Wednesday, April 30, 2008

25 Best Live Albums

Rolling Stone's unranked list of the 25 best live albums of all time. Enjoy. Really, it was no problem on this end. (Some entries on this list are completely whack-a-doo, by the way.)

Sinéad Lohan is quiet

Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad Lohan (no relation to anybody) has not put out an album since 1998's No Mermaid. I guess that doesn't really matter much, but I thought No Mermaid was pretty catchy. Here is the video to one single off that album, "Whatever It Takes":

Still rock my khakis with a cuff and a crease

If there is one album that I associate with the fall of 1999, it is Dr. Dre's 2001--one of those rare albums where each track is completely boss. I had recently graduated from school and moved back to Houston, and like Dre I too wondered where all the mad rappers were at (and also like Dre I was of the opinion that it was like a jungle in this habitat). 2001 thus gave perfect voice to my questions and longings. When you watch these videos, understand that everything Dre is rapping I myself have observed and come to similar conclusions about:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Haley's Husband

A few years back, I traded a few e-mails with an old Rice friend of mine (and fellow art major), Haley. Ol' Haley had recently gotten married to an older guy who made a living as a musician--but it turned out this guy wasn't just any musician, but rather was renowned guitarist and ethnomusicologist Bob Brozman. A specialist in various forms of world music, including Gypsy jazz, calypso, Hawaiian, and Caribbean, Brozman is basically the master of the National guitar. Behold:

EDIT: I just bought Brozman's 2007 album Lumiere, and I rike it a rot. Great music for a nice Sunday morning.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Who's gonna pay attention to your dreams?

Okay, pop quiz: The Cars' unbelievably beautiful "Drive" (from 1984's Heartbeat City) was:

(a) The Cars' highest charting single in the United States, peaking at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart

(b) The song that somehow tricked Czech-born supermodel Paulina Porizkova into thinking she was about to be deported and thus had to marry the very next person that walked into the bowling alley (kind of like what happened to Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2: Electric Boogaloo (honest to God I know of this scene only because in the summer of 1983 HBO showed this movie so often that I think they even split the screen four ways and had four simultaneous showings of the movie, with each quadrant of the TV showing a different point in the film))

(c) The song by which I finally danced with one April Rogers--a salty young lass from La Porte who dwarfed me by about a foot--at the spring eighth grade dance in 1988 (I specifically remember my melodramatic eighth grade heart completely anguished over the fact that I would not be the one driving April home--never mind the fact I was 13 (and she had transportation courtesy of her dad))

(d) All of the above.

As you ponder the choices, here is the video to this truly excellent song:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

If we're ever troubled by the changing times

Back in the day (and by "the day," I mean the late-1970s and early-1980s), TV theme songs were not only freestanding tunes (with verses, choruses, and even bridges), they were more importantly also completely free of irony--45-second wistful reflections on a life in transition or a dream derailed, where things didn't turn out the way one had planned. Lyrics sang about prodigal returns ("the names have all changed since you hung around / but those dreams have remained and they've turned around") and wondered about love lost ("maybe you and me were never meant to be / but baby think of me once in awhile"). They also openly expressed confusion over world events ("We spend each day like bright and shiny new dimes / and if we're ever troubled by the changing times") and reflected financial strain ("temporary layoffs, good times / easy credit ripoffs, good times"). They also talked about some prick named B.J. who thought he was hot sh-t because his best friend was a chimp named Bear. Watching these clips now, it's difficult not to find the earnestness of those songs--and by extension, the shows and the times that created them--completely endearing.

And even as the '80s ushered in the age of Ronald Reagan--with more shows about rich people (Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, etc.) and featuring instrumental theme songs--the melodies were still tinged with a mild sadness and anxiety. Two examples:

You kids today, with your iPods and internet porn, you don't know how easy you have it!

Give to me your leather, take from me my lace

A kind-of amusing video of Will Ferrell and Dave Grohl singing Stevie Nicks and Don Henley's "Leather and Lace":

Saturday, April 26, 2008

So I tried a little Freddie

Because there's a war going on, there's no time to be coy and so I have to come clean: I find this song pretty dang catchy. Here is a solo acoustic version from the BBC programme (holy sh-t, did you see how I just spelled program? That was so rad) "Later . . . with Jools Holland":

EDIT: In this spirit of confessing, I should also add that I like this song. (Wow. That felt so good to get off my chest, y'all!)

