Thursday, March 20, 2008

Man, I've Gotten Lazy

...But I'll share this with you, dear reader. A friend recommended a customizable internet radio station to me, and so far, so good. Maybe I'm the last to hear about it, but it's called Pandora.

No need to download or install anything, which is definitely nice. It seems to have more options than Launch as well (e.g. you can click "I'm tired of this song - don't play it for a month").

The first artist I typed in was Radiohead... shocking, I know. And then Muse popped up all on its own. It knows me!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Supremes Deserve Their Own Post

Listening to The Supremes forces me to dance around my apartment whether I plan to or not. Before I know it, I'm all hip and shoulder action, performing for an audience of no one. The music's good enough to make me forget how Diana Ross turned out kinda batshit crazy. (I can make fun of her all I want, lady's still supposedly worth $150 million.)

For my own edification and yours, I tried looking up the names of the other two Supremes, but there have been about 9 women who have fit that description over the years. So much for that.

This is honestly one of my very favorite bands, so I couldn't post just one song. Titles with punctuation are where it's at!

Come See About Me (1964)

Where Did Our Love Go? (1964)

Stop! In the Name of Love (1965)

Also, "You Keep Me Hangin' On" certainly deserves an honorable mention for such timeless lyrics. During a post-breakup phase last summer, I was impressed that a song from 1966 could capture my sentiments so precisely. Right on, ladies.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Tell Two Friends, Ya'll

An old friend of mine has achieved something remarkable. He is doing what he loves, i.e., making movies. (Insert awe here) Truly, I admire anyone who's actually pursuing his passion in a real way. And for enduring nearly catastrophic levels of stress as a producer, there has been some reward. The film, Medicine for Melancholy, got in to South by Southwest! The screenings are this Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. . . it's all happening. People will be watching it on a large screen, possibly while eating popcorn. Holy shit.

I couldn't possibly summarize the film any better than their press release:
A love story of bikes and one-night stands told through two African-American twenty-somethings dealing with issues of class, identity, and the evolving conundrum of being a minority in rapidly gentrifying San Francisco—a city with the smallest proportional black population of any other major American city.
Intriguing, yes. Good, also yes! And not just supposed-to-like-it good either. I got to sit down with my very own pre-final copy last night, and I thought it was really great. Starting with the realistic take on the "morning after" sequence (not that I would know...), striking cinematography, smart dialogue, refreshing unknown actors playing characters you totally want to follow, right down to the subtle education on a subject I didn't know much about... hell, it was everything an indie movie should be. A lovely mix of intensity and lightheartedness wrapped in a scenic tour of San Francisco.

Wait, this is a music blog, right? Let's talk indie soundtrack. What a wonderful way to get a crash course in at least 10 new (to me) bands. Like the oh-so British pop-rock trio, The Answering Machine. I'm finding myself digging "Lightbulbs" more with each listen. Bloodcat Love just
sounds like L.A., but in a good way. And perhaps my favorite, Au Revoir Simone, who will instantly chill you out with their self-proclaimed "triple keyboard action." For reals, I'm about 17 times calmer since I hit play on "Through the Backyards." Love those sleeeeeepy voices.
Then there's this other up-and-comer, what's his name, Tom Waits? Yes, Mr. Waits kindly permitted use of his song, "Lie to Me." He truly does it all. Musician, actor, source of a mysterious eponymous website(?), and friend of the little man.

Keep checking the website: to find out when the film will be available near you. Then you can go see it and support some folks who are so indie, they make Harmony Korine look like, um, Michael Bay. (Suck it, analogies.) Just go see it.

Look - it's a trailer! (That charming song in the background is "Meet Me By the Water" by Saturday Looks Good to Me.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More Confessions of a Blogger

I'd like to say that I enjoy "Alone" by Heart in an ironic sense, but the fact is I just like it. Step off, Celine.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The National: Music for a Post-Apocalyptic Landscape?

