Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011

As a general rule, I hate those "Best Of" lists that pop up everywhere at the end of every year.  The reason for my distaste is that the vast majority of those lists only contain critic-friendly crap.   You know: Coldplay, Feist, Adele, Katy Perry, Radiohead...junk that for some reason the people who are supposed to "know" about this stuff always love but I always really, really don't love.  Because the things I want to listen to are inexplicably absent from the majority of the lists out there, I'm making my own damn list.  Screw the in-the-know critics/journalists, they don't know shit about what I like.  So here is possibly the only music fan oriented "best of" list that you're likely to find out here.

Here are my top 20 music items that I acquired in 2011 (it's my list so the only criteria is that I love it and came to own it this year):
20. "Sour Cherry" - The Kills (from Midnight Boom)
19.  "Liquor Store Blues" - Bruno Mars (from Doo-Wops & Hooligans)
18. Wasting Light - Foo Fighters - vinyl and digital
17. Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes - vinyl and digital
16. "Get Out" - White Arrows
15. "U.R.A. Fever" - The Kills (from Midnight Boom)
14. "I Want to Forget" - Psychic Twin
13. "Lost and Found" - The Kill Van Kulls
12.  "Today" - Smashing Pumpkins (from Siamese Dream)
11. "She Talks to Angels' (acoustic) - The Black Crowes (from Shake Your Money Maker)
10. Some Mad Hope - Matt Nathanson
9. "The Boxer" - Simon & Garfunkel - (from The Best of Simon & Garfunkel)
8. Heart on Fire EP - Scars on 45
7. Airports EP - The PKO
6. Coast to Coast - Micah
5. Black Sheep, Run - Ryan Schmidt
4. "Disarm" - Smashing Pumpkins (from Siamese Dream)
3. At The Point - Matt Nathanson
2. Beneath These Fireworks - Matt Nathanson
1. Modern Love - Matt Nathanson - vinyl and digital

Just the last few months of 2011 have been a chain reaction of amazing music and people for me.  Technically, I have Train and Maroon 5 to thank for starting it all because they had Matt Nathanson on tour with them, which is how I discovered him back in July.  That discovery led me to Scars on 45 and Aaron Tap who led to Paula Kelley who recommended Ryan Schmidt.  Then by a complete fluke (because they all follow/are followed by a lot of other musicians), I found Micah through Ryan's twitter account and was inclined to follow him based on a single hilarious hashtag.  I gave him a listen with little hope (because I have sampled so many of them and not been inspired) but ended up loving what I heard.  So, as apparently awesome begets awesome, I have high hopes for 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Music Therapy

I'm not a huge believer in therapy in the traditional sense of the word.  I've had some pretty useless therapists in my life (which explains why I do not have one now) and they were all extremely expensive and not nearly as effective as 3 minutes of the right words mixed with the right music and sung by the right person can be.  It has always amazed me how lyrics written by a perfect stranger can make us feel so much.  I think it illustrates the connection that we all have to one another.  Kind of lends a little truth to that cheesy saying about how strangers are just friends we haven't met yet. 

While I was writing about Matchbox Twenty's Yourself or Someone Like You I got to thinking about some times in my life that music has helped me through.  There have been times that it has helped me deal with tragedy, times that it has helped me celebrate, and times when it has just been a friend when that's all I needed.   Sometimes it's music I wouldn't expect either.  I never know if the magic tune is going to be one that expresses how I'm feeling right then, or one that is the exact opposite.  But I always know it when I hear it.

When I was studying for and taking the CPA Exam (an 18 month exercise in torture), my stress level got about as high as it's ever been.  I would study until my brain felt like it was going to melt, then I'd listen to some old favorites to decompress.  Anna Nalick's Wreck of the Day was one of my favorite albums to listen to on my way to take exams.  I could focus on the lyrics, sing along with her (I think we make beautiful harmonies), and just clear my mind.  After exams, I was all about rolling down the windows and cranking Godsmack or Disturbed all the way home.  Such an amazing stress release.

Right in the midst of my CPA Exam taking, we found out that my mom was sick and about six months after that I lost my job (well, it's not really lost, I know where it is, it just isn't mine anymore).  Since I'm not much of a drinker and I'm not medicated, I definitely needed something to keep me sane during that year.  Music filled that bill.  Coincidentally, Neon Trees, Travis McCoy and Bruno Mars all released their debut albums during that time.  Oddly enough, they all helped in their own way.  I drove back and forth to my parents' house 2 or 3 times a week for months and absolutely depended on my iPod to keep me company during those drives.  The iPod I had at the time was named Sally (because I name everything) and she always knew exactly what I wanted to listen to. 

Sometimes I would want to sing along to Neon Trees and Travie McCoy and try to pretend that everything was going to be ok.  Other times I would switch to Bruno Mars' "Talking to the Moon" or Neon Trees' "Farther Down" and just cry.  And then there were days when I would listen to something old school, like Pearl Jam or STP or Counting Crows and let my mind go back to a time when things really were ok.  Whatever emotion I needed to work through at a given time could be exercised by the right song.

If there has ever been a time in your life when music made getting through something possible or even just made it a little bit easier, then you know what I mean.  There is no way I could possibly thank all of the artists that have impacted my life over the years (especially without sounding like a complete nut job).  I like to think that they really create for those of us who really appreciate it, so hopefully just loving the music, taking it in and letting it effect me is thanks enough.  Besides, I have to imagine that there is some therapeutic value to the creating of these kinds of songs too, so it's a win-win for all of us.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Matchbox Twenty - Yourself or Someone Like You

Album: Yourself or Someone Like You
Artist: Matchbox Twenty (or weren't they called "Matchbox 20" back then?)
Release: October 1, 1996


Yourself or Someone Like You, Matchbox Twenty's cleverly named debut album is one of my favorite albums of all time.  I can't remember when or where I got it, but it was pretty new at the time, so I must have picked it up right after my first semester in college.  I probably switched from Seven Mary Three's American Standard to this album and it has been a constant favorite ever since.

I'm not saying this is necessarily the best album Matchbox Twenty has ever made (I'm also not saying that it's not).  I'm sure they have grown and developed as artists and musicians over the years.  However for me, personally, I don't think it will ever get better than "Busted" and "Hang".  Not to mention, Rob's voice is my ears' equivalent of drinking hot tea.  Just smooth and warm and wonderful.  Has his vocal performance gotten even better over the years?  Probably.  Did it need to?  Nope, not a bit.

This is one of those few and far between records that I am totally into all the way through.  There is usually at least one song that I could take or leave, but I truly love the shit out of every single song on Yourself or Someone Like You.  Even "3 A.M." which I've listened to untold hundreds of times.  I read somewhere a long time ago that Rob Thomas wrote "3 A.M." about his mother being ill when he was young.  Even though I'm not 100% certain that's true, after having lost my own mom last year, this song still hits me in a whole new way.  It's a powerful song.

This album also contains "Long Day" which is pretty much my own personal anthem.  I mean, with lines like "I'm sorry 'bout the attitude I need to give when I'm with you, but no one else would take this shit from me", how can I not love this song?  (I'm sure my husband could attest to how well this song suits me as well) I could literally quote the entire thing and it would be applicable to me.  Love, love, love it.  Another one I feel a special kinship with is "Push", of course, now that I think about it, I'm not sure what that says about me exactly.