"Grateful Dead for drunk lawyers"

That is how Philadelphia writer Sara Sherr describes Jimmy Buffett, and it is what justifies his inclusion on Sherr's list of The Worst Music Ever (a 1997 survey by Philadelphia's City Paper that includes other writers' personal lists of worst music as well).
Sherr is right on the money, of course. While one can probably shoehorn almost any band or musician into some category of "lifestyle rock" (where the lifestyle catered to may be bookish/intellectual, sophisticated/aware, ironical/kitschy, angry/rebellious, etc.), there is something profoundly insidious about Buffett's music in particular. A novelty act that somehow transcended severe musical limitations and built an empire on what is essentially a Slurpee with tequila, Buffett's music is irredeemable in that it trades on the supreme smugness and self-satisfaction of middle-aged doctors and lawyers (and their progeny, who even as teenagers dream of one day being middle-aged doctors and lawyers themselves). The central message of Buffett's entire catalog is basically, "Let's all sing about how sweet and easy life can be here in the highest tax bracket." No matter how you slice it, that's a pretty lame oeuvre.

Songs like "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise" also have certain unavoidable associations. Button-down oxford shirts tucked into slightly too-short khaki shorts, worn with loafers sans socks. Sunglasses attached with Croakies. The schools of the SEC. Practicing air-golf swings (i.e., pretending to swing a golf club, even though there is none in hand) during conversation. Gated communities. Those incredibly retarded black "W The President" car stickers. Date rape. And a bunch of other stuff that's pretty hard to overlook.

Monday, April 21, 2008


In the world of musical instruments, few things can match the beauty of a Rickenbacker 360 in Fireglo red. A website dedicated to all things Rickenbacker. How much more awesome could it be? The answer: None. None more awesome. 

But can you put a price on rawk?

Although I stopped reading Spin magazine some time shortly after high school, it apparently still exists, and not only that, it apparently has some interesting information every now and then. Like this article on what various jobs in the music industry--such as a touring band's sound engineer or a music publicist--pay. For someone like me who's always looking with envy at the roadies as they set up before a show, the article is a valuable reminder that crappy desk jobs pay well precisely because they are crappy. So thank you, Spin; I'm sorry for having disregarded you for so long. But then again, you also run articles like this. So when it comes to your affect on the human condition, I don't know what to think. My conclusion: push.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Losing love is like a window in your heart

Speaking of lyrics, Paul Simon may be my favorite wordsmith, with "Graceland" and "Hearts and Bones" and "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" representing real high points for Top 40 pop lyrics. Consider just one example:
The Mississippi Delta was shining
like a National guitar
I am following the river, down the highway
through the cradle of the civil war

I'm going to Graceland, Graceland
in Memphis, Tennessee
I'm going to Graceland
poorboys and pilgrims with families
and we are going to Graceland

My traveling companion is nine years old
He is the child of my first marriage
but I've reason to believe
We both will be received in Graceland

She comes back to tell me she's gone
As if I didn't know that,
as if I didn't know my own bed
As if I'd never noticed
the way she brushed her hair from her forehead

And she said losing love
is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

I'm going to Graceland
Memphis, Tennessee
I'm going to Graceland
Poorboys and Pilgrims with families
and we are going to Graceland

And my traveling companions are ghosts and empty sockets
I'm looking at ghosts and empties
But I've reason to believe
we all will be received in Graceland

There is a girl in New York City
who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I'm falling, flying
or tumbling in turmoil I say
Whoa so this is what she means
She means we're bouncing into Graceland

And I see losing love
is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody feels the wind blow

In Graceland, Graceland, I'm going to Graceland
For reasons I cannot explain
There's some part of me wants to see Graceland
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there's no obligations now
Maybe I've a reason to believe
we all will be received in Graceland