Maybe that's over-stating it a bit. But by chance, my ipod in shuffle mode led me to a discovery this morning. I was on my way to work on Presidents' Day (don't ask), and couldn't help but feel weirded out... almost no cars on the street, few people on the sidewalks, absolutely no one waiting for the elevator in our usually packed lobby at work. I realized that The National is the perfect music for wandering a spookily empty city first thing in the morning.

Moody, mopey, whatever, it's not like they try to hide it. Anyway, they're brilliant with layering instruments and constructing interesting rhythms. I've seen them live twice - once when they opened for Arcade Fire - and these Cincinatti boys know how to put on a mesmerizing show. You don't need to know any of the songs in advance to enjoy it; it's that kind of good. They also must have somewhat of a sense of humor, with lyrics like, "They're gonna send us to prison for jerks..."

I'll admit, I know their most recent album,
Boxer, much better than 2005's Alligator. Both are great though. Here are a few of my favorites.

Squalor Victoria
Green Gloves
Fake Empire

I could (and I will!) write another whole post about songs that make a great soundtrack for various activities/moods. It's kind of a hobby. Soon...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

..Together we can take it to the end of the line...

As a general rule, I don't love the abuse of karaoke for let's-bring-everyone-down ballads... but there are definitely exceptions. The most significant case in point - you all know where I'm going with this - is Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." I don't know why we all know the words, but few things can unite a packed bar as surprisingly as the opening sounds of that melancholy piano.

Last Thursday, some friends and I busted out this standard at T.G. Whitney's karaoke night. The audience reacted as hoped, and by the chorus, we didn't even need our microphones anymore.

It's hard to say which is my favorite part:

-The sudden swelling into "...And I need you
now, tonight..."

-The excuse to scream at the top of your lungs, "We're living in a powder keg and GIVING OFF SPARKS!!"

-The lyrics "Every now and then I know there's no one in the universe as magical and wondrous as you," so ballsy in their ridonculousness

-The way they throw in an extra little falsetto "turn around, bright eyes," sung ever so lightly, before the swirling wind sounds bring it to a close...

Oh, who am I kidding, I can't choose a favorite!

My first memories of this song involve the annual D.A.R.E. rally at our middle school. Every year, the 8th graders put on this melodramatic little skit about a teenager who ruins her life with drugs, while Bonnie Tyler inexplicably played in the background. God knows how many years this same skit had been used, considering that the song pre-dated most of us entering preschool.
Taking the message to the literal extreme, students would dress up as different drugs, i.e. a sandwich board with the word "Marijuana" or "LSD" on it, and of course, sunglasses. Each drug would hug the wayward teen, and then all of her new drug friends joined hands and circled around her (could I make this up?). The coolest kids got to play the drugs. God, where would we be without D.A.R.E. rallies?
The point of this tangent: it took about a year for that song to leave our skulls, and then it would be time for the next rally. Turn around.....

Listen at your own risk!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Modern Definition for Shame

I wanted to share this conversation. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Me: Someone on the kickball message board was trying to organize a bar gathering tomorrow, and my friend was like, I might be able to stop by after this Matchbox 20 concert.
Me: and 3 of us simultaneously reacted- "Matchbox 20???"
Anonymous Friend: hahaha
Me: she was like, defending herself, that she got tricked and didn't know what concert
Me: apparently Alanis is opening?
Me: MSG even. amazing
AF: they're SUCH a guilty pleasure. like i'm not embarrassed by my love of bubblegum pop, but THEY make me all shy to admit
Me: it's like Benedict Arnold = Traitor. Matchbox 20 = I listen to whatever the radio DJ tells me to
Me: i still like "Long Day"
Me: but i would rather die than go to that show
Me: except maybe to see Alanis
AF: i liked Mad Season a lot
AF: the album
AF: Beautiful Girl, Bed of's good!
AF: shh
Me: haha

It's true. I owned Yourself or Someone Like You. I saw them in concert twice. I can't exactly pinpoint when Matchbox 20 fandom became shameful; it just did. I guess I didn't officially give up until the advancement of Rob Thomas' solo career. There's generic VH-1 Top 20 Countdown fodder, and then there's that, a whole new level of forgettable, contrived, pop-rock.
1997 Kim will always think fondly of you. But I feel I must bid you adieu.

