28 February, 2009

"Somebody To Love" - Queen

In my humble opinion, this song is flawless.

"Cross Your Fingers/Crawled Out of the Sea" - Laura Marling

Marling is exactly fifteen days my elder. You can listen to her entire album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, by clicking on the SongBox application on her website. Believe me, it is worth your time.

27 February, 2009

"Time to Pretend (LIVE)" - MGMT

I'm feeling rough, I'm feeling raw, I'm in the prime of my life
Let's make some music, make some money, find some models for wives
I'll move to Paris, shoot some heroin and fuck with the stars
You man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars

This is our decision to live fast and die young
We've got the vision, now let's have some fun!
Yeah it's overwhelming, but what else can we do?
Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?

Forget about our mothers and our friends
We were fated to pretend

I'll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms
I'll miss the comfort of my mother and the weight of the world
I'll miss my sister, miss my father, miss my dog and my home
Yeah, I'll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone

But there is really nothing, nothing we can do
Love must be forgotten, life can always start up anew
The models will have children, we'll get a divorce
We'll find some more models, everything must run its course

We'll choke on our vomit and that will be the end
We were fated to pretend

Yeah, yeah, yeah

"Radio (LIVE)" - Rancid

When I've got the music, I've got a place to go.

26 February, 2009

The 17 Best Romantic Comedies of the Last Decade (according to Paste magazine)

I think seventeen is a bit of an arbitrary number. However, I cannot help my personal infatuation with romantic comedies, and I cannot help feeling a little disappointed that I have only watched six of the seventeen on Paste's only slightly pretentious list.

Now, I do have my qualms with this list. One thing that I find disappointing is the lack of John Cusack movies (there's only one on the list). If I were writing this post I would break my own rules and extend the time period to encompass Grosse Pointe Blank, which is essentially my all-time favorite romantic comedy. Still, I am more than a little enamored with the idea of so many romantic comedies as yet unappreciated. My goal is to watch the other eleven movies this year. That seems feasible, doesn't it? It isn't like I really have to do anything.

"M79" - Vampire Weekend

24 February, 2009

Mise en abyme

I have been struggling for words to describe Beirut's newly released song "My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille", from the double EP March of the Zapotec & Realpeople - Holland, and for a few days now I have been stumped. There is this overwhelming sensation that first slips into my periphery while I am listening. It is like the shadows of tree-limbs on the falling snow. The song grows and stretches and I realize that this feeling is not retreating, it encompasses my eardrums and slides into the pit of my stomach. It is almost like a sickness: I feel a little washed out, a little unreal. I feel like I have just stepped into someone else's daydream. I am encapsulated in a perfect snowflake. This is the "dream within a dream," the mise en abyme.

I am not claiming by any stretch of the imagination that this song is perfect, but only that it is the perfect soundtrack to this frozen moment in my own life. "My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille" carries all of the airy melancholy that is evident in the best scenes of Sofia Coppolla's Marie Antoinette without the sheen and the glitter. It is carnivalesque, but far from multi-colored, far from bright. It feels to me as if the song had been recorded within a vacuum, which is often a description applied to challenge the merit of a musical piece. In this instance, I use vacuum as a positive signifier. Often I listen to songs and feel as if something is missing, but I have no certain method for understanding and apprehending that "something." In this song everything is missing. There is no natural noise behind the recording. At the same time, I feel like this is completely natural, like maybe nothing was there that could be missing.

I could compare the instrumentals and lyric work to New Order or the Magnetic Fields (or even Sufjan), but I think it is pointless to compare. There is intangibility woven into the fabric of the song, and I am completely fascinated with my own fascination.

My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille by Beirut

"Straight to Hell" - Lily Allen (featuring Mick Jones)

This is my favorite Clash song (at the moment). This is also one of those videos that should be minimized while the song is playing. The graphic adds absolutely nothing to the experience.

23 February, 2009

The World's Smallest Puzzles

Indium Rose

I think someone should write popular songs about science, and however much I love Schoolhouse Rock, these new science songs should break from that mold. Didacticism is hot, but autodidacticism is fucking enthralling. These pictures could be the muse for that struggling scientist/musician looking for inspiration.

"Singing to the Earth (To Thank Her For You)" - Apollo Sunshine

Apollo Sunshine 'Singing to The Earth' from Jagger McDaniels on Vimeo.

I love this song. As a side note, this is my 500th post. It is beyond strange to think that I have been blogging for almost four years.