In Graceland, Graceland, Graceland
I'm going to Graceland

The opener

While melody and rhythm, rather than lyrics, seem to drive the popularity of a song, it's always nice to come across a catchy tune that is as mindful of words as it is of music. Rarer still is that song that has a great opening line. Last fall, published this list that purports to, um, list the best opening lines in rock history. I think it's pretty clear that the editors at Spinner came up with this list during a time of great difficulty--perhaps while guarding enemy combatants at Abu Ghraib or some other place where the fog of war clouds judgment and loosens one's grip on right and wrong. I mean, "Tommy used to work on the docks"? "You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar"? These simply cannot be among the best opening lines of all time. And also, if we're going to be accurate, the opening line of "Livin' on a Prayer" is not "Tommy used to work on the docks." It's that talkbox-filtered "whoooa whoa whoa whooa whoa whoa" line, and it's TONS better than "Tommy used to work on the docks" because it expresses the plight of the song's protagonists so much more poignantly. (E.g., how Tommy is burdened by financial constraints and, from management's perspective, how he clearly presents a high risk for a worker's comp claim.)

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure what my favorite opening lines in pop/rock are, but a few songs automatically come to mind as definitely having good openers:

Paul Simon's "Graceland" ("The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar")

Elliott Smith's "Alameda" ("You walk down Alameda, shuffling your deck of trick cards, over everyone") and "Clementine" ("They're waking you up to close the bar / the streets wet you can tell by the sound of cars")

Kate Wolf's "Across the Great Divide" ("I've been walkin' in my sleep, countin' troubles 'stead of countin' sheep")

The Indigo Girls' "Ghost" ("There's a letter on the desktop I dug out of a drawer / the first truce we ever came to in our adolescent war")

R.E.M.'s "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" ("Lookin' at your watch a third time, waitin' in the station for the bus")

Modern English's "I Melt with You" ("Moving forward using all my breath / making love to you was never second best")

Rilo Kiley's "Portions for Foxes" ("There's blood in my mouth, 'cause I've been biting my tongue all week")

The Replacement's "Valentine" ("Well you wish upon a star / that turns into a plane")

Prince's "Little Red Corvette" ("I guess I shoulda known / by the way you parked your car sideways / that it wouldn't last")

Townes Van Zandt's "Pancho and Lefty" ("Livin' on the road, my friend, is gonna keep you free and clean / but now you wear your skin like iron, and your breath is as hard as kerosene") (obviously, the Willie Nelson-Merle Haggard version is the more famous)

Smashing Pumpkins' "Geek U.S.A." ("Lover, lover, let's pretend we're born as innocents / cast into the world with apple eyes")

Journey's "Oh Sherrie" ("Cinnamon gum! Knowing how I made you feel / And I cinnamon gum! After all your words of steel")

There are undoubtedly many, many other songs, but maybe that last one is my favorite (because of the gum angle).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That's disappointing

I just looked up the lyrics to Elliott Smith's "Say Yes" (from 1997's no-duh-it's-good Either/Or), and the lyric in the bridge is "Crooked spin, can't come to rest / I'm damaged bad at best / she'll decide what she wants . . . ." For the past ten years, I've thought it was "Crickets spin, can't come to rest / I'm damaged bad at best," etc. That's actually pretty disappointing. The "crickets spin" part was my favorite line in the whole song. Here I was, thinking it was a lyric that captured a real sense of restlessness and anxiety, and come to find out it is "crooked spin," which just captures that Elliott Smith was probably on drugs when he wrote the line.
Anyway, here's some dorkasaurus fan's slide show set to the song:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ACL Festival 2008

The line-up for the 2008 edition of the Austin City Limits Festival--which will fall on the weekend of September 26-28--was released today. The big names include: Foo Fighters, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (pictured at right, with Plant apparently still wearing his make-up from his Broadway turn on Beauty and the Beast), Beck, David Byrne, Gnarls Barkley, The Raconteurs, Iron & Wine, N.E.R.D., The Mars Volta, Robert Earl Keen (he's kind of done, no?), Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band (that already sounds annoying), Silversun Pickups, Gillian Welch (awesome!), Patty Griffin (nice), Band of Horses (I like that one song), Neko Case (grating), Jose Gonzales (most people will go just for "Heartbeats"), M. Ward, What Made Milwaukee Famous, and about 10,000 other bands.
This line-up doesn't do anything for me. There are a few acts in there I'd like to see, but overall it's not a compelling enough line-up to compensate for spending two-and-a-half days in the Austin heat.