I own everything Matchbox Twenty has ever recorded and while it is all obviously quite good, Yourself or Someone Like You remains the best one for me.  It's not just the nostalgic quality of it that makes me love it.  There are no sharp edges on this record, the whole thing is smooth and comfortable like my favorite pair of jeans.  The guitars are dirty, the vocals are on the mark and the lyrics hit home perfectly.  I'm really excited about their upcoming new release (and hopefully the big fat tour that will go along with it!!) but no matter how awesome that one is, this one will always have a special place in my heart.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Micah - Coast to Coast

Album: Coast to Coast
Artist: Micah
Release: July 2010

Micah is a singer/songwriter from Rochester, New York (you can find him here and here); his album Coast to Coast was gifted to me by an apparently generous and hardworking music elf.  It has quickly taken its place as one of my favorite things I've received this holiday season. 

This album is a roller coaster ride through the ups and downs of relationships.  There's the one you're fighting for that you know can work if you can both just give it "Time" (and when I listen to this song I just want to shake the shit out of the girl he wrote it about) to that awful empty feeling when a relationship falls out from under you and you aren't sure how to react or even what really went wrong ("Where You Used to Lay").  He also ventures into the fun, exciting side of romance with "Hearts on Fire" where everything is good and he implores her to just go with it and not over analyze and "Carry Me" which explores the way love with the right person can sustain us and carry us through the dark times in life. 

Before all that though, the first thing that struck me when listening to Coast to Coast was Micah's voice and I am really digging the mellow, soulful quality of it.  He has been the perfect thing for me to listen to at the end of these hectic holiday-crazy days.  Of course, some of these songs (especially the acoustic versions that are included, obviously) are very stripped down and that just doesn't work unless the vocal performance can stand on it's own.  Believe me, it does.

Not only is his voice just plain good, but the whole record has a groove to it that I didn't really expect from a singer/songwriter.  For me the most unexpected song was "Oh My" with its catchy kind of island vibe.  Even so, it is still a heart-on-my-sleeve love song with lines like "I wonder if she thinks about me, cause I think about her all the time" that lets us know that Micah is not afraid to combine vulnerable emotions with peppy music - love it!

There are also more standard singer/songwriter type songs on Coast to Coast like the title track (which features a very complimentary performance by Marisa Fair).  The vocal performance on "Coast to Coast" is surely one to be proud of.  He pushes it and yet maintains control and never lets the song go anywhere unpleasant.  There is a big instrumental arrangement behind this song, but the vocal stands right up to it.  And just in case you're thinking maybe the music is hiding something, there is an acoustic version that sounds every bit as sweet.

Even when he's turning out the kinds of songs we expect from guys with guitars, he makes the genre his own.  Take for instance the blatant sexuality in "What It's Like": "I want to know, what it's like, to have the taste of your lips on my mouth, while we are, in between these sheets."  It is a very welcome addition to a genre where the lyrics are often vague and coy and frankly just not ballsy enough to come out and say what they really want.  Also, the piano/drum combo in the arrangement on this song is pure genius.  There is no way it won't get in your head and take up residence.

Micah is a new find for me, but I think he has a lot of talent and I'm really excited to see where his music goes in the future.  My only complaint about this record is that "Oh My" and "What It's Like" are a bit repetitive with the "oh my's" and "oh's" respectively.  However, he more than makes up for that with a beautiful vocal, clever arrangements and enough flannel to warm my little child of the 90's heart. 

New Music Monday

Somehow in my cookie and eggnog induced haze, I've managed to select 4 songs from my collection for New Music Monday.  I'm not terribly in love with any of these songs, but to each their own, I suppose.

Here we go:

"Changes" - Dirty Vegas
This is the gem of this collection. It's off their album Electric Love and it is very electric sounding indeed.  I have another Dirty Vegas song that I like pretty well and this one really isn't too bad.  The first couple times I listened to it, I didn't like it, but it's growing on me.  I'm sure that if you were into dance/techno music (which I am so not) you would really dig this one.  So if you like that peppy techno sound, then by all means, check it out. 

"Dreamers" - Savoir Adore
Off their new album of the same name, this song is dreamy and fluid sounding - like it could spill out of the speakers and stain the carpet.  I probably won't keep this song in my collection because I can't sing along to it and it doesn't make me feel anything except kind of vaguely sad.  I can't really explain that.  I can see where some people might really like it though, so check it out.

"Helplessness Blues" - Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes have been getting a lot of press lately and apparently people are pretty fond of them.  Myself, based solely on this, the title track of their new album, I don't get it.  There are a bunch of them and they have a rich sound like there are a lot of people singing and playing instruments (I'm not mad at them about the quality of their sound) but I still just don't like this song.  It's over 5 minutes long which I find excessive unless you're Led Zeppelin or Iron Butterfly and it's repetitive and just doesn't go anywhere.  Maybe I just don't get it (like Muse), maybe it's above me.  I'll probably give them another chance and listen to more of their stuff though because I don't find this song offensive, just...meh.

"Late Nights" - Brown Shoe
This song of their album The Gift Horse is another one that just leaves me flat.  Apparently it's a deep tune about trying to be good enough to please your lover but then realizing the relationship isn't real.  Whatever.  I don't get any depth of emotion from this song.  The music doesn't support the vocal, it all just kind of blends together into 3 1/2 minutes of sound.  Not a characteristic of a great song for me.

Perhaps I'm just bitter and cranky and impossible to please this holiday season.  Or maybe it's because I've discovered so much really good new music lately (see here and tomorrow's post) that I've raised my standards.  Whatever the cause, I can't really see any of these songs taking up permanent residence on my play lists.

Modern Love - ON VINYL

Right this very moment (yes, at 2:29AM the morning after Christmas) I'm listening to Matt Nathanson's Modern Love on vinyl for the very first time.  It is incredible.  I keep expecting to look up and see that a stage has been installed in my living room and that he's on it. 

The sound is so warm, so real, so alive

"Kiss Quick" is playing right now and I have to say, this is a close second to hearing it live.

So (even though I'm sure they won't ever see this), I'd like to take this late night/early morning moment to thank Matt Nathanson, Mark Weinberg, Aaron Tap and everyone else involved in the making of this record for creating this moment in time.  It is truly amazing.

Now I have to go flip the record...awesome.  :-)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Music

Myself, I like my Christmas music either old school awesome, such as Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas".

Or just plain awesome, such as Paula Kelley singing...well, anything.

Here, enjoy: http://soundcloud.com/divinepk (and don't ignore the first song at that link, it's not Christmas music but it is my favorite of her songs).

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ryan Schmidt - Black Sheep, Run

Album: Black Sheep, Run
Artist: Ryan Schmidt
Release: 2010

Ryan Schmidt was recommended to me by one of those people who really should know about this sort of thing, so of course I gave him a listen.  I was told by the aforementioned source that the wicked talented Paula Kelley has worked with him as did Aaron Tap, so it has to be good stuff, right? (After Modern Love, Airports this and this, I'm starting to think I should just consult with Mr. Tap before I buy any new music.  And by "consult with" I mean I'll just use this as my shopping list.) After a quick listen on his website, I knew I should own some of his music so I snagged Black Sheep, Run that very night.

The first thing I notice about this album is that it doesn't sound like your typical "singer/songwriter" fare.  The rich instrumentation alone is not like anything I'd expect to hear from that genre.  But this is by no means "pop" music either - at least not by my definition.  He is far too bold with his word choices for that. He actually uses words like "incognito", "misconstrue" and "bereaved" (you knows, words that Katy & Justin don't understand), and he actually makes them work in the songs.  So right away I know that these songs are going to transcend genre - and that is awesome. 

My current favorite song on this album is "Lost Somewhere", it kind of follows the Pixies' loud-quiet-loud formula.  The first couple times I listened to it, I thought it felt like two different songs mashed together.  The chorus is so different from the verse, but all at once it clicked and I get it now.  Now it sounds just wonderful.  Another one that has a dramatic shift is "Wake Up With You".  In the beginning, it's a quiet song, featuring the vocal (which is very nice), then about two minutes in the music explodes in your head - in the best possible way. 

