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* 2009* (recent first: Dec - Jan)
Enya - "Trains and Winter Rains" Heard this as muzak in Home Depot, of all places. Colorpulse (feat. Carl Sagan & Stephen Hawking) - "A Glorious Dawn". People never cease to amaze and impress me. This time, someone ran some well-spliced clips from Sagan's landmark Cosmos series through an auto-tune and voila: Sagan sings perfectly in key. But in addition to the top-notch editing, Mr. Colorpulse here wrote and arranged the music the composition, which is amazing in its own right. Go to his webpage, DL some tunes (or the video itself), have a listen, and donate a buck or two! (NOTE: For a near-studio-quality version of the song, look for the remastered version by Cherimoya Eihn; It sounds much better an the audio track of the movie.)
Beyonce - "Put A Ring On It". Just now getting around to this, which I realize puts me WAY behind the cool curve, but still; Catchy is catchy, and this song is what the word was invented to describe. (And the video? Sweet muscular JESUS! I could give you a moment by moment breakdown of why I love it!)
Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez - "Batuque". The Ovation network showed Spalding Gray's "Swimming To Cambodia" the other day, after which they ran a 5 minute concert clip of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra (all of whom were replete in "team jackets" of Venezuela's red-yellow-blue, unlike this clip where they're all in suits and dresses) led by Gustavo Dudamel, performing this piece. Hard to believe I'd never heard this nor even heard of it. There are two versions of the piece on YouTube, both a bit slower than Dudamel's verson. John Neschling & the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra from 2008, and Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic, from 1958.
Tavash Graham - "In My Soul". Just caught a snippet of it at the end of Rachel Getting Married (but iTunes isn't selling the soundtrack songs a la carte, and I don't want the whole album...)
Dave Matthews Band - "Seven," and "Squirm," and "Why I Am," and "Baby Blue". I am not a Dave Matthews fanatic, but their new album is just SICK. "Seven" is a favorite since I've always been a sucker for unconvetional time signatures, and being written "in 7" definitely qualifies (7/4 or 7/8 depending on your quarters or eighths. For more on this see Jethro Tull's "Living In The Past" for an example of 5/4, or far less conventionally, Sting's "I Hung My Head" is written in friggin' 9/4.) "Baby Blue," for all its other remarkability, exists for me simply as the intro acoustic guitar lick; Can't get it out of my head! "Squirm" puts the omnipresent 5-4-1 chord progression into a bridge and makes is sound downright regal.
Playing For Change - "Stand By Me (Song Around The World". An unforgettable version of Ben E. King's classic, performed primarily by a few New Orleans street musicians, but helped out by two dozen or so musicians (not counting the choir!) recording their tracks in a dozen or so different countries.
Bo Burnham. Teenage YouTube commedian who's faster, far more clever, and has a sharper sense of comic timing than most comics twice his age. He made his name with out-of-nowhere youtube movies recorded in his bedroom; now he's got a Comedy Central special, albums on iTunes, a DVD for sale.
Tim Minchin - "Some Pople Have It Worse Than Me." The first time you hear this you wn't gt mst f it. GO BACK AND LISTEN AGAIN: it really is that good. He's screamingly fast, tack sharp, and far far funnier than your average Aussie. (Which is saying something because as the world's non-Aussies—or anyone who just checked out the Archetecture In Helsinki video—have long known, Aussies are funny!) Don't believe me? Try this one, and, again, listen closely.
Architecture in Helsinki - That Beep. They're Aussies, and they remind me a LOT of The Other Ones, some other Aussies, from the 80's. Unconventional instrumentation abounds but this is still ridiculously catchy!
Lightning Head - "NPG". Unquestionably the jazziest thing on this page. Lots of delicious horns, but the thing that caught my ear was the bass, which does yeoman's work in the front half of the tune but is rewarded by establishing its own melody in the 2nd half. From their EP "Afrobeat," I found it hiding about a half-hour into a 45 minute mix file called "Fukstronaut Mix part 1" on Aurgasm.us.
* 2008* (recent first: Dec - Jan)
The Ting Tings - "That's Not My Name." The best one-guy-and-one-girl band since the White Stripes. (Maybe—maybe—better than Timbuk 3, but probably not as good as the Carpenters...which isn't saying much since the Carpenters, in their time, were un-friggin-conscious. And Miss Katie there is pretty dad-gum easy on the eyes, as they say.