Once my pants are on, I make gold records

Everyone has seen this SNL skit a brazilian times:

But have you seen . . . THIS:

Monday, April 14, 2008

September Gurls

As anyone who knows me can attest, I have had only two Big Ideas in my life. The first involves me trying to manufacture a line of college-themed barbecue grills, named after our country's great universities, and intended for tailgating on Saturday afternoons during football season. My introductory model will be a little burnt orange number honoring the University of Texas, named "Cook 'Em Horns." Once enough buzz about this little grill spreads, the idea is that I will roll out successive models for other schools, with the next model being a blue and yellow grill called "Tailcook Scandal," which honors the U.S. Naval Academy. (The word "hook" really opens a lot of doors for me, because I just replace it with "cook.")
Anyway, my second Big Idea involves a particular Halloween costume. For years, I have thought that a good costume would be the anthropomorphic paperclip that randomly pops up in older versions of Microsoft Word, complete with big sleepy eyes and gigantic white gloves and shoes. And no matter what anyone at a Halloween party says to you, the idea is that you just respond, "It looks like you're writing a letter!" While people would invariably tell you to get lost, you and I would both know that they were hatin' only because they were mad jealous.

What does any of this have to do with music? Well, um, not much. But both football season and Halloween happen in the fall, which includes the month of September. And one of my favorite songs is Big Star's "September Gurls" (off of 1974's Radio City), which was later covered by The Bangles on their 1986 album Different Light.

Here is the original version:

And here is a live version by Susanna Hoffs (in her distinctive Susanna Hoffs voice), even though it was Michael Steele who recorded the song for The Bangles:


Sunday, April 13, 2008

At every occasion, I'll be ready for a funeral

Although my profound fear of all things equine had prejudiced me against Seattle-based (actually, now South Carolina-based) Band of Horses, I am big enough to admit that their 2006 album Everything All the Time has grown on me, and I am glad I gave it a chance. I have not bought their more recent release, Cease to Begin, but I figure I will at some point. One track from Everything All the Time that I've come to admire is "The Funeral," which--despite its use on various TV shows and even a commercial for the Ford Edge SUV--I had not heard prior to buying the album.
As with the other songs on the album, the most compelling ingredient of "The Funeral" is singer Ben Bridwell's evocative voice--a mix of Jim James's reverb with James Mercer's sharp, piercing tone. The moodiness of the song's opening riff complements Bridwell's vocals, and it fits well with the nice opening line ("I'm coming up only to hold you under"). I also like the chorus because it sounds big and sweeping, yet with the dour observation, "At every occasion, I'll be ready for a funeral." There is not a strong, identifiable bridge (it seems to last all of two lines), but perhaps this kind of song really doesn't need one, though the result is that the second half of the song can't help but be less interesting than the first (especially true with the 5:22 version found on the album).

This live performance of the song--from the band's network television debut on Letterman on July 13, 2006--is particularly impressive. Though dude looks like he has the teeth of an Englishman (but that may be mainly due to that little mousy giggle he seems to be stifling for most of the song). Maybe Dave said a funny joke right before they came back from commercial, and the band's still laughing at it. Or maybe Paul is wearing funny sunglasses off camera. Nothing says comedy like funny eyewear.

The traveling hands of time

While walking by The Continental Club yesterday--Gwen and I had just had lunch at the adjacent and delicious Tacos a Go-Go (the secret is the mayonnaise)--I noticed that Son Volt is playing there on May 16. While Son Volt has suffered in comparisons to Wilco as the less interesting and adventurous Uncle Tupelo spinoff, their music still has its virtues. So I will definitely try to catch that show. I don't have their last couple of albums, though, so I'll probably be That Guy who screams during the show for them to play songs from Trace or Wide Swing Tremolo (which will make people around me think wow, that dude's been into Son Volt from way back, but it's really just that I don't know any of the new stuff). Speaking of Trace, everybody loves "Tear-Stained Eye," and who am to argue: that song is pretty righteous. Here's a live version from 2005:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Where feelings, not reasons, can make you decide

In 1989, I was in ninth grade and spent the majority of my time drifting aimlessly through the halls of my high school, wistfully wondering whether the days of sweet youth and innocence were permanently behind me. (Answer: they were.) That same year, Ian Brodie was 31 and apparently juggling two careers: starring as honors program student Arvid Engen on the ABC sitcom Head of the Class, and fronting English pop group The Lightning Seeds, whose album Cloudcuckooland featured the UK Top 20 hit "Pure."