I'm not sure how old Ryan is, he looks quite young, but don't be fooled, this is not the voice or the lyrics of a kid.  His voice is rich and pleasant and while he does take some risks, so far it all seems to be working for him.  While this record is treading some well covered ground, the realm of relationships and all the shit that can go wrong and right, it feels like a fresh take on an age old subject.  It's innovative and interesting to listen to, both musically and lyrically.

Grammy Nominee #1

Song: Grenade
Artist: Bruno Mars
Album: Doo-Wops & Hooligans
Nominated For: Song of the Year & Record of the Year

"Grenade" was the second single off Bruno Mars' smash hit Doo-Wops & Hooligans.  It's a heart breaking song about unrequited love.  Or at least, she's not giving it back at the same level that he's offering it.  He goes into pretty graphic detail about the physical torturers he would endure to prove his love to her.  "Catch a grenade...throw my hand on a blade...take a bullet straight through my brain."  What more could a girl want??  Of course, a man who is actually alive is always a plus...

Either way, this is the song that made me a Bruno Mars fan and convinced me to buy his album.  I could do without the first single "Just the Way You Are" - it's just too sugary for me.  Gives me a cavity.  This one is over-the-top with the romantic gestures too, but for some reason it doesn't annoy me.  Perhaps that's because of witty lyrics like, "tell the devil I said 'hey' when you get back to where you're from".  I love shit like that.

This is really a pretty perfect little pop song and I'm not mad about it being nominated for a Grammy at all.  Bruno Mars' voice is smooth and controlled and never does anything unpleasant.  The song has a steady upbeat tempo along with achingly sincere lyrics about total destruction of the heart - which is one of my favorite combinations!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011's Biggest Disappointment

At the end of the year, everyone makes lists of the best this and the greatest that of the last year.  Myself, I like to fly in the face of convention, so I'm going to tell you what I didn't like.  My biggest disappointment of 2011 wasn't even an album that was released in 2011.  Quite the contrary, it was released in 1993.  I waited 18 years to own this album - so you can imagine what a huge letdown it was when I finally came to possess it and it turns out I don't like it!

So here it is:

Mazzy Star: So Tonight That I Might See

I found it at used at Half Price Books a couple weeks ago, but I was loading up on Smashing Pumpkins and Violent Femmes and I left it there.  Well, we went back last weekend and lo and behold, it was still there.  So I snagged it, hoping for 9 more songs with the same magic that "Fade Into You" has. 

Well...no.  There are nine more songs, that much is true.  And you can tell the same people are performing them (mostly because they all sound the same), but the magic that exists in "Fade Into You" is sorely lacking.  I have no idea when I first heard that song, it has just been there on my play lists forever.  I even had it on an actual mixed tape that I recorded off the radio in probably '93 or '94.  I fucking love it - it's all dreamy and moody.  Listening to it is like laying under the stars on a warm night, just existing.  But the rest of the album?  Noise.  That's all, just noise. 

Perhaps this is a fine example of a song that isn't all that great, but I still love it because of all the years I have spent with it.  Either way, I'm pretty attached to it; it even made #2 on the top one-hit wonders of my ipod.  So the build up to So Tonight That I Might See over the years has been huge.  Which made the letdown huge too.  What a bummer.

So I've learned from this is that if I've had a song in my collection for 15-20 years and have never bought the album it came on, perhaps I should leave well enough alone and just stick to that one song.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Grammy Nominations

In the coming weeks (I'll have to work out a schedule, cause I'm weird like that), I'm going to give my opinions on some of this year's nominees.

Album of the Year:
Bruno Mars - Doo-Wops & Hooligans
Adele - 21
(I reviewed Foo Fighters - Wasting Light a while ago)
I'm not doing Lady Gaga's album or Rihanna's because I don't own either of them and I don't care to.

Record of the Year:
Adele - Rolling in the Deep
Mumford & Sons - The Cave
Bon Iver - Holocene
Bruno Mars - Grenade
Katy Perry - Firework

Song of the Year:
All of the Lights - Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie
The Cave - Mumford & Sons
Grenade - Bruno Mars
Holocene - Bon Iver
Rolling in the Deep - Adele

Obviously I'll only do the duplicates once.  Then, after the Grammy's I'll bitch about discuss the winners and losers - it'll be fun!

Seven Mary Three - American Standard

Album: American Standard
Artist: Seven Mary Three
Release: September 5, 1995



Ah yes, and now we're back to one of the great albums of my formative years.  I was first exposed to Seven Mary Three at the Kentucky State Fair in the summer of 1996 (awesome shit happens there) when we heard a cover band playing "Water's Edge".  I went out and bought American Standard - on cassette - very soon after that.  I went off to college almost immediately after I bought this record and it was pretty much all I listened to that semester.  It was just grungy and gritty and perfect for me at that time.  In fact, even listening to it now (as I am this very moment) it's a pretty awesome album.   And how can I not love a band that uses words like "cumbersome", "condescend", "awkwardness" and "mulatto"??

I'm sure that Seven Mary Three was not the greatest band to emerge in the '90's, but all that really matters to me about this record is how it makes me feel.  It's so nostalgic, it just takes me right back to that summer, that visit to the state fair with my best friend (and the resulting court date) and especially that semester at school.  Singing these songs in the car kept me awake during many long drives back home to visit my boyfriend, they accompanied me while I studied and provided background music while my new friends and I drove around our new town and discovered life.

Surely everyone has heard "Water's Edge" by now - radio stations wore it out in the mid to late nineties.  It's a good song, but you would be remiss to assume that is the best they have to offer.  As is so often the case, the radio hits are not the best songs on this album.  The forceful "My My" about a complicated woman and the way she complicates his life is a more powerful, more interesting song.  Another really good tune on this one is the guitar-laden "Headstrong".  I love the way it gears up in the middle then quiets down and still finishes heavy like any self-respecting rock song should.  I'm also a fan of how the guitar is pushed to the front of the mix but not so much so that it covers the vocals. 

My favorite song (and the one I think should have been the lead single) is "Anything".  Clear, heartfelt lyrics, a story, a drum that asks you to please just close your eyes and go along with it.  In my opinion, there isn't a single thing not to love about this song, it's one of my favorite picks to sing in the shower - love it.  There are some quirky songs too, like "Margaret" with the line "20,000 days younger than me" - really?  She's 54 years younger than you??  What the heck, perv.  And "Punch In, Punch Out" which I've never really been able to make sense of, but that doesn't stop me from singing it at the top of my lungs.  But just because some of them are a little odd and maybe wouldn't have made it very far on the radio does not make them any less entertaining.
I'm sure that some of my fondness for this record comes from the fact that I was so young when I first heard it and that I've been listening to it for the last 15 years.  It has wound its way into my brain and just become part of what comes to mind when I think about that era in music.  Still, I would easily recommend American Standard to anyone who is a fan of the '90's rock sound.  If guitars, heavy drums and broken white boys are your cup of tea, there is no way you won't love this.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Music Monday!!

New Music Monday is back! (Look, I'm trying to be excited that it's Monday...just go with it)  Here are this week's victims picks:

"My Time Has Just Begun" by The Dead Trees
This song, from their album WHATWAVE is my favorite of these.  It's upbeat with heavy drums and a tambourine!  (I love a tambourine)  I like a song I can sing along with and this is definitely that.  I looked into some of their other offerings and sadly I didn't find anything that grabbed me like this one.  I suppose that's the big trick to songwriting, right? Either way, I know they have the potential, so I'll keep an ear out for them.

