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.