My buddy Logan refers to this song as a "guilty pleasure." I refer to it as hella sweet (because I'm really hip and up on how the kids of today talk--by the way, don't you guys just think that Zac and Miley are totally the most?!). Anyway, consider:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More cherry bomb

Pitchfork reports today that Spoon has posted on its website a demo of a "country" version of "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb," which, as I've mentioned before, is one of my favorite songs from the last year. This demo version doesn't come close to the quality of the final studio track (mainly because it has none of the Motown-y exuberance of the album version), but it's an interesting listen nonetheless.
Hear to it here.

One of my favorite websites of the last six years

This is an oldie but a goodie. For the past six years, whenever I've needed to re-center myself and get back in touch with an old friend named Me, I've gone to this website. The website is not mainly about music, but it's about pretty much everything else. It's just so incredibly boss (from the silly version of "Big Pimpin'" that plays as background music to the totally rad description of ninjas). If, for some strange reason, you haven't seen this site before, you're very welcome (you can pay me back later).

Two from BDB

One band name I forgot to include on my list of crappy band names is Badly Drawn Boy, the nom de sensitive rock of singer-songwriter Damon Gough. The bookish and coy stage name is actually just one of a number of things I find annoying about Gough. Another is the fact that his Wikipedia entry says that he was born "in Dunstable, Befordshire [and] grew up in the Brightmet area of Bolton, Lancashire, England." This is obviously fake, as no one comes from that many fruity-sounding English places. The next sentence in the Wikipedia page entry might as well just say, "The son of a cockney boot black, Gough spent his childhood working as a lovable chimney sweep, clean as a whistle, sharp as a thistle, best in all Westminster, until he was sent off to Mrs. Picklingworth's school for wayward lads, where he excelled in fourth form chicanery and ballyhoo." Another thing I don't like is the way Gough always wears a knit cap no matter the climate or circumstance--I read this as an overly committed homage to Elliott Smith (USA! but dead).

Despite all this, I do like a number of Badly Drawn Boy's songs, even if his catalog is uneven. And there are two songs of his in particular that I really do love--"Silent Sigh" (from his About a Boy soundtrack) and "The Shining" (from The Hour of Bewilderbeast).

I should like very much to play them for you now, m'lady:

The video for "Silent Sigh":

And a live version of "The Shining," from London's Royal Festival Hall in 2004 (note how he screws up the lyrics of the first verse and starts over):

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Silversun Pickups sell Chevy

While watching Memphis choke on their free throws to hand Kansas the men's NCAA basketball championship last night, I noticed that Chevy is using Silversun Pickups' catchy mid-90s-inspired "Lazy Eye" (from 2006's Carnavas) in its commercial for the Chevy Malibu. While "Lazy Eye" is somewhat of an unconventional choice for an ad jingle, it actually makes sense. When I first heard the song almost two years ago, I remember immediately thinking how sweet it would be if there were a car that boasted 19 MPG city / 28 MPG highway, had the leading resale value in its class according to J.D. Power & Associates, and was a Consumers Digest Best Buy three years in a row. Well, that car exists, and it's called the Toyota Camry. Still, I heard if you ever take your Camry in for maintenance, some dealerships give you a Malibu as a loaner. Good on ya, Malibu!
Anyway, the video for the song:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sign #18 that ours is a doomed planet

The first time I cracked the lacquer finish on my childhood guitar--a cheap Squire Stratocaster, received as a gift in tenth grade and dented long before eleventh--I stared at the dent for about an hour, ruefully meditating on how I could have prevented the injury. Over time, the guitar got more worn, faded, and ugly. I replaced the pickguard with one that didn't fit exactly right. I changed the bridge pickup, which then didn't match the color of the other two. Inspired by the bats on Billy Corgan's Strat (before he was cast as the lead in Powder), I put dozens of little bat stickers on my own guitar, somehow managing to make it look even less cool. What I didn't realize at the time, however, was that the gradual uglification of my poor little guitar was perhaps increasing its value (I bet that thing peaked at about $250).