"No Surprise" The Blam
What the hell is the first line of this song??  "Poke me in my eagle eye"?  "Look me in my evil eye"?  "Hook me in my eagle eye"?  I just can't tell!!  This song is from their album Blow Wind Blow and my confusion over the first line (and their use of the term "squeeze box") are what keep me from really getting into this song.  It has a floaty, rhythmic sound that is not unpleasant, but it's just ok for me.  Spinner says they sound like Violent Femmes, but I don't get that at all. 

"Pineapple Girl" Mister Heavenly
This song from Out of Love is evidently about Manuel Noriega's correspondence with a young American girl.  The dictator is represented by a high, lilting voice while the little girl is portrayed by a deep, gruff voice.  The song is very clever and catchy, but I've listened to it about 20 times and it has almost worn out its welcome.  (To get some context here, I've listened to all of Modern Love at least 200 times according to iTunes and still love, love, love it - every minute.)  So when a song starts to get old after only 20 spins, that's not the sign of a great song to me.

"Public Dancer" Noah Wall
I really don't have any praise for this song.  It's almost six minutes long and for me, that's about five and half minutes too long.  The vocal is pushed so far in the back of the mix that I have no idea what the dude is even saying - which is not the way to win me over.  The song itself just doesn't go anywhere.  It doesn't build, it doesn't grow, it just stays a jumbled, unpleasant mess all the way through.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Paula Kelley Orchestra (The PKO) - Airports EP

Album: Airports EP
Artist: The Paula Kelley Orchestra (The PKO)
Release: July 29, 2008


As I was baking christmas cookies and listening to my sweet-ass "Cookie Baking Play List", it dawned on me that I had not shared The Paula Kelley Orchestra's Airports EP with you.  I love the shit out of this little four song collection.  Not only that, but upon further reading, I find out that the one and only Aaron Tap produced, played guitar and sang on this EP.  No wonder I love it!  I'm starting to think that what I'm really looking for is an Aaron Tap album.

Paula Kelley (who is rather a musical jack-of-all-trades) has this totally innocent, high-pitched, child-like voice, but the affairs of the heart that she sings about are all grown up.  The juxtaposition between the two is just incredible. 

The songs explore many facets of romantic relationships, from the intimacy and naivety of young love in "Airports" to the question of will we be together forever in "Life for Life".  Listening to the lyrics, which are more clever and well-crafted than most, I get the feeling that Ms. Kelley is kind of like Katie in The Way We Were.  For instance, in "Life for Life", there is the line, "when I'm gone would you call it serene or, do you find that the house is too clean?"  And then there is pretty much the entire song "In Light of Your Less Complicated Life". But even though the lyrics give me the feeling that maybe she's a little unruly, when I hear her sing about it, I just know that the guy who hurt her is a heartless son of a bitch. 

These songs are definitely not your average everyday radio fodder, which is probably why I love them so much.  Paula Kelley will never be mistaken for anyone else and that's awesome.  The rich orchestral arrangements involve a ton of instruments and lend a depth of sound and emotion to these songs that you just don't find out there.  The PKO's music is a showcase of a remarkable amount of talent - and it is simply delightful to listen to!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Came Early

In an attempt to make this Christmas as not normal as possible (and because I got my husband a sweet-ass replica light saber that I could NOT keep secret any longer) we exchanged presents tonight.  And I got vinyl!!

Look:


That's Foo Fighters There is Nothing Left to Lose and The Colour and The Shape and Pearl Jam's Ten.

Merry Christmas to me!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

All Night Noise Tour

Wondering what to do this winter/spring because you think no one tours during the cold months?  Well think again, my friend!!  Matt Nathanson has extended his All Night Noise Tour into 2012 throwing in some headlining dates between his shows with Kelly Clarkson (because apparently it would kill him to rest for a few days here and there...not to mention that we would go into withdrawal).  I don't know yet who is opening for him, but as soon as I find out I'll let you know - if you already know, tell me!! So come on and jump on the bandwagon with me (you know you want to) and catch him and the guys in a city near you. 

I'll be seeing him and the guys at Headliners in Louisville, KY February 24th - get tickets here (even though the place only holds like 600 people, there are inexplicably still tickets left...so go buy some!!) and we will scream our heads off like idiots together!

Find more details here and here

And if you are somehow not convinced...check this out.


Anticipation...

Our Sense of Entitlement is Staggering

Before I get too for into this rant/ramble, go here and read about what comedian Louis C.K. has done with his most recent release: https://buy.louisck.net/statement (if you can't be bothered, he basically produced his own comedy special, with his own money, and rather than signing a contract for someone else to market it, he pretty much just sold it himself for $5 each.  His idea was to see if people would still steal it even if it was super easy to buy and only cost $5 to purchase a legitimate copy, and if he could actually turn a profit selling an entire comedy special for only $5.  The answers to those questions are no and yes...pretty much.)

But my question about all this is this: should artists have to sell their products for ridiculously low prices just so people won't steal them?  Some people who I know (and still care about, despite their opinions on certain subjects) actually think it's ok to download free music.  As close as I can tell, the reasoning is that it doesn't actually cost $9.99 (or $16.99 if you buy a physical copy) to make one CD and musicians are getting rich off other people buying them and royalties and concerts, etc so what does it matter?  Well, obviously if everyone felt that way, it would matter a great deal.  In today's digital society, it has become far too easy for us to steal shit.  We sit here, all anonymous behind our computer screens and take things from people we'll never meet, never look in the eye, never have to answer to.  It doesn't take the balls that it used to take to shoplift if you wanted to steal something.  But just because it's easy and the chances that you'll get caught are probably pretty low, does that make it acceptable?

My argument to that is what makes you entitled to someone's art for free?  No one asks me to do my job for free (well, close...) so why should I expect anyone else to?  I would never ask a photographer to take pictures and give them to me for free, or a sculptor to make me a statue.  I wouldn't ask a painter to come over and put a mural on my wall for free.  But it's ok to ask a musician to crank out an entire song (or album) and I'll snag that sucker for free?  (Obviously, this does not apply to songs/albums that are offered for free as a marketing tool.  But the intent there is exposure...which should lead to increased sales.) I don't think so.  And sure, maybe each individual CD doesn't cost $9.99 to make - but how can you put a price on creativity and soul?  And furthermore, wouldn't how much each one costs depend on how many are sold?  If you only sell 1 copy, you better get a pretty penny for it to pay all the people involved in the making.  But if you sell 100,000,000 copies, then maybe you could afford to give a few away and not notice.

I've talked about this very subject before and maybe my opinion is somewhat clouded by the fact that I like to write.  Sure, I write this blog for the sheer pleasure of it, but if I wrote for a living (ah, the good life), I would be mad as hell if someone stole my work or expected me to do it for free.  Just because music isn't something you can hold in your hand (like a painting or a book) does not make it any less valuable.  Perhaps it is more so because the tangible part of it exits within us.  I just think it is disrespectful to the nth degree to steal anything that anyone has created from themselves - regardless of what form it takes.  It doesn't hurt either that I feel musicians (the good ones, obviously) deserve to be wealthy.  I want them to be able to focus on creating and not have to bag groceries to make ends meet.  And let's face it, in today's music industry, nobody is getting Michael Jackson rich anyway.

So sure, maybe I can't change your mind, and maybe your willingness to pay for your music hinges on how valuable it is to you.  That's cool, I get it.  All I ask is that the next time you think about stealing a song or an entire album, give some thought to the people who created it, the people who put their blood, sweat and tears into it the creation of that end product. 

