26 June, 2007


Live Earth is probably something you've heard a lot about recently, if you're at all connected to the world. One reason is that Al Gore is behind it, and since "An Inconvenient Truth" you can't get away from Mr. Gore (even on South Park: Manbearpig ahhh!!!) Not that I really care, the man doesn't offend me like some people who are always in the news and I agree that Global Warming is a huge issue. I enjoy these musical festivities if they're for a good cause, so I'm actually pretty excited about Live Earth.

Still, if you're someone that doesn't believe in Global Warming or is just sick of Al Gore, you may feel annoyed at the prospect of an entire festival concentrated around these two entities. Don't get frustrated!! Instead, I challenge you to take a look at the list of artists playing Live Earth, listen to their music, and tell me there's not one band that appeals to you. If you can honestly say that you dislike every band in the line-up, then you're absolutely more of a music snob than I am! I don't applaud you, because that's just sad. Here's the official line-up, and it's looking pretty hot. On 7.7.07 you know where I'll be. Where will you be?

The headliner's/crowd draws are:
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Smashing Pumpkins
Dave Matthews Band
John Mayer
Beastie Boys
The Police

Personally, I'm not even that excited about these guys ^, except for the Beasties o' course.

In Australia there's a lineup I'm especially proud of:
Blue King Brown who are truly exceptional musicians
Crowded House
Eskimo Joe
Jack Johnson
John Butler Trio
Missy Higgins
Paul Kelly
Sneaky Sound System
Toni Collette and the Finish
and Wolfmother

China's lineup is chock-full of local faves:
12 Girls Band
Anthony Wong
Eason Chan
Evonne Hsu
Huang Xiao Ming
Sarah Brightman
Winnie Shin

Germany has the rockers:
Chris Cornell
Enrique Iglesias
Jan Delay
Katie Melua
Lotto King Karl
Mando Diao
Michael Mittermeier
Roger Cicero
Snoop Dogg

Japan's got plenty of J-pop:
Abingdon Boys School
Ai Otsuka
Bonnie Pink
Genki Rockets
Kumi Koda
Linkin Park
Michael Nyman
Rip Slyme
Yellow Magic Orchestra

South Africa's got the beat:
Angelique Kidjo
Baabaa Maal
Danny K
Joss Stone
The Parlotones
The Soweta Gospel Choir
Vusi Mahlasela

The United Kingdon has both a popular and eclectic lineup:
Beastie Boys
Black Eyed Peas
Bloc Party
Corinne Bailey Rae
Damien Rice
David Gray
Duran Duran
Foo Fighters
James Blunt
John Legend
Paolo Nutini
Pussycat Dolls
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Snow Patrol
Spinal Tap (YES, the SPINAL TAP)
Terra Naomi

The United States has a similar lineup to the UK's "headliners and legends":
Alicia Keys
Bon Jovi
Dave Matthews Band
Fall Out Boy
John Mayer
KT Tunstall
Kanye West
Keith Urban
Kelly Clarkson
Melissa Etheridge
Roger Waters
Smasking Pumpkins
Taking Back Sunday
The Police

I wish I lived in Australia, South Africa, or even Germany because those lineups look really stellar. By the way, wasn't there supposed to be a concert somewhere on the continent of Antarctica?

20 June, 2007

Money Mark is no con

I fully admit to being a fan of Jack Johnson, Matt Costa, and the rest of the Brushfire Records bunch. When I heard that the latest addition to that happy, eco-friendly, record-making family is the man referred to as the 4th Beastie Boy, I was obviously pretty excited.

Money Mark is well worth the hype that he's received as a friend of both Jack Johnson and the beastly threesome, but he's also an original and unique artist whose music can stand on its own merits. His new album "Brand New By Tomorrow" offers groovy R&B keyboards, and vocals that take a page from Jamiroquai's cool delivery and the Beatles' lyrical and musical pairings. The lyrics are interesting, as is the music, with enough originality to make it exciting, but also accessible. Everything on this album is cool as a cucumber, a little jazzy, and perfect for chilling out on a hot summer day.

19 June, 2007

Lions, and Tigers, and Stripes, oh my!!

The White Stripes have been around for awhile, and they've gained quite a level of notoriety among indie kids and popsters alike. Unfortunately, I don't really understand what all the fuss is about! The claim that most people use to back up the White Stripes' musical genius is that this twosome has always refused to add any bells and whistles to their straight-ahead garage songs. They've stayed true to Motor City by keeping production values separated from music.

In my opinion, instead of high production values and strong musicianship, they use gimmicks like the whole fake incestuous relationship between Jack and Meg, the repeated colors red, white, and black (used most notably by the Nazi party), and the inherent bizarre nature of most of their music to attract the rock 'n' roll crowd.