"Blindsided (LIVE)" - Bon Iver

22 February, 2009

Barack and Blanchot

I have recently been in a kind of contemplative collecting mood where I unconsciously amass bundles of words and ideas from the corners of my life. It isn't the most productive mood, and last night I even described it as apathetic, but I think it is actually almost the opposite of apathy. I feel like I am pulling together thoughts, pictures, words, and sounds and storing them away for a later date. It is almost like a plant storing the nutrients required to produce a flower. It is only the promise of something worthwhile at the end that is preventing me from being completely discouraged with myself at the moment. To paraphrase Maurice Blanchot in The Writing of the Disaster, passion and patience are in some senses singular: two halves of the same coin. As my patience fails to wear thin, my passion grows exponentially, and I hope that some type of productivity grows alongside my passion (with time for me to write my final papers).

Here are a couple of things which have caught my interest and attention in the past few days.

The Writing of the Disaster by Maurice Blanchot is a book compiled of paragraphs of insight. The book is disjointed in its presentation, but I think this constant rearranging and patch-working of ideas tends to open space for the reader to engage the material. There are logical pauses and spaces for contemplation, and often these pauses are followed by a striking and profound thought which forces you to pause again. The design of this book is very intelligent. Here is one of my favorite quotations from the first fifty pages:

If the dilemma is to go mad or to die, then the answer will not lack and madness will be mortal.

Earlier in the book there are a pair of ideas that fall on opposing pages. They are particularly interesting because they are working within this theme of transference through language which is so central to the book, and they discuss the capacity and incapacity of language to act as an extension of experience between people. I personally find this fascinating, and I think these quotes are really remarkable.

Reading is anguish, and this is because any text, however important, or amusing, or interesting it may be (and the more engaging it seems to be), is empty - at bottom it doesn't exist; you have to cross an abyss, and if you do not jump, you do not comprehend.

To want to write: what an absurdity. Writing is the decay of the will, just as it is the loss of power, and the fall of the regular fall of the beat, the disaster again.

You can see that there is a real cadence to this language. It is very percussive and musical, and it resonates through my head as I read (and reread) the passages.

On a different note entirely, I found this article about the use of hip-hop music by the Democratic Party during Obama's campaign. Appropriation and exploitation are terms that should be contemplated when dealing with any political movement, but I find this article poorly written and poorly organized in its critique of the campaign's utilization of music when attempting to attract young voters. What I do find interesting is Obama's take on the whole genre:

17 February, 2009

Visual Stimulation (a.k.a. Why I Use YouTube)

If you go to my Valentine's Day post, and read the attached comment, then I think you will understand the impetus for this post. I want to focus in on the question "are visuals just spectacle?" for a couple of reasons. 1) I utilize visuals regularly in my blog; and 2) I think they are an important part of the aural experience, and one that is often overlooked when discussing music. As a side note, I am a little blown away by the fact that one of my friends so readily tapped into the collective unconscious yesterday by asking the excellent question: what do you see when you listen to music? He got me thinking again about the close connections of the senses and the roles which visuals do play in the musical experiences of the individual.

I use YouTube for a number of reasons. The most practical reason is that I do not have a lot of money at my disposal and I choose to refrain from downloading illegally. YouTube then, is often my musical sharing tool of choice. I spend a great deal of time choosing videos that are of high quality and that are also visually stimulating in some new and interesting way. Performance and music videos fascinate me, and I find them appealing as a sort of microscope into the minds of other people who are attempting to decipher or convey an aural experience in a new way. Strong words, melodies, or rhythms can enter your mind softly and situate themselves in comfortable positions until you choose to engage them on some type of conscious level. A good song falls within the standards of good poetry, but has layers of meaning that are conveyed instrumentally as well as lyrically. Adding a visual layer to a song can introduce a new level of meaning, which can be equally as subtle as the lyrics or the fleeting violins in the introduction, but are also penetrating and striking in a completely original way. Instrumentals, lyrics, and pictures combined in the best of possible ways, can create a three-dimensional experience. I already find music tactile and multidimensional, so adding a layer of visuals generally only enhances this quality, although it is true that those YouTube montage videos can severely detract from the enjoyability of a song.