Also, would you walk into Sam Goody and steal a physical CD?  No?  Well what's the difference?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Beauty of the Power Ballad

As I was browsing around the iTunes store tonight, my husband had me buy the rest of Appetite for Destruction - a part of the soundtrack of his youth.  I played for him my recent purchase ("Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode) to illustrate the difference between the things he tends to like and the things I tend to like.

Then, we revisited our common ground - the power ballad.  Sure, when he was listening to power ballads he was putting the moves on some girl in the back of his car and when I was listening to power ballads I was having my heart broken at some 8th grade sock-hop (you know, back when the 4 year age difference would have seemed like a lot).  Regardless, the huge swelling sound of the power ballad strikes a chord in both of us.  Put on Cinderella's "Don't Know What You Got" or Skid Row's "I Remember You" and we'll both close our eyes, put our non-existent lighters in the air and jam.

What happened to them?  Why did musicians stop writing power ballads?  No one has even really attempted it since hair metal went away.  People make fun of them, they try to pretend like these are bad, cheesy songs that no one wants to listen to, but we all know that nothing has ever made drunk young people profess their undying love for each other like a good power ballad screamed by a guy with stringy blond hair and enough eyeliner to make Tammy Faye Baker green with envy.  At their core, they are great songs wrapped up in a cheesy '80's package.  But that doesn't change the fact that they're great.  Any song that can hold you in its grip for 3 minutes and make you love it has merit in my book.
So my recommendation to you is to give in to the guilty pleasure of the power ballad.  Let the overpowering drums, the guitar riffs, the questionable but wonderful vocals wash over you.  Take it in, let it break your heart and mend your soul.  Don't judge it, just love it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Music Monday

In the interest of making Monday something better than just the start of the work week, I'm going to institute New Music Monday.  I'll give my first impressions of a few songs that I discovered over the last week (or weekend, as is the case today).  Through the discovery of all this new music, I am learning that there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to listen to all the things I want to listen to.

Here are this week's selections:

"Get Gone" - White Arrows
The first time I listened to this one, I remember not really liking it.  But now that I've been listening to it all day - I don't know what I was thinking!  It's so catchy with clever lyrics and a strange, intriguing vocal.  Check it out, if you don't like it at first, just give it a chance to soak in, it'll get you.

"Fleeced" - Arms
This song is from their upcoming album Summer Skills (well, it was upcoming when this song was posted - it might be out now).  This is probably my least favorite of these four.  The vocals are pushed too far back in the mix for my taste.  I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad song, it just doesn't make me feel anything.  Right now, I could take it or leave it.  I'm going to leave it on my iPod for now and let it show up in the shuffle and see if it grows on me.

"Landslide" - Steve Adamyk Band
The band says that this song from their album Forever Won't Wait is about "getting closer to hitting rock bottom and not caring."  I'm having a little trouble understanding the words, but if that's true, it's far and away the most upbeat trip to the bottom anyone has ever taken.  And I always love a good juxtaposition between peppy music and heavy lyrics.

"Lost and Found" - The Kill Van Kulls
And I've saved the best for last.  Oddly, this is my favorite of these four songs.  I say "oddly" because it has a decidedly 80's pop music sound to it.  A straight forward drum beat, a synthesizer, a clear vocal.  But, I might have been inclined to buy this one if I heard it on the radio (a few times).  This guy's voice is kind of reminiscent of George Michael (who I have loved since my sister let me listen to Faith when I was way too young - at least, according to our parents).  Of all these, I'm most likely to look these guys up and see what else they have to offer.

**Edit: I've changed my mind.  "Get Gone" has been in heavy rotation on my iPod and is my current favorite thing to listen to. I haven't looked for more from White Arrow yet, but I think I will - I hope it's all this infectious.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Neon Trees - "Everybody Talks"

I just listened to Neon Trees latest offering "Everybody Talks".  The first time was with the little video they put up on Facebook and my very first impression was "oh my god, this is horrible."  I really liked Tyler Glenn when they first appeared on the scene, but now I'm kind of afraid his ego is going to eat that band alive.  I think maybe this fame thing is going to his head.  I guess that happens.
 
Anyway, because I loved Habits so much, I gave this new song a second chance.  And now I'm just kind of "meh" about it.  You can see for yourself here.  I don't hate it, but I think I just don't really get it.  The song is all about the gossip mongers of the world and that's something that's so far removed from me that it doesn't inspire any "give 'em hell!" reaction in me.  Who knows, maybe if people started talking shit about me, this song would be my new anthem.   

Either way, after hearing this, I have to admit I'm not quite as excited to hear their new album as I once was.

Friday, December 9, 2011

So Excited.

How has it been 2 1/2 hours and I haven't mentioned this yet??

I just bought tickets to go see Matt Nathanson at Headliner's Music Hall in Louisville, KY on February 24, 2012!!!!**  I got 4 tickets as my sister and her husband (of vinyl donation fame) will hopefully go with us. 

To say that I cannot wait would be a gross understatement. 



Also, I'm not sure if I mentioned, but my 2nd copy of Modern Love came in the mail the other day and it's red too!  There is a tiny flaw on the cover though, so this one will be my useable version.  Hopefully I can have him sign the other one at the show in Louisville - that would be pretty fucking sweet. 



**I was just re-reading this post and realized that what it was missing was exclamation points. (!!)

New Music

As I mentioned, I got 5 downloads from Spinner's MP3 of the Day site.  And by the way, it is the coolest thing in the world to be able to check these bands out that don't get a lot of exposure otherwise.  I had never heard of any of these bands (except Cowboy Junkies, of course) before this, so any comments I make here are based solely on these songs and nothing else they've recorded. 

So anyway, here were my picks along with some notes I jotted down about them while listening to them and waiting for my car to thaw out this morning:

"Fire" - The Moth and The Mirror (meh)- this is a perfect example of the extraneous female singer.  What is she doing there?  Adding some kind of out of tune, vaguely unpleasant vocals is all I can see.  The lyrics in this song are kind of repetitive and when it builds toward the end it gets a little disjointed for me, but it's not all bad.  The more I listen to it, the more I think I might like it if they got rid of the woman singing.  She might have a delightful voice, but I just don't think it fits on this song.

"Be Alone" - The Quiet Americans (blah)- based on this song, I think they should do just that: be quiet.  The lyrics are workable, but there is far too much distortion and racket.  The first time I listened to this song, the only good thing I had to say about it was that it was only 2 minutes 30 seconds long.  But I gave it another chance and it has grown on me a little bit, but I just can't get past the noisy aspect of it enough to like it.

"Sing in My Meadow" - Cowboy Junkies (buy it)- I have heard of them before, but this is really the only song I know by Cowboy Junkies and I really like it.  It had a sexy groove to it and the lyrics are definitely quote worthy.  I recommend this song and I look forward to hearing more from them.

"I Want to Forget" - Psychic Twin (buy it)- If you put Luscious Jackson, Mazzy Star and Veruca Salt in a bowl, stirred until combined, baked at 350 for 25 minutes then seasoned liberally with Belly - you would get  Psychic Twin singing this song.  Obviously, I'm pretty fond it.  It is more techno/electronica sounding than I normally go for, but I still dig it.

"Gliss" - Farewell Republic (meh)- They have the Pixie's loud-quiet-loud thing down to a science, but I have a lot of trouble understanding the words.  It might be totally profound, but who can tell?  The song is kind of all over the place, but somehow still not unpleasant.  I think at the very least it would make good background music for a party.

So 2 out of 3 isn't bad.  I'm definitely going to look for more from Cowboy Junkies and Psychic Twin. The other 3, I could take them or leave them, honestly.  Still, I'm excited to check out more new stuff and hopefully find more bands I might not have found otherwise.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"MP3 of the Day"

I was cruising around over at The Huffington Post last night (reading about Alec Baldwin's latest exploits, of course) and somehow I ended up over at Spinner's MP3 of the Day page.  Honestly, I have no idea how that happened.  I guess it's something to do with that "surfing" thing we tend to do online.