Koushik - "Lying In The Sun." The Association meets Wall Of Voodoo, meets My Bloody Valentine, meets some-really-good-scratch-DJ...what the hell else am I hearing in here...horns, a bunch of incidental non-musical sounds, some VERY tight drums that wander into and out of the mix. Hooky, poppy; extremely hard to resist. (Found at Puritan Blister and Spinner.)
DJ Schmolli - "M.I.A.Wanted Dead Or Alive." A mashup between Bon Jovi and Mia. (Found at Puritan Blister.)
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - "Around The Bend." Teenage (sounding) girls singing lazily, musicians playing a fraction of a second behind the beat, yet it's a tight groove somehow. (Check out the Unabomber on drums.)
Pink Spiders - "Gimme Chemicals." Hair bands are alive and well! Even if the Pink Spiders don't have long locks they sound like they should, and I mean that in a postive way: this is, at its heart, good old fashioned crunchy whomp rock, but with a new millenium edge. (...whatever THAT means...)
Cheetah Girls - "Fuego." No apologies folks; catchy pop is catchy pop, and this is catchy sh*t!!
Beta Band. "She's The One" and "Needles In My Eyes." I get a lot of cool songs from the TV show House. "Needles" is one such song, which then led me to "She's The One."
Cold War Kids. "Hang Me Out To Dry". What could be simpler? Two bars of octaves in G, then two bars of octaves in E. I was hunting for a Halloween costume and this was blating on the system; Turns out one of the employees has it bad for CWK and is getting the word out. As, now, am I. (Their Malloy Bros. video absolutely OWNS, as does this live version, as well as this Jools Holland spot.)
Harvey Danger. "Little Round Mirrors". Recommended by a fellow DFW & Evan Dara fan. In fine Ben Folds fashion this treat starts with simple three-chord, major-mode piano, then after a minute adds what sounds a lot to my ears like french horn (Beatles-ish!) and builds to a remarkable finish that's both plaintive and frantic. Sure I like the Soul Coughings and XTCs and TMBGs, as well as the butt-kicking AC/DCs and Van Halens, and sure, I have also been known to worship artsy-fartsy "Warm Leatherette" kinds of things, and a lot of rap, and classical, and even (though not often) some jazz....but there's something to be said for a simple, pretty, pop song. Whatever else they're listening to a thousand years form now, this sort of thing will still be part of it.
Clothesline Revival. Long Gone. Conrad Praetzel and Robert Powell have taken old a capella americana recordings—in some cases almost 70 years old—and undergirded them with modern musical foundations: drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, and a host of other instrumentation, to say nothing of the chord progressions, created with no cue save for the voices. IF YOU GO TO THEIR WEB SITE THEY HAVE OVER HALF OF THIS ALBUM AVAILABLE FOR FREE DOWNLOAD, in addition to several cuts from previous albums. (Seriously: Go, check it out. You'll be stunned at the quality of the arrangements these guys conjure from a single vocal track, but also, like me, you might be surprised that the melodies you find yourself humming days later are none other than those ancient vocals!)
Bruce Hornsby. "Preacher In The Ring, Pt.2" I loved his Harbor Lights album when it first came out in 1993 (still do), so why have I waited this long to snag a copy of Hot House and Spirit Trail, released in '95 and '98, respectively?
Mushroomhead. "Simple Survival." Surfing the other day, happened on this guy's MySpace, and this song played in the background. Very tight, aggressive AND melodic; I'm on it.
Beth Hart. "Just A Little Hole." She must get this endlessly: she sounds like Janis Joplin. She might even be annoyed by it, is how often I'm guessing she hears it, but I'm telling you, with the piano? ...add a dash of Tori Amos? Beth Hart is the real friggin' deal folks. This song I love isn't on youtube [Sure it is...it wasn't back in 2008] , but a song I really really like, that she's more well known for, "LA Song" is.
Krayzie Bone. "Heated Heavy." From 1999. (Better late than never, eh?) It's a minor miracle that I heard the song at all. Someone on my David Foster Wallace mailing list mentioned that Patton Oswalt had read DFW's quite cool Kenyon Univ. commencement speech prior to delivering his own (Oswalt's) commencement address at his former high school. I linked to Oswalt's blog about this, which featured a cool painting of Oswalt's face, by someone named Jason Rudolphpena. There's also a link to a youtube of Rudolphpena doing the painting. Surfing off that youtube I came across this youtube of Rudolphpena painting another famous face. And the background music, was, of course...
