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.