I'm no prude. Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osborne aren't nearly as scary as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in my book. It would be incredibly easy for me to ignore the White Stripes' odd idiosyncrasies if I found anything remotely akin to genius in their music. However, I only hear messy rock with obtuse and pretentious lyrics. In my opinion, this is a far cry from the best music of Detroit, the music that actually took its name from the city: Motown. Where the Supremes and Stevie Wonder were able to break down social barriers and create excellent pop music with meaningful lyrics and awesome musicianship, the Stripes stand in my mind as two kids in a garage making sounds that are transient and two-dimensional. When I here "Seven Nation Army", I hear a mess. A crudely patched "song" that really doesn't make me feel anything.

It's not that I haven't tried to understand the Stripes. I've listened to every album, and I've even found songs that are enjoyable, but nothing particularly exciting or unique. Nirvana already made heavy music, and the Sex Pistols made messy music, and honestly, both made music that's much better than the Stripes'. Still, I listened, trying to understand that genius that had so many reviewers in a tizzy. I even invested in The Raconteurs (a band I find much more to my liking than the Stripes), and this morning I listened to "Icky Thump". Nothing really appealing, nothing really fun, nothing really different.

Please spell out what I've missed!

Van Gogh (and find some awesome music!)

My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh, and last night I watched a show that just really painted the man for me, so to speak. Check out this short series if you ever get the chance, it's fairly enlightening!

Simon Schama's Power of Art

In honor of the artist and his gritty, rooted, beautiful work I've created a musical playlist. I don't presume to think that it will capture even a speck of Van Gogh's genius, but, hopefully, it will complement the feeling I enjoy when I view Van Gogh's work.

Wheatfield Cypresses Playlist (for it's swirling summery perfection!)

"Lemon Grove Avenue" by Mason Jennings. Folk music, when done well, can balance swirling fantasy with deeply rooted feeling. Mason Jennings does folk well, and I love this song most for its lyrics: "I'm coming home, I'm coming home".

"Midnight Lightning" by Jimi Hendrix. "Blue light flashing" and a deep blues sound, with a guitar that meanders, and wanders, but never outright leaves the beat.

"Better" by Regina Spektor. If the tortured genius had felt this sentiment would he have felt anything at all? I do, and I love Spektor for asking.

"Symphony No. 29 in A Major, KV 201: I. Allegro moderato" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Here's the music of another genius who can absolutely fill you up with sound. The emotion is so strong.

"Galileo" by the Indigo Girls. This is such a powerful song that the ideas just blanket me. My mind is wrapped in their thoughts, and warmed by their feeling.

"One By One All Day" by the Shins. This album always reminds me of tumbleweeds and bubbles...is that weird? Probably, but it also captures that sort of melancholy summer feeling when you're counting the days to fall. It's like counting the days 'til the Rapture.

"Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys. One hit wonder anyone? Actually, their latest album is excellent, but that's not the reason Los Lonely Boys are on this playlist. This song just captured the marbled quality of life; the lyrics are so sad, but the whole thing is just so beautiful.

"Belleville Rendez-vous (English Version)" by The Triplets of Belleville. It's macabre and sweet; very french. Also the perfect ending. Fin.

16 June, 2007

12 June, 2007

Black Panther by Mason Jennings

"Black panther defy the power

Fight the violence with nonviolence

What good is justice if the scales are bent

By a criminal government

Think of the dead in Vietnam

Think of the dead in Birmingham

Think of the freedom we don't understand

Asleep in bed in a stolen land

Responsibility to understand

Responsibility to take a stand

Responsibility to know your place

In the struggle of the human race"

Little Steven's Underground, and other NEWS

So, I guess I wasn't the only music snob who decided to dedicate their musings to Sgt. Pepper last week. A few days ago I stumbled across a radio show called Little Steven's Underground Garage that also concentrated on Sgt. Pepper, although Little Steven played some more recent songs for our listening pleasure as well as the old psychedelic standbys. He does a pretty nice radio show with stuff that you don't usually hear outside of your headphones, and you can listen to it ALL online because it's archived.

Check it out here: Little Steven's Underground Garage

What else for musical news? Well, there are going to be plenty of summer concerts this year, and the summer itself seems to be looking pretty breezy and bright. I'm picking up good vibrations! What about you?