Anyway, imagine my delight when I found out that I could (LEGALLY) download free music!!  It was late by the time I ended up there and I had a sweet play list and a game of Dr. Mario calling my name, but it appears that these are mostly independent artists with new (or debut) releases coming out in the next couple months.

I snagged 5 songs and will be passing judgement on them in the coming days.  I can already tell you that I really, really, strongly dislike one of them and I'm growing more and more fond of a couple others.  Fun stuff!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Gives Music Value?

My husband said to me this morning that he doesn't think any of this new music has any value.  Of course, Florence + the Machine was on VH1 at the moment, so I didn't have a good argument right in front of me.  I just said, "That's not true."  So he challenged me for a name...ahh, the pressure of a name!! Naturally, I replied, "Matt Nathanson.  And the Foo Fighters' new record, and Red Hot Chili Peppers are doing some pretty good stuff..."

He says that they don't count, they've all be around a long time.  They're grown, they know from good music, they have soul.  He means this new generation - the ones that are dominating the airways.  The kids (gosh that makes me sound old!!).  Initially, I thought I'd skim through my iTunes collection and find a few up and coming artists and explain in great detail the value they are adding to the great musical landscape.  Then I started to ponder the term "value":

noun, verb, -ued, -u·ing. noun
1. relative worth, merit, or importance: the value of a college education; the value of a queen in chess.
2. monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade: This piece of land has greatly increased in value.
3. the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange. (care of http://www.dictionary.reference.com/)

So what gives music value?  Is it, like beauty, in the eye (or ear) of the beholder?  I have to think that, like any other art form, the answers are as many and as varied as the people who listen to music.  Do I have to like an artist's work to think that it has value?  Of course not.  Take for instance, Bob Dylan.  One of the greatest lyricists of our time - he has forgotten more about song writing than most people will ever know.  Do I want to listen to his animal-in-pain vocals?  Not particularly, no.  However, his body of work has indisputable value.  But it's easy to look back at the great artists and say they have value.  That's not what we were questioning.

The question is: does NEW music have value?  I say yes.  Even if it isn't great, even if it isn't the start of a revolution, even if it won't change anything about the way future artists make music.  I think the real value in any art form (music, painting, photography, sculpture...all of it) is what it does to us internally. Does it make you feel something?  Yes?  Then it has value.  No?  Then maybe it has value to someone else.

If you listen to something or look at something that another person created and it affects you, that's when the value of it is created.  Because really, in the grand scheme of things, our own value as humans really only happens when we have an effect on other people.  It is the connection to each other that makes us and our relationships have worth - so why should art be any different?  Considering that at its core, art is a piece of the artist removed (either by clean surgical incision or ripped out by the roots) and given to other people.  By this definition, anything created from a genuine place, offered up, and accepted could be valuable, and probably is.

So what's this mean for today's music?  Well, before you think I've gone soft, let me be clear that not all music falls into this "created from a genuine place" category.  Let's be honest, there is a lot of shit out there that makes your ears want to bleed.  But just because I think that, doesn't mean everyone thinks that.  Do I think that the excrement that Miley Cyrus, Justine Beiber, Britany Spears, Katy Perry (I could go on) put out has value?  Absolutely not.  I think we should set fire to all of it and cleanse the airways.  But what about Coldplay?  Or Radiohead?  I dislike them both (well, post-Pablo Honey Radiohead)...a lot.  But I'm pretty much alone in that.  Lots of people think they're wonderful - so apparently they're affecting people somehow, so there must be some value there.  I don't see it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

In the end, I don't think it's fair to say that new music has no value.  I just think maybe you have to be closer to the source to be affected by it.  Maybe only the artists who are currently in their late 30's and 40's can really get to us these days because they are our peers.  A kid writing a song about how hard life is when he's 20 years old kind of makes me barf.  But I know that's only because I'm not 20 years old anymore.  And when I think about it, maybe those kids don't get how I can be so moved by some old dude crooning about his broken heart, or how I can be shaken to the core listening to two guys singing about life almost 50 years ago, or why I break out in cold chills listening to an 18 year old song about a fucked up childhood.

So I've come all this way just to say that my darling husband should have said, "This new music doesn't have any value to me."  And knowing him, that is probably a pretty accurate statement.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holy shit, Dave Grohl.

I'm sitting here watching "Foo Fighters: Back and Forth" and just learned that Dave Grohl turned down an opportunity to play drums for Tom Petty.

Because he had this dream of starting Foo Fighters (this was after he had recorded the demo that was all him on all the instruments - but before there was actually a band) and being the lead singer/guitar player, which was something he had never done before.

Turned him down.  Tom Fucking Petty.

Dave Grohl is officially the biggest bad ass in rock music.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Songs Like Old Friends

Today - 12/03/2011 (which will actually be yesterday, or some other day in the past, by the time you read this) - is the greatest day I've ever known.  Ok, maybe not the greatest, but it is the day that I finally came to own the Smashing Pumpkins album Siamese Dream.  This record has a song on it, "Today" that I have literally wanted to own for 18 years.  And I never have.  Can you believe that?  For some completely unknown reason, I've never even bought the individual song off iTunes.  I think mostly because I always wanted the whole record, not just the one song, but when I've taken the notion to buy some music, there has always been something higher on the list.

So today we were doing a little Christmas shopping (for ourselves...of course) at Half Price Books and I came across a used copy of Siamese Dream for $5.99.  I also found Violent Femmes' Add It Up (1981 - 1993).  Obviously, they both came home with me (along with a magnet for my car that says "My Zombie Child Ate Your Honor Student's Brain"...but that's not music related).  So I was super excited that I would finally get to listen to "Today" with the freedom to skip back to the beginning and listen to it again - over and over - if I so chose. 

But, the surprise of the day was when "Disarm" came on.  I had forgotten that song was even on this record.  I cannot possibly express how much I love that fucking song.  It is far and away my favorite Smashing Pumpkins song ever.  And it's another one I've inexplicably never owned.  Hearing this song again (it has been years since I've heard it) was like showing up at an old friend's house and hanging out like no time has passed.  I was 15 again.  I had that warm, fuzzy, magical feeling that I had the first time I heard that song.  The bells, the bass, the big swelling sound of it.  I love it.  And it got me to thinking about the importance of the songs like this in my life.

There are just some songs that are like that, no matter how long I'm away from them, when I hear them again I still know all the words.   I know the timing, the pauses, the drums, the guitar, the feeling.  It's all familiar and even if it was never my favorite song, it is still nice to visit with it again and reminisce. This is what music does for me, it links me to a moment in time.  I have a terrible memory - regardless of the fact that I know every single word to well over 1200 songs.  I eat practically the same thing for lunch every day because that's the only way I can remember what I had (and that way when my husband says, "Oh yeah, well what did you have for lunch yesterday?" I can answer him!).  I never remember the end of a movie, or a book.  I can't remember what station my favorite TV shows are on or what time or what day.  I never remember to have my oil changed.  I can't remember birthdays or phone numbers or addresses.