Listening to: STP - "Vasoline"

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Half-Assed Grammy Rundown

In need of some background noise while doing household tasks and avoiding the cold, I caught the Grammy Awards last night. All 14 hours of it. For real, though, that telecast just kept going! I know it's been a while since I watched, but since when do they have to give out every possible lifetime achievement award in a single night? Do the Grammy people know something we don't... is the planet going down soon and they had to get the awards out in a last dash?

OK, despite some odd moments (Kanye, I'm looking at you), the practically ridiculous length of the show, and the fact that I don't even believe in music awards because I don't see a valid way to judge something as subjective as music (about the same way I feel about comedy awards, by the way)... some good did come from this show.

1. Being a nerd for good piano, I absolutely loved the Herbie Hancock/Lang Lang peformance of "Rhapsody in Blue" with full orchestra. That piece always blows me away, but watching it happen up close, brought together by so many people at the top of their musical game, left me smiling and impressed.

2. Vince Gill's acceptance speech. He was presented his Best Country Album award by Ringo Starr, to which he commented, "I just got an award from a Beatle.... Kanye, that happen to you yet?" The audience responded well, and a reaction shot showed Kanye laughing, but we'll see if something unfortunate should befall Mr. Gill in the near future. Joking or not, it was nice to see someone take Kanye down a peg.

3. Tina turner. Effing 68 and still working it out, singing/dancing to "Proud Mary" with Beyoncé and a lot of other people on that stage less than half her age. If I can still move like that at 68, I will consider myself a success.

Also worth mentioning I suppose, Amy Winehouse won a bunch of stuff. She slurred something about her incarcerated lover into her Record of the Year acceptance speech - yes, she used the word incarcerated. Sigh. What a fine, fine role model for young girls everywhere who hope to be scary and strung out by the age of 24! She does have some catchy-ass songs though, doesn't she?

Listening to: Arcade Fire - "The Well and the Lighthouse"

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Chiffons - "He's So Fine"

In 1963, five girls from the Bronx hit #1 with "He's So Fine."

This is the song that instantly makes my mom 17 again. When it starts, she has the same, "Oh, I
love this song!" reaction that I might have when an Arcade Fire song comes on. Yes, I did just compare The Chiffons to Arcade Fire, apparently.

It's hard to beat lyrics like these:

He's so fine (oh yeah)
Gotta be mine (oh yeah)
Sooner or later (oh yeah)
I hope it's not later (oh yeah)

Some sentiments are just timeless I guess.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Best Opening Lyrics

I agree wholeheartedly with most of the choices on this list, although the order may be disputable. Some of these, I'll admit I just don't know that well. For shame, right? I've never gotten into Patti Smith, but maybe it's time I gave her another shot.

Soundbytes included, which will likely drive you to seek out and listen to the rest of the song. Well done, list-makers.

Listening to: Stellastarr* - "My Coco"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Favorite Music Videos: Radiohead - "Paranoid Android"

Easily one of my all-time favorite videos, "Paranoid Android" premiered during a prime MTV-watching year for me, 1997. Everything just kind of stopped when this video came on, and you always hoped it would be next in the rotation.

As many times as I've viewed this one, I just learned a whole lot from a little wikipedia research, such as:

-The song title refers to the depressed robot, Marvin the Paranoid Android, from Douglas Adams'
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I always kind of suspected...)
-The fat guy who cuts off his arms and legs is supposed to be Boris Yeltsin
-The main character comes from a cartoon series called Robin, which Radiohead members enjoyed
-At 2 minutes, 35 seconds, the band makes a cameo as the group of people watching a man dancing on a table with a face coming out of his belly button
-The line "The blood and the screaming" may be a reference to George Orwell's novel 1984, which was a major influence on OK Computer as a whole
-Radiohead has talked about this song as 3 songs in one, getting the idea from The Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun"
-The guitar solo was ranked #34 by Guitar World readers in a list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Solos"

...and so much more.

For those watching at work, this is most certainly the unedited version that MTV would never show (see the mermaids at the end, and you'll know what I'm talking about.)
Now presenting 6+ minutes of deranged, animated joy.