What do I see when I listen to music? This question caught me off guard because generally I find myself caught up in the act of listening to a song, and I do not take the time to think as much about visual stimulation. I realized after a little thinking that I often see the lyrics imprinted upon my mind, as if I am reading a musical book. At the same time, my mind also strongly registers percussion and rhythm in kinds of visual waves, which contribute strongly to that sense of musical tactility that I mentioned before. I am entranced by repetition and rhythm schematics and at the same time caught by the underlying meaning of songs. The more I look at what constitutes the majority of my favorite music, the more I realize that I am attracted to a certain aural type. There is a reason why Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love is my favorite album, and it has nothing to do with my current surroundings and everything to do with my inner workings.

"Sweet Jane" - Cowboy Junkies

16 February, 2009

"Solace" - Dorothy Parker

There was a rose that faded young;
I saw its shattered beauty hung
Upon a broken stem.
I heard them say, "What need to care
With roses budding everywhere?"
I did not answer them.

There was a bird, brought down to die;
They said, "A hundred fill the sky-
What reason to be sad?"
There was a girl, whose lover fled;
I did not wait, the while they said,
"There's many another lad."

14 February, 2009

Happy V-Day from Otis Redding

Try A Little Tenderness (Live)

Last year I picked some less than amazing songs on Valentine's Day. This is the real shit, man.


12 February, 2009

There are days when I think of all the reasons why I hate Boston...

and then I remember the Dresden Dolls. I was thirteen when I heard "Coin-Operated Boy" for the first time, and I honestly didn't understand all of the nuances of that song. I was a little naive, or maybe I was just thirteen. I did, however, understand the immensity of such a song being played on popular radio. A Boston band influenced by German cabaret was playing regularly alongside the formidable, but completely uninteresting Dropkick Murphy's (formidable and uninteresting, humorously enough, are often the same words I use to describe Boston itself. Throw "ugly" in for a little bit of flavor, and you can mimic me!) I loved "Coin-Operated Boy," but I was completely enthralled by "Girl Anachronism" with all of its beautifully twisted language and crashing melody. "This passion is a plagiarism" has to be one of the most honest lines I have heard in a song in a long time. Yes, Virginia was not a bad follow-up, especially with delightfully macabre songs "Sing" and "First Orgasm." Now, Amanda Palmer has released her own album, which is also macabre, delightful, twisted, and gory. I tend to think of it as some kind of Tim Burton confection fit to be played alongside Sleepy Hollow. "Astronaut" is the first single, and it is absolutely worth your time and energy.


When I used to drive my brother around regularly, I would subject him to all kinds of music. I tried not to make things unbearable for us both by playing anything too girly (Something Corporate, Sara Bareilles, and Regina Spektor were saved for solo drives). Often we would listen to Muse, Pink Floyd, Lupe Fiasco, and Amy Winehouse. During one period of time Radiohead's Pablo Honey was on indefinite repeat. I could not get enough, my brother, however, thought it was suicide music.

"You" is amazing, and neither of us had a bad word to say about that effervescent miracle of a song, but it only lasted us to the first set of traffic lights. "You" would give way to "Creep," and then the "blood is thicker than water" maxim would be tested. I had heard "Creep" so many times before that it wasn't really an issue to push the skip button, but at the same time I felt as if I was doing a musical disservice to my brother. It is a great song, and it flows so well with the rest of the album that it is almost sacrilegious to move directly from "You" to "How Do You?". What did I do? Well, it was my car so you can venture a guess.

The point of this story I suppose is that there are some songs that are inescapable. There are some songs that seem to follow you around. For me, "Creep" has been one of those songs, and I am completely fascinated by the fact that it never wears my ears thin. It is as if the universe knows that I am destined to listen to this song, so why not let me enjoy the thing.

Creep by Amanda Palmer

Walking On Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves

This is the most randomly awesome video that I have witnessed in a long time. It begs the question, why three boys in trench coats and Chuck Taylor Converse? I say, why not?

D-d-d-desolation Row

Desolation Row by My Chemical Romance

Desolation Row by the Grateful Dead

Desolation Row by Bob Dylan

11 February, 2009

And now for something competely different!

Hey all!

I know I've been out of commission for awhile, and I do apologize for this (deeply and from the bottom of my heart. Do hearts have bottoms? What does the bottom of a heart look like, and what's actually there?). Anyway, I am looking out my window right now and watching cars gallumph through the sad-looking trees along the road. They are dead of winter trees that are standing so still and silent in this little breath of Spring air (ah, Spring). The trees are the smart ones because they know that there is still no reason to celebrate the warmth, it is uncertain and will probably disappear before the weekend is upon us. I still haven't learned that Spring never comes when it says it will. What a tease!