But somehow, when my memory fails me completely, a song will take me back.  It will transport me back to the time and place of the first (or sometimes, the last) time I heard it.  I will remember what was going on around me in eerie detail.  A song will zip me back through time like a wormhole and put me right where I was when that song was important to me.  If I've seen it live, I will be right back at that concert, in the crowd, throat raw from screaming, wrapped in the bliss of a live show.  If it was a favorite driving song, I'll remember my destination (or what I was driving away from).  For me, songs are more powerful memory triggers than smells.  Like friends from the past, music connects me to my own life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Modern Love" - Live at The Cannery Ballroom

At the urging of my niece (who thinks that he makes "beautiful music") and because my sister has high speed internet and I don't and I just so happen to be at her house tonight, I finally give you my video of Matt Nathanson (and band) performing "Modern Love" - November 5, 2011
The Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, TN

Sorry for the poor picture quality, I wasn't looking at the phone at all while I filmed this.  Also, sorry it cuts off abruptly, I was too 'in the moment' to be concerned about that (now, of course, I wish I had the entire concert filmed!!) I just wanted to capture a little bit of it to keep for when my memory fails me (which happens a lot!).

By the way, "and band" consists of:
Aaron Tap - guitar (check this guy out - *super* talented in his own right)
Shiben Bhattacharya - bass (good grief, I hope I spelled that right!!)
Konrad Meissner - drums
James Farrell - keyboards

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lyrical Genius

I love lyrics.  To me, the lyrics are the most essential part of a song.  This is not to say that I don't appreciate a good guitar riff or a heart-thumping drum, because I do.  Pearl Jam's "Yellow Ledbetter" is a perfect example of a song that pulls (rips) at your heartstrings even though 90% of the lyrics are completely unintelligible.  And it's cool, I love that song, but I much prefer a song I can sing along with. 

The lyrics are almost always the part of a song I'm first attracted to.  So much so that a single line in a song - a single crafty, clever, perfect line can attract me to a song like a moth to a flame.  That's all it takes, one line, and if it's good enough and hits me just right, it can inspire me to look into an artist's entire catalogue in search of other moments of awesome.
I have some examples of lines that have caught my attention and drawn me in.  Sometimes that one line was all I found and I ended up abandoning my search, but other times, that single line led me to an entire world of amazing. 

Neon Trees - "Animal"
"Take a bite of my heart tonight." - I heard this one line in passing on the radio one day and became obsessed with hearing the song again.  I finally did and identified the artist and immediately bought their debut album Habits.  I didn't find any more lyrics on this record that struck me like that line, but the whole thing is catchy as hell and I really like it.  It is not in my usual vein with the synth and general '80's pop feeling, but Tyler Glenn is totally into it and I dig that.  They have a new one coming out 12/07/11 (which seems quick to me, but what do I know?), I look forward to hearing what they have to offer this time.

3 Doors Down - "Kryptonite"
"You took for granted all those times I never let you down." - I admit, the title of this song drew me in, but this line talked me into staying.  I only own a few songs by this band - I didn't find the substance this line promised me.  I love the songs I own, but they sound a lot like everyone else, you know what I mean?  They're good songs, I think they're a good band, but for the most part I'm content to just hear them on the radio and don't feel inclined to buy entire albums. 

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "Breakdown"
"It's alright if you love me/It's alright if you don't/I'm not afraid of you runnin' away, honey/I get the feelin' you won't."
Ok, I admit it's not a single line, it's a whole verse, but it's Tom Petty!  I'm not sure if it's the actual words or the way he sings them, but I will skip back to the beginning and listen to this verse over and over and over (and over).  Love it.  After I heard this song, I was totally hooked on Tom Petty.

Toad the Wet Sprocket - "Walk on the Ocean"
"Somebody told me, this is the place/Where everything's better and everything's safe."
I first heard this song many years ago when it was new, so this is an early example of my lyric obsession.  This band has an overall unique, intriguing sound that I really like, but their lyrics are clever and intelligent too, which is a rare gift.

The Script - "Breakeven (Falling to Pieces)"
"Still alive but I'm barely breathing/Just prayed to a god that I don't believe in."
I heard this line and knew immediately that I'd own the song.  I do, and one other by them.  I like their new release too, so maybe someday I'll buy an entire album.

Matt Nathanson - "Queen of (K)nots" & "Bottom of the Sea"
Since Modern Love was the first album of his that I owned, it was the one that got me.  I was caught with "Cause you're someone else's baby, yeah you're someone else's crazy now" in "Queen of (K)nots", then he set the hook with "I'm tired of getting even, let's get odd, odd, baby" in "Bottom of the Sea".  This is prime example of a lyric that led me to a whole world of genius.

So my point here is this, if you hear a line that catches your attention, don't ignore it.  Go with it.  Find out what the song is, who the artist is, see if there is more where that came from.  Sometimes, there isn't.  But other times, your mind will be blown.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One-Hit Wonders of My iPod

The best and by far the worst thing about the way we buy music these days is the fact that you can buy one song at a time.  Sure, there have always been singles released, but they had cover art and a B-side, in other words, they were packaged as a mini experience. These days, you can buy pretty much any song you want, one at a time, with no respect for the album it was a part of.  Songs aren't really supposed to be stand-alone things.  They are part of something bigger.  But in today's culture of instant gratification, we want to buy it quick, download it quick, listen to it quick, move on.  Who can be bothered with an entire album?  That's like, almost an hour! 

Well, I can.  I love albums.  It is a wonderful thing when I have time to listen to a full record from start to finish.  To experience the whole thing the way it was intended.

That being said, I am super guilty of buying individual songs.  I do that shit all the time.  Usually because it's the only song I know by that artist, or it's the only one I like.  Or because I preview the rest of the album and it it doesn't sound anything like the single they released and it doesn't appeal to me.  Or sometimes it's just a music budget thing.  I have $1.29 I want to spend on that artist, but not $10.  It happens. 

As a result, I've ended up with a number of artists that only have one song in my collection.  Some of these I'd like to get the full album, but not all of them. To clarify, these artists are not one-hit wonders in the traditional sense (well, I suppose some of them are), these are just people I only own one song from.  Once I scanned through my entire iPod, I found that I had over 70 songs that were the only song I owned by that artist, so narrowing this down to my favorite 20 of those was quite a task.  You would not believe some of the crazy shit I have that ended up on the cutting room floor (so to speak).

So for your viewing (and potential listening) pleasure, here are my own personal Top 20 One-Hit Wonders:

20. "Creep" - Radiohead
19. "Good" - Better Than Ezra
18. "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" - Urge Overkill (I know it was Neil Diamond's originally)
17. "Counting Blue Cars" - Dishwalla
16. "A Girl Like You" - Edwyn Collins
15. "John the Fisherman" - Primus
14. "Closing Time" - Semisonic
13. "At Last" - Etta James
12. "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" - Cake
11. "New Age Girl" - Dead Eye Dick
10. "Tempted 1994" - Squeeze
9. "Sex and Candy" - Marcy Playground
8. "Feeling Good" - Nina Simone
7. "My Sharona" - The Knack
6. "You Can Call Me Al" - Paul Simon (I guess this counts - it's the only song I have of him solo)
5. "Laid" - James
4. "Pour Some Sugar On Me" - Def Leppard
3. "I Wanna Be Sedated" - The Ramones
2. "Fade Into You" - Mazzy Star
1. "Hold On Loosely" - .38 Special

And, only because I just couldn't cut it down to 20, here are 10 honorable mentions in no particular order:
"Sour Times" - Portishead
"Time of the Season" - The Zombies
"Pepper" - Butthole Surfers
"Possum Kingdom" - The Toadies
"Once Bitten Twice Shy" - White Snake
"Seventeen" - Winger
"Fire and Rain" - James Taylor
"Don't Know Why" - Nora Jones
"If You Could Only See" - Tonic
"Naked Eye" - Luscious Jackson

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Simon & Garfunkel - Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Album: Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
Release: October 19, 1964



Perhaps the greatest gift an artist can give us is the gift of music.  I don't necessarily mean their own music (although, that is a precious gift to be sure), but the music that inspires them.  The music they listen to.  It not only gives us something new (and possibly awesome) to listen to; it also gives us some insight into where they're coming from as musicians. 