Or so goes the thinking behind the perverse and insidious rise of the "relic" guitar--the hot new thing in guitar collecting. As explained in this Wall Street Journal article (of course), relic guitars are brand new instruments that have been deliberately scratched, dented, and aged to mimic years of rock n' roll battle scars. Rubbed paint caused by gigging in too many smoky bars, spidery cracks in the lacquer due to thousands of nights on the road, a lattice of little scratches on the back inflicted by the player's belt buckle, worn fingerboards from countless scorching solos--rather than going through the trouble of actually earning such signs of guitar commitment, dentists and soccer dads are just buying guitars with these badges of honor already built in.

The lameness of this whole thing cannot be measured by our primitive earth tools. It's as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced and what not.

To add to the perversion, these scratch-and-dent jobs actually cost--surprise, surprise--more than the normal, pristine versions. A lot more. For example, a Fender American Standard Telecaster currently runs about $1000. When Andy Summers, guitarist for The Police, bought his 1961 Tele in 1972, he paid $200 for it. But a 2007 Fender Custom Shop tribute version of Summers's guitar--complete with distressed body, broken bridge, and certain electronics tweaks--sells for about $12,000 (pictured above and below--remember, these are pictures of a brand new guitar). Similarly, Fender's relic version of Jeff Beck's Esquire also costs about $12,000. Given these exorbitant prices, and given the profound lameness inherent in relic guitars, is it really any wonder who the target audience is?

(Rockin' Robin customers, I'm looking in your direction on this one.)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Another song in Italian

Another pretty song for driving around aimlessly in good weather is Ornella Vanoni's Italian hit from 1970, "L'Appuntamento" (with charmingly maudlin lyrics, translated to English, here). Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Saturday--KABLAAMOOO! Oh, Apollonia! You didn't have a good grasp on the days of the week and you couldn't drive for sh-t, and now you've been exploded! I will avenge you! And then I will see how Diane Keaton is doing.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

On Days Like These

Although he saw a fair amount of success in the 1960s, English crooner Matt Monro never enjoyed the kind of enduring fame that his voice and songs perhaps deserved. Much of this was due to simple timing: kind of like Marlowe to Shakespeare, Monro's star power was just no match for the living legend that was Sinatra. That that was the correct result does not diminish, however, the fact that Monro, working under producer George Martin, recorded some truly great songs, including one of my all-time favorites, "On Days Like These"--a song used very well (accompanying a Lamborghini Miura) in the opening credits of the original version of The Italian Job (1969). Here is the song:

Perhaps because of its role in a car-centric movie like The Italian Job, "On Days Like These" has become kind of the background song of choice for footage of old roadsters speeding through the countryside. Not only does it play as Mario Andretti drives his old, restored 1964 Indy roadster at the end of the IMAX film Super Speedway, but even amateur would-be Mario Andrettis have adopted the song for their own YouTube driving videos (examples here and here).

Friday, April 4, 2008

Okay, I'm getting this

Why? Because it looks rad, especially for recording guitar riffs quickly and easily. (Thanks to IG Blog for the heads up.)

Trisha Yearwood, Elliott Smith, and Celine Dion (in that order)

The title pretty much says it all. The year was 1997. Trisha Yearwood sings "How Do I Live" (Con Air) at the 70th Academy Awards knowing full well that 15-year-old LeAnn Rimes's version is better. Elliott Smith performs the rueful "Miss Misery" (Good Will Hunting) reluctantly--the producers had told him that the song was being performed live, either with him or without him--all the while avoiding eye contact with Jack Nicholson and instead focusing up at the balcony. And Celine Dion, of course, walks away with the Oscar for Best Original Song with "My Heart Will Go On" (Titanic). The award's presenter, Madonner (I think this is how the English say her name), sneers, "What a shocker," right before announcing the winner.

Later, Smith recalls the surreal event in general and Celine in particular: "She was really sweet, which has made it impossible for me to dislike Celine Dion anymore. Even though I can't stand the music that she makes--with all due respect I don't like it much at all--but she herself was very, very nice. She asked me if I was nervous and I said, 'Yeah.' And she was like, 'That's good because you get your adrenaline going, and it'll make your song better. It's a beautiful song.' Then she gave me a big hug. It was too much. It was too human to be dismissed simply because I find her music trite."

