (painful) serendipity they're playing in Boston tonight at TT the Bear's, and I have no one with whom to attend this festival of folk. I hope that my lovely readers have more luck!

05 November, 2007

Mellow Crush Mix

This is for a good friend who's found herself struck by that most insidious of infatuations: the mellow crush. It doesn't smash you over the head like most crushes, it just slowly sneaks into your mind, and usually involves someone you've known for a long time. You run into said person, and suddenly their stupid mannerisms are really cute and you're not quite as annoyed by the things they say. I told you that it's sneaky! Good luck with that.

"I'm Ready" by Jack's Mannequin. Everything in Transit is my latest addiction, and it's full of equally wonderful songs for break-ups and crushes. This music is about as emo as I get, and I just love swimming through the piano ballads and the painfully introverted lyrics. For example, the interlude to this song appropriately describes the way I feel half of the time: lost and apathetic, but the rest of the song shows that yearning for life that is always adding to my restlessness and that really makes me care. Perfect mellow crush fuel in my humble opinion.

"...I come undone, oh yes, I do
Just think of all the thoughts wasted on you
And every word you say, says something sweet
Cause all I taste is blood between my teeth
As I'm finding the words... you're getting away...

...I wake up to find it's another
Four aspirin morning, and I dive in
I put on the same clothes I wore yesterday.
When did society decide that we had to change
and wash a tee shirt after every individual use?
If it's not dirty, I'm gonna wear it.
I take the stairs to the car
And there's fog on the windows.
(As I'm finding the words...)
I need caffeine in my blood stream,
I take caffeine in the blood stream.
I grip the wheel and all at once I realize:
(And you're getting away...)
My life has become a boring pop song
And everyone's singing along..."

"Head Over Feet" by Alanis Morisette. This song describes that realization that guys can be really sweet and attentive, instead of dumb and immature. It's sweet, and sweet is an accomplishment for Alanis whose music is usually pretty brutal and caustic. You just can't help falling for those guys who are thoughtful.

"Whatta Man" by Salt 'n' Pepa. The quintessential male-appreciation song. S & P make hardcore hip-hop that is female-empowerment in musical form, and that is also just awesome. Not necessarily the kind of music you want to listen to with your parents, but definitely great.

"I Will Dare" by The Replacements. The 'mats are one of my favorite bands because they took punk rock to a different level, they kept things original, and they weren't afraid to throw a few country hooks in their rockers. The lyrics to this song seem like a bit of a laundry list of personality differences, followed by a "dare" of sorts, but the chorus is what's really sweet.

"Meet me anyplace or anywhere or anytime
Now, I don't care, meet me tonight
If you will dare, I will dare..."

"Eyes" by Apollo Sunshine. With a funky bass bounce and swirly twirly guitar joy in the background, this song could be played on pop radio except for the fact that a few of the lyrics are irreverently inappropriate. "What are we doing when we're not doing each other?" always gets big hoots from a live audience. Mostly though, this song is just ridiculously cute.

"Up On Cripple Creek" by the Band. Jam band joy with a quick nod to Dylan. I love this song because of its inane observations and pop culture references. When you have a mellow crush what do you notice? Well all the cute little personality traits that belong to the person you're crushin' on.

"All The Small Things" by Blink-182. This song brings me right back to my formative middle school years. The music's not particularly challenging, in fact it's the epitome of three-chord rock, but the lyrics are sarcastic and cheeky. You know that age when boys are pulling your hair and calling you an idiot because they like you? This is the soundtrack to those years.

"Pressure Drop" by The Clash. This is my ultimate party song, and a song that I want played at my wedding (in the unlikely event that I get married). Love summed up in three words: "It Is You!".

"Til The End of Time" by Devotchka. From the painfully disfunctional dark comedy Little Miss Sunshine, this song is good for riding your camel through the desert, but the violin swirling and climbing up the percussion and the spooky whistling add a certain romantic element to the composition.

"...And everybody knows where this is heading
Forgive me for forgetting
Our hearts irrevocably combined
Star-crossed souls slow dancing
Retreating and advancing
Across the sky until the end of time..."

"A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me'" by Fall Out Boy. Maybe I lied a little when I wrote that Jack's Mannequin is about as emo as I get, actually Fall Out Boy fills that category. I started listening to this song for the lengthy vampire-filled video, but I stayed attached to it because of its heart-sick lyrics and hook-stuffed melody.