P.S. - My old roommate Erica and I do a badass karaoke rendition of this, if I may say so myself. It's not even a duet, but somehow, we work it out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More from the Classics collection - Can't Take My Eyes Off of You

This one certainly belongs near the top of my list of favorite oldies. From 1967, "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" by Frankie Valli.

Who else thinks of a young Heath Ledger singing this one on the bleachers in
10 Things I Hate About You? Le sigh.

EDIT: This was written before today's shocking news. How terribly sad.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Almost Famous

My friend AJ (also goes by Algernon) in his first music video, filmed in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It's a mix of an old Dionne Warwick song called "Shall I Tell Her," but he calls his version "You're Not Here." Yeah, man.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shake Your Tail Feather

There's a reason that I've dressed up as a 60s girl group member the last two Halloweens. My love of oldies music makes me wonder if I wasn't meant to belong to a different era.

Not so much? OK, well it was worth a shot. P.S. - This is what happens when a dork like me gets access to Photoshop.

Here begins another feature: a listing of classic songs that I believe more than stand up to the test of time. Songs we all know somehow, probably from movies or commercials, maybe from a little of our parents' influence too. If you haven't been to a Motown-themed dance night (try Rififi in the East Village every third Saturday of the month), it's kind of amazing how much of the sound is familiar. And what fantastic dance music! Aside: my mom tried to teach me to do the mashed potato once... way harder than it looks.

I really got to rediscover some of the greats while preparing to DJ my parents' 40th anniversary party this summer. The Shirelles, The Chiffons, The Platters, The Penguins... this stuff makes me happy. Kind of takes me somewhere else when I'm typing away in cubicle land. I also wanted to go with a theme of all love songs for the party, then realized.... they're ALL love songs.

Let's start with one that I'll admit got my attention as part of the end credits to
There's Something About Mary. "Build Me Up Buttercup" by The Foundations, from 1968. Try to sit still. You just can't.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fun with Internet Radio

A song I nearly forgot about just came on my Launch player, which is always a pleasant surprise, even if I did program the station myself by rating my favorite artists, albums, and songs.

I spent a significant portion of my summer obsessed with "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors" by Editors. An ex introduced me to these mopey, rockin', dancefloor-friendly Brits, so I guess one good thing came from that lame-ass situation. And I pass the benefits along to you!

Monday, January 7, 2008

My Favorite Music Videos: The Bravery - "An Honest Mistake"

Because honestly, who doesn't love an extended domino toppling sequence à la Mousetrap? (You all remember that board game that took longer to set up than to actually play?)

This song was an indie rock dance floor standard in Gainesville, as I'm sure it was elsewhere, circa Summer 2005. Still evokes vivid memories of hipsters, sweatiness, and smoke burning my eyes. But in a good way.

Keep watching until the end - that's the bloody cleverest part.

Friday, January 4, 2008

I think it's love

Meet my new electric piano, Angela. (Instruments should have names, yes?) Isn't she a beaut?

That's 36 black keys and 52 white keys of electric joy. She was a present from Santa.

A little background. I took piano lessons from the ages of 8 to 16, but I wasn't a very diligent student. I could sight-read well enough to get by, but I hardly ever did my counting or practicing in general. In adulthood, it's been a goal of mine to get as good as I could be. I wonder if there are piano teachers who specialize in such a thing - reforming a bad student later in life. We shall see.

Meantime, I'm excited to have this outlet to play whenever I damn well please. My roommates will soon learn why "Linus and Lucy" (the Peanuts theme) is my ringtone. One of my favorites. A masterwork of syncopated craziness courtesy of Vince Guaraldi, which everyone recognizes after a few moments.

How about a little trip back in time? I think I'm about 8 in this picture.

Hope my first piano doesn't get jealous! Angela could never take the place of my original gleaming upright Samick. Although it is nice to have an electric because it doesn't need tuning, I can jack in headphones to spare my roommates and neighbors, and it fits in my room, sort of. The perfect piano for New York living.

Listening to: Beck - "Lord Only Knows"