Flo-Rida feat. T-Pain. "Low." Much as I like hip-hop, I REALLY like it when they throw a little melody or harmony on top of the rhymes. (FWIW... I like the Travis Barker mix of "Crank Dat Soulja-Boy," I'm not quite as wild about the Travis version of "Low.")
The Wreckers. "Leave The Pieces." Classic modern country: low and lovely:
"There's nothing you can do or say
You're gonna break my heart anyway
Just leave the pieces when you go."
Mike Doughty. "Navigating By The Stars At Night," "Nectarine." Couple tasty nuggets from Golden Delicious, MD's latest CD. (MD's MySpace.)
Pigeonhed. "Battle Flag [Lo-Fidelity Allstars Remix]" Imagine my surprise when this sucker came up on shuffle and almost knocked me on my can. "This puppy gets 4 stars," I thought and went to wheel the rating in; what? I ALREADY RATED IT 4 STARS!! Holy crap, how could I have forgotten a 4 star song!! (iTunes says I DLed it from Stypod (R.I.P.) in June 2006; Almost two years!)
Gary Numan. "Walking With Shadows." If you like (or liked) "Cars" back in (when the hell was it) 1980, you like (or liked) Techno. Techno gets slammed a lot these days, and often rightly so I happen to think, but not in all cases and especially not in the case of Gary Numan. He infuses more melody than is expected in the typical techno song, hence he's an all-time favorite of mine PERIOD. (Not just, say, "my all time favorite techno guy.") This one lopes though its opening with lowered brow and a scowl, but the dam bursts at about 1m 15s and you're awash in synths and vocals processed up the wazoo. The melody is catchy as is the light piano well back in the mix.
Lucky Boys Confusion. "Bossman." This is from a TV commercial for—if you can believe it—Trident chewing gum. It has what will probably turn out to the the most infectious chorus you'll hear all year. ("Here come the bossman callin' (callin'!)/ Here come the man right now (right now!)
Yael Naim. "New Soul." This is from a TV commercial for Apple's MacAir laptop. Quirky but melodic. (Think Joanna Newsom with a slight Hebrew accent.)
Landon Pigg. "CoffeeShop." This is from a TV commercial for diamonds, and is as pretty as pretty can be, I must say.
Stars of Track And Field. "Movies of Antarctca." Spotted this on Sirius, Left Of Center. Simple melody with pretty harmonies, and a lot of torque as it progresses, which is nice.
Houseclouds. "Liars" Who can resist a video with kittens AND a lilting falsetto? (Although the shirtless bohemian unblinkingly staring right at you does creep you (or at least me) out. (Found 16min 12sec into "marathonpacks midterm mix Vol. II" or seen on YouTube.)
* 2007 * (recent first: Dec - Jan)
Fleetwood Mac/The Rockets/Stevie Ray Vaughan. "Oh Well." I've heard this song forever but never paid enough attention to know even the name of it. (It's the "Can't help about the shape I'm in/I can't sing, I ain't pretty and my legs are thin/Don't ask me what I think of you/I might not give the answer that you want me to" oldie.) As much of a leap past Fleetwood Mac's take as The Rockets' take is, is how far past the Rockets' version is SRV's. (The foregoing being my latest entry in the "Most Awkward Sentence" contest.)
Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon. "Sweet Emotion." No shit! An acoustic version of Aerosmith's balls-out classic. Would you believe me if I said it's better in some ways? Not many, all praise to Tyler/Perry of course, but it's still damned decent! The harmonies—and everything else, come to think of it— being sung an octave low is one of many nice touches.
Tomoyasu Hotei. "Battle Without Honor Or Humanity." It's the tight-as-a-drum rock interlude from Kill Bill (When O-ren Ishii and entourage enter the restaurant in slow motion. This version, much to my surprise, is acoustic, with piano and a humming choir taking the electric guitar melody.
Super Furry Animals. "Baby Ate My Eightball." BLISSPOP IS DEAD. Long Live All The Other Blogs. Bliss was where I found this little treat.