"...And you're just the girl all the boys want to dance with
And I'm just the boy who's had too many chances

I'm sleeping on your folk's porch again, dreaming
She said, she said, she said, "Why don't you just drop dead?"

I don't blame you for being you
But you can't blame me for hating it
So say, what are you waiting for?
Kiss her! Kiss her!
I set my clocks early 'cause I know I'm always late..."

"Dark Blue" by Jack's Mannequin. I told you that there were lots of gems on this album. This song happens to be my personal favorite for mellow crushes. The imagery of floods and drowning are perfectly synonymous with falling in love.

"...Dark blue, dark blue
Have you ever been alone in a crowded room well I'm here with you
I said the world could be burning 'til there's nothing but dark blue
Just dark blue

And this flood, this flood is slowly rising up, swallowing the ground
Beneath, my feet
Tell me how anybody thinks under this condition so
I'll swim, I'll swim as the water rises up
sun is sinking down and now all I can see
are the planets in a row suggesting it's best that I
slow down
this night's a perfect shade of dark blue..."

04 November, 2007

Phoney Marony Live - Apollo Sunshine

...and do the phoney marony!!

02 November, 2007

The Sound of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
'Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence.

"Fools" said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach to you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
in the words that it was forming.

And the sign said,
"The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls."
And whisper'd in the sounds of silence.

31 October, 2007

Howling Halloween Mix

"Thriller" is a great song, but there are only so many times you can watch Michael Jackson dance like a fool. When you need some new music for the scariest night of the year, try listening to these howling Halloween hits.

"Witchcraft" by Frank Sinatra. So his "witch" is more Samantha than Elphaba (yes, I love Wicked too), but this song is truly bewitching. Sung by "the voice" with big band accompaniment, this would be included on the soudtrack of my personal Halloween movie. When your grandparents convince you to watch Bell, Book, and Candle think of this song.

"Save Ginny Weasley From Dean Thomas" by Harry and the Potters. Nerd-core to the enth degree. "When we were young and innocent, I saved you from a basilisk, I think that that deserves a kiss, but you're all over Dean Thomas". I mean how cute can you get before you make me throw-up (apparently a little cuter, because I'm a big fan of this song).

"Hitchin' A Ride" by Green Day. I've chosen some of these songs because they're innately creepy, some because they have appropriate subject matter, and some for their ridiculous videos. This is one of the songs that I chose for the ridiculous video.

It's like a Creature Double Feature with the giant Betty Boop head and the giant insect!

"Chim Chim Cher-ee" by The Original Cast of Mary Poppins. When I was a small child, I loved to watch this movie. The part where the chimney sweeps and the children dance on the rooftops always kind of scared me, not because I'm afraid of chimney sweeps, but because their "world" was so dark. Still, with Burt on their side, nothing bad could happen. I was always much more afraid of the guys at the bank than anything else in Mary Poppins. Creepy.

"Ghost" by Apollo Sunshine. I can't begin to describe how eerie this song feels when played live. It's such a quiet song in the beginning that everyone goes silent. You remember that you're in a room full of strange people who are all experiencing the same thing. Then the guitar ressurects you and you fly towards the sunshine (Apollo Sunshine that is), and then everyone forgets themselves again and a mosh-pit is formed.

"Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" by the Original Cast of the Wizard of Oz. By far, the shortest song on my list. This is because, in 47 seconds, it is able to convey everything you need to know about the Wicked Witch. She's dead!

"Coin-Operated Boy" by the Dresden Dolls. The band that coined the term cabaret-goth, can never overcome the sheer perfection of their first hit. They achieve a balance of pity, humor, and disgust for the main character who wants the titular boy. It's funny in the same way that Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka is funny.

"Musc Box" by Regina Spector. You may have heard parts of this song in car commercials. It's your average, absurd but honest Regina Spector song. The melody is similar to a tango, and at first sounds like it's being played inside a music box. As the song continues, Regina howls and chokes like a cat on a furball.

"Life inside the music box ain't easy
The malots hit, the gears are always turning
And everyone inside the mechanism
Is yearning
To get out

And sing another melody completely
So different from the one they're always singing
I close my eyes and think that I have found me
But then I feel mortality surround me
I want to sing another melody
So different from the one I always sing..."

"Don't Lose Your Head" by Queen. Umm, just watch Highlander. BTW: They DO mean literally.