Writing of breezy and bright, I stumbled upon a little album this morning that seems to exemplify those summery ideals. It's called "Hotel Costes: Best of Stephane Pompougnac", and it's a collection of these eclectic French dance tunes covered by all kinds of crazy artists. Especially worthwhile picks, in my humble opinion, are "Where Do I Begin (Away Team Mix)" by Shirley Bassey, "Latazz" by the Funky Lowlives, and "Night Over Manaus" by Boozoo Bajou. They seem like tracks that would work on a nice night at the beach. Preface those dance songs with "Brasil" by Xavier Cugat and you've got yourself a cocktail party minus the cocktails.

"La Vie En Rose" opened on Friday, and I'm looking forward to seeing it, (1 because it looks like it's worth seeing, and (2 because I'm a fan of Edith Piaf. Her story is really so perfectly French romance in a sad way, and her music is just excellent. I guess I have a little love affair with French music, especially jazz. Django anyone? Now, Edith. It's great stuff.

Have a musical week!!!

05 June, 2007

40 Years of Sgt. Pepper

I remember vividly, pawing through my parents' CD collection as a young child. It was like searching for lost treasure, and I was never quite sure what I would find.

My very first memory involves the music of Gloria Estefan. The most infectious and soulful sound that I had ever heard in my young life, and that moment was created by my Mom. My Dad has told me about my lullabies, which didn't consist of cheerful rhymes, but often of the song "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who. I spent my early life surrounded by music of all kinds, and I was exposed to all of this music by my parents.

So, on that specific day when I was looking for something really different to listen to, I happened upon an odd-looking CD. The band on the cover was surrounded by all kinds of crazy characters, and they were dressed in the most outrageous and awesome costumes (what was up with their haircuts?); how could their music be bad? I remember putting the CD in my boombox, and quickly skipping through the songs to hear which ones sounded like the most fun. Hahah, wow this was weird, but great! I think I must have had the reaction that many music fans had on the 1st of June in 1967, when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was first released. Even though I didn't know the Beatles' back story, I could hear that this music was still just so different from anything I'd ever heard. Here are the songs that most profoundly affected me when I was young. The choices may surprise you, but they're still some of my favorites.

The opener, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was an immediate rock hit with that garagey sounding guitar. The horns were pretty odd, and the laughter and applause in the background succeeded in making believe that Sgt. Pepper's Hearts Club Band was a real band. Today, I know the Beatles were trying to achieve a break from their usual personas, a completely different kind of band, and in my mind they definitely achieved this goal.

"With a Little Help From My Friends" was a perfect follow-up, being not too weird in my mind. It works cohesively with the rest of the album, but it's definitely more mainstream.

I would personally skip "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", because it really creeped me out, and it was too slow (plus, what was up with those lyrics? They didn't mean anything to my young mind.)

"Getting Better" rocked with an extremely catchy melody, and I liked those lyrics (although the reference to beating your wife was VERY dated, it really was kind of shocking to me.)

"Fixing A Hole" was nice for days when I was feeling like listening instead of dancing. I've always been a fan of heavy bass songs, and this song is kind of carried by the bass, while the "lead" guitar is recorded as a kind of background noise. I didn't appreciate all of the songcraft, but I could hear that it was a good song.

"She's Leaving Home" was a little melancholy for my childhood tastes, a little slow for my mind to grab onto, plus I kept wondering if this woman was his beaten wife (if so, then why was he so surprised that she was leaving?)

"For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" was pretty awesome and weird. It made me think of the circus, but with a kite performing all of the acrobatic tricks! The thing is that carnival/circus music is ominous sounding, dark and minor, with that creaky organ in the background. Still, I enjoyed this song because it was pure fantasy.

"Within You Without You" was cool, and exotic sounding. When I was younger I was very open to this sound, because my parents had always listened to world music. Also, my very favorite movie was "A Little Princess" directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and Sara and her father lived in India before her father had to fight in the War. Even though the song was a little slow for my tastes, I appreciated the tone and the world influence.

"When I'm Sixty-Four" was kind of plodding. It reminded me of old men and women, and I obviously didn't relate. I wasn't even thinking about being old, or anyone else being old for that matter.

"Lovely Rita" was a pretty song, even though I thought the lyrics were "Lovely Rita meet her maid" which didn't really make much sense. The piano was especially fun, and I was always a fan of Ringo's percussion on this song.

"Good Morning Good Morning" had a pretty awesome rhythm and it just made me feel good. It would have been a nice way to wake up, but it ended up just being a nice song. The odd sounds at the end were a little weird, but the guitar solo was pretty awesome.

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" a really banging tune that pulled the whole album together. It was very nice.

"A Day In the Life" kind of long and a downer from the rest of the album, but I always connected to this song. It was one song I never really skipped when I was listening to the album, which says quite a bit about the musical craftsmanship. I loved the ending and you really have to listen to the whole song for the ending to mean anything. Today, this is my favorite song on the album.