Well, I'm dismissing it, human or not. Because Celine Dion looks like a bird. A stupid, unpitchy French-Canadian bird.

For the Reverend Martin Luther King, sing

Today, April 4, marks the fortieth anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination. For a certain generation of people, especially those who were not alive at the time, that exact date is etched in memory thanks in large part to U2 and its song "Pride (In the Name of Love)": "Early morning, April 4 / a shot rings out in the Memphis sky / Free at last, they took your life / But they could not take your pride . . . ."

It has been often pointed out, however, that Bono's lyrics are not entirely historically accurate, as Dr. King was assassinated not in the "early morning," but rather at 6:01 P.M. local time. But as also has been pointed out, "About supper time, April 4" doesn't really seem to work, either. I think we can all forgive Bono this bit of artistic license, given the laudable intent behind the song:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

No Duh Statement of the Week: Kim Deal seems pretty cool

Mountain Battles, the fourth album from The Breeders (who will be playing at The Meridian here in Houston on May 7), will be released next Tuesday, and advance reviews are already singing its praises. In fact, the songs can be heard in their entirety on the band's MySpace page, and from what I can tell, they sound pretty decent. While "Cannonball" and "Divine Hammer" from 1993's Last Splash are probably The Breeders' most popular songs, their 1990 debut, Pod, has great moments, too, especially since that album sounds more Pixies-ish than Belly-esque. One particular standout is this one minute forty-five second gem:

Kate Wolf

For the past twelve years, the Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, California has hosted the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival in honor of . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . Kate Wolf. Wolf was a folk singer-songwriter from Northern California who released six truly amazing albums before passing away in 1986 after a long battle with leukemia at age 44. While Wolf was never as famous as some of her songs (which found more acclaim when recorded by others, such as Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris), she was a rare talent. Her melodies and maudlin-yet-somehow-sober lyrics ("I been walkin' in my sleep / countin' troubles, 'stead of countin' sheep") were always perfectly complemented by her clear, ringing voice. Her 1980 album, Close to You, is a definite 100 percenter, where each track from start to finish is good. It's probably in my personal top thirty or so favorite albums.
Because Kate died prior to the internet and without wide-reaching fame, there are few online videos of her. Here are two, however, from her 1985 appearance on Austin City Limits:

Streaming recordings of some other songs here and here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I told you Radiohead was greedy

To kick off the release of the single "Nude"--and perhaps to make up for the fact that In Rainbows was spookily free--Radiohead has hatched a money-making scheme disguised as a fan-friendly remix contest. Here's how it works: fans will be able to buy the five isolated tracks of "Nude" (i.e., the separate vocals, the separate drums, the separate guitar, etc.) and create their own remix of the song, which they can then upload to Visitors to the appropriate Facebook and MySpace pages will vote for the remixes they like the most. There will be no prizes for the highest vote-getters, but "Radiohead will listen to the best remixes."
How does all this make money? Each individual track, or "stem," costs $0.99 on iTunes. So that's $5 right there, and that's assuming you don't also end up buying Phil Collins's entire No Jacket Required album ($9.99) since you're already on iTunes anyway.

So when all is said and done, it's pretty much a safe bet that you'll be about $15.00 lighter as a result of all this (though you will have "Sussudio" to jam to). Don't tell me these marketing people don't know exactly what they're doing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I guess so

So Accelerate, R.E.M.'s fourteenth studio album, dropped today (see how I said "dropped" like an industry insider? I know, I know, it seems like I must be part of the biz or something (see how I said "biz"?)), and I guess I should purchase the album at some point. More out of obligation than anything else. Messrs. Buck, Mills, and Stipe (along with their back-up band) apparently commemorated the release of Accelerate by performing on the Today Show this morning (video here and here and here). Comment cards left by patrons at the Dean & Deluca in Rockefeller Plaza indicated that the performance was very enjoyable (but that there was not enough caramel in the macchiato).

So this is kind of where we're at, people.

In probably more interesting news, The Raconteurs' new album, Consolers of the Lonely, also came out this past week. While this album probably won't chart well, I'm thinking that SoundScan will show that Warners will move over 250,000 units in the first month on the strength of online and independent media buzz. (Sorry, there's that rad music industry jargon again. I really wish I weren't such a hardcore insider!)