"Fools Rush In" by Bow Wow Wow. This is a manic cover, and the vocalist isn't really trying to make the song sound pretty or enchanting or even slightly attractive. The lyrics thrown over spacey guitars and southern hemisphere drumming make for an interesting and disturbing mix of sounds.

"Ghost Town" by ZOX. Not a cover of the Specials' song, although equally ska-tastic. The bouncy bass and shrieking violin backing nonchalantly delivered but descriptive lyrics make for a fun experience. Especially strange is the fact that the scary chorus is surrounded by sing-song chanting. One of my favorite ZOX songs purely because of it's bizarre nature.

"...Well I live in this ghostown
The whispers from the walls will fall like feathers to the ground
And I walk upon these cemetery streets
I don't speak the language of the skeletons I meet.

I live in this ghostown
The acid in the architecture is burning the place down
And I look out on these solitary streets
Empty as an afterthought in purple pools of gasoline
Purple pools of gasoline

Olie olie olie ahh
The river's all in flames
Olie olie olie ahh
I can't go home again
Olie olie olie ahh
This city speaks in rain..."

30 October, 2007

For People Who've Played WAY Too Much Guitar Hero

You're tired of "Woman" by Wolfmother and pretty much everything by Wolfmother, but you still need some contemporary hard-rock that doesn't suck. Well, I've found just the thing for you headbangers: Birds of Avalon.

They sound just like the "new old", meaning they've stolen everything and produced it well, placing their anachronistic sound in a package that's more Fall Out Boy than lo-fi boy. Their album artwork strikes that weird fantasy chord that's so attractive to the World of Warcraft crowd, but you could definitely mosh if you went to a concert. Bazaar Bazaar, Birds of Avalon's first album, is a strange patchwork of psychedelic, slithering and pummeling, guitar-driven rock. "Bicentennial Baby" makes the whole world love the '80s, a difficult fete to accomplish. Chugging guitars and spurts of solos populate the song. "Wanderlust" mixes "Within You Without You" with "Battle of Evermore", and makes you feel like you could be in a world of swirly twirly gumdrops and magical elves (more chill than Candyland). I must admit that "Wanderlust" in particular is a strange aural experience, but it's followed by "Superpower" which is a shot of energy and contemporary noise after the Dark ages of "Wanderlust". "Where's My Jet Pack" is cool for a few reasons. I think it has one of the best names ever, and it's also a mix of free jazz, jam, hard rock sound. The final song "Lost Pages from The Robot Repair Manual" is a little anthem that best represents the sound of Birds of Avalon. I can't help but imagine little boys wanting to be rock stars. This album is so obviously paying homage to every "guitar hero" whose music these boys loved, but it's also a decent album to introduce these sounds to a new audience. It's nice to know that if you need an injection of rock, you can get it somewhere besides your parents' vinyl.

On Repeat: "Subterranean Homesick Blue" - Bob Dylan

I know I copied the lyrics to this song into this blog before, but I just love this video. Signs like suck-cess, and pawking metaws just add to the whole flavor of the song.

A Cause Worth Fighting For

Micro-lending is an idea that, I think, is really benefiting the World. It's something anyone can do, whether you're walking down the street and someone asks you for a buck or you're lending $25 to a widow in the Ukraine so she can jump-start her grocery store. These small donations, are the things that affect real people, and you can see the affect on their entire community. For those who don't know, micro-lending - in its most basic form - helps individuals.

Let's say a woman in Kenya needs a sewing machine for her tailoring business. This woman has no credit and no collateral to speak of, so the major lending organizations won't lend her $100 for a sewing machine, but this sewing machine would profit the entire community. The people of her commmunity wouldn't have to buy so many clothes, because they could just have their clothes mended, and the money they spent on mending would go directly back into their businesses. Still, Worldbank says no. What do you do? Apply to a micro-lending organization for a loan. With loans of $25 - $500 you can change actual people's lives, but I'm not here to ask for your money. Actually, Natalie Portman wants you to lend!

Big Change: Songs for FINCA is a new album put together by Natalie Portman for Foundation for International Community Assistance. The album is available on iTunes, and is composed of 16 alternative songs by artists like Antony & the Johnsons, The Shins, Norah Jones, and Beirut. In all honesty, the album itself isn't really my cup of tea, but for people who like the music, it's an excellent way to support a a great cause.

Other excellent ways to support micro-lending? Try going to these sites:




and read the book Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Nobel-prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

Hu Jintao, say it isn't so!