So you have to love it when you go to a live show expecting to hear that artist's music and then he gives you 3 other (classic) artists' music too!!  And that's exactly what happened at the last show I went to.  That's how my interest in Simon and Garfunkel was stirred.  They (him and him) did an amazing acoustic version of "The Boxer" that inspired me to go find the original and partake in the awesome.  I was so blown away by it that I've decided to start at the beginning and take the full Simon and Garfunkel trip.  I've been a fan of "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon forever (love, love, love that little bass line in the middle) - but this music is much, MUCH different from that.

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. was their debut album which, thanks in large part to at little band called The Beatles busting out in the U.S. at about the same time, saw little commercial success.  It took a couple years for people to really come around to appreciating their music (seems like that happens to some of the best albums).  This one is kind of a mix of gospel and folk music.  Personally, I could do without the gospel-feeling songs being as I don't exactly believe in them and therefore am not really inspired by them.  But I have to admit, there is something simply hypnotic about "Benedictus".  It kind of makes me wish that I wanted to go to church. 

This is not one of those albums (and "The Boxer" is not one of those songs...so I think it might be a Simon and Garfunkel thing) that you can listen to in passing and really appreciate it.  You can't let it bounce off of you, you have to let it soak in.  Ear buds and dark rooms were made for this kind of music.  Listening to this record felt like having my head underwater in a hot bathtub.  The music and the vocals come together to just fill up all the spaces.  I'm not sure everyone on earth would love this record, but I should think that everyone could at least appreciate the raw talent and brilliance that was involved in creating this sound 48 years ago.

I thought I would have to approach this album with my mind full of the social climate in 1964 in order to really appreciate it.  But as I laid in bed last night listening to it, I realized that perhaps the world we live in now is not so different from the one these songs were written in.

"He Was My Brother", a song about a soldier lost in war could easily be written today.  And if this song doesn't make you break out in cold chills then you need to check your pulse.  Another timely tune on this record is "The Sound of Silence".  Even if you think you don't know any Simon and Garfunkel, you know this song.  It's the one that starts out, "Hello, Darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again."  It's a beautiful song.  They're all beautiful songs.  Paul Simon's songwriting is genius and Art Garfunkel's voice is enchanting and together, it's just magic.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Current Addiction

This song was wrapped in an amazing bow (in the form of Matt Nathanson and Aaron Tap) and given to me as a gift November 5th at The Cannery Ballroom.  My packaging isn't as awesome, but here it is for you:


Genius.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Thought of Another One!!

If any of you own the Matt Nathanson album At The Point then I am sure you are fully aware of his cover of Drivin' and Cryin's "Straight to Hell".  Before I owned this record, I had never heard the song.  In the interest of comparison, I went in search of it.  Holy crap - what a stinker!  I would rather paper cut the web between my thumb and first finger than hear the original version of this song.  Blech.

Here, give it a listen:


Now what made Matt Nathanson listen to that song and think, "I want to sing that - it'll be awesome!"??  But, believe it or not - he did it!  And it sounds awesome.  It's a great song when he sings it (so, yeah, it was probably a great song before he sang it, I just couldn't hear it that way).

For comparison:

See??  So much more wonderful.

I Tried To Fight It

Have you all heard this new Jessie J. song "Domino"?  I tried to fight this song, I really did.  Between the opening line "I'm feeling sexy and free" and the jewels glued under her eyes in the video, I was certain I would never like it.  It is all so contrived...like a doll in a package. 

But, when the powers-that-be at VH1 want you to listen to a song and want it embedded in your brain, you are by-god going to listen to it.  Those bastards.  And now, just like they intended, this song is stuck in my head. 

It's definitely a pre-packaged pop song of the first order, but I don't hate it (anymore). It's kind of catchy, I even kind of like the first line and you have to admit (eye-jewels aside) her hair is super cute in the video.   However, that being said, I'm not sure I can ever forgive her for her part in co-writing "Party in the U.S.A." which was played on the radio so much this summer that I accidentally heard Miley Cyrus "sing" a couple times.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scars on 45 - Give Me Something

Album: Give Me Something - EP
Artist: Scars on 45
Release: January, 2011


So I took the advice of "Anonymous" (who, I'm fairly certain is closely related to "They") and bought Scars on 45's first EP Give Me Something.  "Anonymous" said that it was far better than Heart on Fire so for that reason, I should check it out.

I have to respectfully disagree.  I'm not saying it's bad, not by any means.  In fact, it is really growing on me.  I didn't instantly like it as much as I did Heart on Fire, but the more I listen to it, the more I like it.   These are just really good songs sung by people who have genuinely good voices (I've seen them live at a small venue where there is nowhere to hide, so you can belive me when I say that).  There is also an acoustic song ("Don't Say") on this one which is always a good way to get a feel for a band because you can hear what they really sound like.  This one is particularly nice because it features the beautiful harmonies that happen when Danny Bemrose and Aimee Driver sing together. 

Once again, all four songs sound different, which showcases the band's diversity.  Still, they all somehow sound like Scars on 45.  It's a special treat when you find a band that understands that having a "sound" doesn't mean that all of your songs have to sound the same.  For me, the only thing missing on Give Me Something is Aimee.  She is almost like a backup singer on this one, rather than a co-lead singer.  She has a  really beautiful voice, so I'm glad they feature her more on Heart on Fire.

Overall, I'm really liking Give Me Something, but I still don't think it's better than the second release.  I like that though because you can track the development of the band between the two releases, and that's always cool to witness.  After hearing some more from them, I hope they come close soon as I would really like to see them live again.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Video Watching

In an effort to clear out some of our DVRed stuff, I watched a couple episodes of 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield the other night and I saw a couple things worthy of mention.

First, "First of the Year (Equinox)" by Skrillex.  Have you heard this song?  If not, don't bother, it's pretty awful.  It's like a traffic jam in my eardrums, just noise and chaos.  Not only is it noise, it's offensive noise.  I actually muted the TV about 3/4 of the way thru it because I couldn't even tolerate it.  I watched it though because the video is fucking awesome.  I highly recommend you watch it.  The little girl is freaky as hell. 

I also finally got a good listen to Mutemath's "Blood Pressure".  I'm really digging on this song right now.  The video, well, it looks like a lot of work.  It looks like it took forever to film and probably ten times as long to edit - I can appreciate that.  But I hate it.  It's seizure inducing!  And it's distracting as hell.  I had to close my eyes and block out the video in order to really hear the song.  And it's a good song, they shouldn't hide it behind all that visual racket.

"The Sound of Winter" by Bush was played on there too.  Such a good Bush song.  And Gavin Rossdale is even better looking these days.  How awesome is it that he and Gwen Stefani are still together?  So sweet.

This morning, VH1 let me down and played some crap I couldn't stand (probably Brittany Spears...I don't remember) so I flipped over to AMTV and caught the new Hot Chelle Rae song "I Like It Like That".  It isn't nearly as good as "Tonight, Tonight" is (which, by the way, is not a remake of the totally awesome Smashing Pumpkins song of the same name).  I also question the wisdom of releasing what totally feels like a summer party song the end of November.  But perhaps that's all Hot Chelle Rae has to offer us?

Tonight, I just witnessed Fall Out Boy's version of "Beat It" (or as some of you might know it...Cheetah Penis*).  Good grief.  Look, it's simple, if you're not Michael Jackson, don't record his songs.  Just don't.

*If you don't get the cheetah penis reference, do yourself a favor and go buy Matt Nathanson's "At The Point".