With my own naivete in mind, I have decided to craft a mixed masterpiece of life in the most stagnant months of the year. With my birthday coming up, I am feeling a little depressed, taking stock and wondering what I have actually accomplished in an entire year. Last year at this time, I was in a similar place. In fact, every year at this time I am in this place. My mood at this moment is just about as uncertain as the weather, and I find myself tiring of my constant self-assessment. I have been consumed by my work during the last week, with my free time eaten away by new media. Is that shallow? It feels to me like I am hiding from something, and maybe like the groundhog, I don't really want to see my own shadow.

Shakespeare said that "the play is the thing." I love plays, but for me the mix is the thing, it is the only type of crafting which I excel at on a regular basis (Side note: You know those craft projects that come pre-packaged in the cute boxes? I cannot, for the life of me, put them together. I always end up fucking something up, usually by jumping ahead and realizing that I cannot go back. Such is life.)

So here is a mix for my faithful readers. It will hopefully be less schizophrenic than this post. Peace, love, and all that jazz.

"Meltdown" by Ash
With galvanizing power this song wails into existence born on a message of revolt. The drums and guitars centralize over the repeated line: "I think (I think) my head is gonna explode," a line that was unbelievably apropos in Shaun of the Dead. Right now this song is one of the few songs (besides Stravinsky and Led Zeppelin) that can keep me in the moment for longer than ten seconds. It is focused like a laser beam.

"Atomic" by Blondie
Time for a revelation from my musical past. I don't think anyone knows this little factoid. The boy who I "liked" in fifth grade had a penchant for Blondie (he also loved playing card games: 45's, War, etc.) At the time, the only knowledge I had of Blondie was the random Debbie Harry song on The Rugrats Movie soundtrack *cough* LAME *cough*. This song is pretty fucking amazing, with lyrics that could come off as desperate in many contexts, but instead sound amazingly smooth and shiny. It is the kind of song that would be played on a spaceship, but the type of spaceship that caters to strippers? I think it's amazing.

"Time is Tight" by Booker T. & the MG's
This is a funky intermission song. When I listen, I feel like I am at a 1970s drive-in movie theatre getting ready to watch the second half of a double-feature. The instrumentation is very tight and metronomic, and in this case these qualities are comforting and far from banal.

"Straight to Hell" by the Clash
This song is sampled in M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," and I found this odd upon first listen, because this song is fairly odd for The Clash. For example, the lyrics are almost stream of consciousness, and whenever I hear the song I feel like Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were pulling a kind of Jackson Pollock with their song-writing. It seems like a cathartic, "let's throw shit at the wall" kind of song, and I really enjoy the surrealism of their polemics. It is refreshing lyrically, and the music is stimulating and layered. This is one of my favorite Clash songs.

"Don't Go Down" by Elliott Smith
A song of doomed love that sounds like a train wreck musically personified. I find the mess both stimulating and frightening. Smith has a way of using very few words to invoke a veritable relationship chasm. He opens the wound and you fill the space with your own pain. This can be a therapeutic type of digression, but it can also become emotive in the worst possible sense of the word. There are times when you just need to decide to be happy.

"I Will Survive" by Cake
This is one of those times. Cake makes me happy, especially when they cover Gloria Gaynor songs with aplomb and a wonderful portion of funk. John McCrea's has a monotone and ironic voice which adds a wonderful layer of sarcasm to a song that deserved a good dose. Behind the vocal work is the steady, pumping bass-line that resonates through your mind. Then there are the horns, oh the horns. If there is one thing in a great funk/soul song that I cannot resist, it is a wonderful smattering of tasteful horn-work. I'm in lust with this song.

"Down to the Waterline" by Dire Straits
Silence is a paintbrush, and the guitar work makes me swoon. Check out these lyrics:

Sweet surrender on the quayside.
You remember we used to run and hide.
In the shadow of the cargoes I take you one time.
And we're counting all the numbers down to the waterline.

Near misses on the dogleap stairways.
French kisses in the darkened doorways.
A foghorn blowing out wild and cold.
A policeman shines a light upon my shoulder.

Up comes a coaster fast and silent in the night.
Over my shoulder all you can see are the pilot lights.
No money in our jackets and our jeans are torn.
Your hands are cold but your lips are warm.

She can see him on the jetty where they used to go.
She can feel him in the places where the sailors go.
When she's walking by the river and the railway line.
She can still hear him whisper:
"Let's go down to the waterline."