So apparently Hu Jintao, the current leader of China, is not a big fan of music. Don't get the wrong idea, he may have a huge Rolling Stones vinyl collection that he rocks out with at home, I wouldn't know, because I'm not his best friend. It's just that based on what I've read about the music "allowed" in China, I would assume that he's either not a fan or just enjoys controlling the Chinese people too much to let his love of music stand in the way.

The New York Times published this story: "The Sound, Not of Music, but of Control" by Howard W. French, and it got me thinking about the way our government controls us through music and the way it differs from China's attempts.

In China, the idea is to subdue directly by lulling the listener into a state of apathy. The radio stations are not allowed to play anything that could spark revolution, and so, obviously, there's a huge underground rock scene a.k.a. musical revolution.

"...Liu Sijia, the bass player and a vocalist for an underground Shanghai band called Three Yellow Chicken, said alternative music in China today is much like Western rock in the 1960s, with its frequent references to social issues like war, poverty, civil rights and generational conflict..."

This quote was taken from the above article, and I think it just emphasizes the prospect of revolution because of the way the Chinese government is treating music. Hu Jintao is causing a little revolution everyday by keeping homogenous and obvious mind-control music on the radio.

Hey, maybe he should take a page out of the U.S. goverment's book! They seem to be doing pretty well lately. (That was my obvious segue!)

I know a lot of you lovely blog readers are wondering what I've been smoking, but really I've actually read about this subject. I would recommend the book Something In The Air: Radio, Rock, and the Revolution that Shaped a Generation by Marc Fisher.

Here's my argument: The U.S. government controls us with music, but they do it in a very sneaky way. We live in what is basically a capitalist nation, and the government (in the form of the FCC) is given certain power over what we hear on the radio and really who owns the radio stations. This system is built for businesses with money, and it helps to propagate monopolies. Clear Channel and its cronies are playing the shit that sells, to make money. In turn, the government is getting a good piece of that money through taxes, and the economy is thriving, because every young hipster is out buying the new Akon cd for $15 a shot. Do you see the pattern yet?

People work to make money. They make money to pay for things like food, shelter, education, and healthcare. If they're good patriots, then whatever's left goes to the economy. People work more hours to buy more things (including the music they hear on the radio) and they have less time to actually think about what they're buying or why they're buying anything at all. You think I'm crazy? Well, next time something horrible happens listen for the sound of our President telling us to "shop" for the economy. It isn't all for our economy, it's actually a form of control. If you're worried about your debt, then you're less likely to realize all the things that are wrong with the world, and even less likely to stand up and say that things are wrong.

Let's take it further. Why do you think the government was so upset about illegal downloading? It wasn't just because it was stealing; after all, big businesses steal all the time, both legally and illegally. Actually, I think the real reason the government was so angry was that people weren't fueling the economy with their musical purchases. Music sales have gone way down and giant businesses have closed their doors, and some people have begun to realize that most of the music they were paying $20 a cd for, wasn't really worth anything. This sounds like a small revolution to me, and I think it made the government anxious.

Really communism and capitalism share the same bed, capitalism has just learned to hide its snoring.

29 October, 2007

Songs about Ping Pong

A great friend of mine sent me a note about a band called Operator Please, and I got pretty excited. That's a boring story for all you lovely blog readers, but it's one of the catalysts that synthesized my current musical mind-frame, and so I think it's an important thing to note. After all, you can't claim all great musical discoveries as your own. It's important to share.

Operator Please has a cute name, that, for some inexplicable reason, conjures visions of the 1950s. However, their music sounds like nothing you would ever hear in a sock-hop, and that's a good thing. The songs are overwhelmingly high-energy, and even the slower songs remind me of the Sneaker Pimps' "6 Underground", which has that menace-simmering-on-low-but-ready-to-boil quality. Maybe I'm going crazy (it's an obvious possibility), but whenever I listen to "6 Underground", I feel like it could just blow up in my head, and that's exactly the way I feel when I listen to Operator Please.

Operator Please is female-fronted and female-dominated (with drummer Timmy injecting testosterone), but they achieve something in their music that I've been waiting to hear for a long time: balance. Instead of writing songs about "girls and girly things", or about feminism, they just write songs. This is important to me as a woman. It may sound silly, but it's difficult to find songs that achieve true femininity without sacrificing universal connection. What I mean is that when I listen to Rancid or the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, I can emotionally connect to their music while still being aware of the fact that they are boy bands. It doesn't matter that "Old Friend" was (probably) written about a girl, because the sentiment applies to my feelings about guys. When it comes to recent girl band music, I don't feel that same ability to universally connect.

I love Le Tigre and the Donnas, but "What's Yr Take On Cassavetes" and "40 Boys In 40 Nights" don't immediately apply themselves to my life. Le Tigre is a great band, but I often feel that their music is so obsessed with feminism that it misses the important and awesome differences (yes, there are differences) between men and women. The Donnas achieve something similar, but go about it by a different route. They make cock-rock as a girl band. The male misogynism and the female objectification is reversed by the Donnas, and the men in their songs become objects. This is fun music for a girl's night out, and the point that they're making is valid, but I don't think it's the healthiest way to deal with sexism in music.

Operator Please achieves something completely different, they make good alternative music that applies to all sexes and doesn't bash any of them (outside of the ex-bashing that takes place all over the music scene). They also make music that's fun and exciting, and reminiscent of the Fratellis. "Just A Song About Ping Pong" is humorous, with it's double-entendre lyrics and hyper delivery. The video -which you can view below - reminds me of an M.C. Escher optical illusion, and has become a phenomenon in the US. "Get What You Want" is slinky with driving bass, and sounds an awful lot like songs from Hot Hot Heat's first album. "Crash Tragic" is full of the chanting found in the Go Team!'s music, a mix between childhood chanting games and cheerleading. The songs "Two For My Seconds" and "Waiting By The Car" use violin to create drama and intensity, but are also very playful. I like this music, and I like Operator Please. For anyone else who enjoys this music, look out for their album - Yes, Yes! Vindictive! - that drops on November 10th.

28 October, 2007

"The Mixed Tape" - Jack's Mannequin

"...I read your letter
The one you left when you broke into my house
I'm retracing every step you made
And you said you meant it
And there's a piece of me in every single
Second of every single day
But if it's true then tell me how it got this way

Where are you now?
As I'm swimming through the stereo
I'm writing you a symphony of sound
Where are you now?
As I rearrange the songs again
This mix could burn a hole in anyone
But it was you I was thinking of
It was you I was thinking of..."

23 October, 2007

The Sand hasn't run out of the hourglass...

Raising Sand, a collection of duets by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, may seem like Plant's new foray into adult contemporary, but it sounds like a charged and refreshing collection of offbeat tunes by two masters of music. The production is almost perfect, with the vocals at center stage and the music a chain that holds together all the charms of these songs.

This doesn't sound like Led Zeppelin, but I think that's a good thing given the fact that they perfected rock music the first time around. Plant is edging into a more alternative/country plain with vocals as strong as ever, and his guide is the beautiful Alison Krauss. They both perform well on this album, exhibiting a lot of vocal control. The ability to sing softly and to sing well is underrated, and very difficult, and these two vocal masters perform this fete over and over on Raising Sand.

"Rich Woman" is built on jazz percussion and psychedelic guitar, but really lives in the voices of its vocalists. It's a soft, and dangerously slinky song that is an appropriate beginning to an album that sneaks into your head. "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" finds that sweet spot between the sounds of the Beatles and Elvis. This is probably the fastest song on the album, and I would bet that it's the first song to get radio play. "Killing the Blues" rests on steel pedal guitar, and lullaby-esque delivery, with the oddly comforting and fantastic lyrics of someone who has done too many drugs. "Trampled Rose" is the kind of song you could imagine haunting the desert. Does that make any sense? If it doesn't, then you just need to listen. Alison Krauss is central to this song, and I think she's made at least one new fan. "Stick With Me Baby" is a gorgeous and plaintive song that grows like a U2 anthem. "Nothin'" uses sparing electric guitar chords to chilling effect. Unlike a lot of recent rock music which thrashes throughout to express anger, "Nothin'" is angry in a quiet way. Instead of bombastic and childlike tantrums, it's an emotional implosion that drives this song home.

No, the album doesn't sound like Led Zeppelin, but it does sound like Robert Plant. It's the album of a mature man and a mature musician, and the emotion here is as raw and tangible as in any of Plant's Zeppelin work. You won't find the tireless exuberance or echoing pain of "Whole Lotta Love" and "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You", but this album strikes a chord that's equally sweet. If Plant can continue to make great music, he will have me listening for a long time.