Shawn Colvin & Mary Chapin Carpenter/Jill Sissel/Greg Brown. "One Cool Remove." It's Brown's song, but Colvin & Carpenter all but own it in Colvin's album Cover Girl. A song lovely and yes, cool enough to make me want to spend the time and learn to sing and play guitar.
St. Vincent. "Paris Is Burning," "Your Lips Are Red," and "Now. Now." A few spots down see "Jesus Saves, I Spend." Here's more of that. Quirky yet hummable, I'm down like a car with four flat tires.
Mike Doughty. "The Girl In The Blue Dress." His last album, Haughty Melodic, is hands down my favorite album of the last five years. Golden Delicious is his next album, due out Feb. 19, 08 AND I CAN'T WAIT. Two tracks from GD are on his MySpace. This is one, and a tasty, full-band remake of "27 Jennifers" is the other.
Saliva. "Ladies and Gentlemen." I'm hearing this thing ALL OVER television these days. I somehow missed Saliva when they broke big so it's nice to catch up with this one. In a couple parts it reminds me of—of all things—AC/DC's "Given The Dog A Bone."
Brad Paisley. "Letter To Me." OK, kinda glurgy, but I'm a sucker for a good tearjerker and always have been.
My Chemical Romance. "Teenagers." Good old rock-n-roll! (And yes, I am a middle school teacher so no, teenagers don't much scare me at all, if you must know, but what a tight tune....all together now!)
Rodney Carrington. "Show Them To Me." If you love your country...
Ben Gleib. "Eternal Youth." Spoken poetry. Check it out.
St. Vincent. "Jesus Saves, I Spend." Quirky and cute and structurally non-traditional and melodic and a little crunchy and even a little silly (is that a duck? A smurf? What *IS* that thing?) But either way: love at first listen for me and this tune. Found at http://www.marathonpacks.com/.
Sleater-Kinney. One Beat (album) A ways down I mentioned a song from One Beat called "Oh" and how it was the first and only SK song I liked. On a whim I snagged a copy of One Beat and have been REALLY digging almost every single song on it. Call The Doctor arrives in about a week; what's my summer without a serious music jones? OK, I waited until August...so?
Animusic. "Starship Groove." Couple guys wrote some funky midi-music to trigger some homemade CGI musical instruments, and the results are fascinating. Some of the music ends up sounding rather Yanni-ish, but this one—written in hard-to-find 7/4 time—has been etched into my brain, not just visually but musically. Go here and DL a file that demos the first 3 minutes of the video. http://www.animusic.com/downloads.html
Boards Of Canada. "Chromakey Dreamcoat." I've heard this band's name often but never any song of their's that I liked. No longer. This weirdly played (or is it sampled?) instrumental has a haunting edge to it that I didn't even notice the first few times I previewed it. Then my daughter said "Can you put that one on my iPod dad?" and I suddenly noticed it. Found at Silence Is A Rhythm Too: http://siart.blogspot.com/.
Pizzacato Five. "Baby Love Child." Is this an oldie? I haven't heard anything from P5 in several years. Found at Silence Is A Rhythm Too: http://siart.blogspot.com/.
Dizzee Rascal. "Wanna Be (Ft. Lily Allen)." Really British, as in the rapper's accent is full and unmistakable. Ths song has a special significance for me since the main sample is from the song "So Ya Wanna Be A Boxer" from the 1976 Alan Parker movie Bugsy Malone (remember? Where prepubescent Scott Baio playes a kiddie gangster and Jodie Foster, a kiddie speakeasy singer? HBO ran that sucker non-stop back then and I watched it every single time!). The movie is loaded with memorable Paul Williams songs; "Bad Guys (We Coulda Been Anything That We Wanted To Be)" and "Bad Guys/You Give a Little Love (And It All Comes Back To You)" are but two others. I have all three on mp3...email me if you'd like a copy.) Found at Silence Is A Rhythm Too: http://siart.blogspot.com/.
Mute Math. "Typical". A buddy sent the YouTube link to this song's video and it was love at first sight and sound. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this is video is unforgettable: The entire thing was shot in reverse, yet all the played notes, and sung words, and especially the struck drums and cymbals appear to be hit perfectly. These suckers must have put some SERIOUS time into studying their own song well enough that they could actually play it in reverse. (I have seen the "forwards version" of this backwards video and as a guitarist I can tell you that it doesn't sound like the guitarists have nearly as tough a time learning their backwards parts as did that poor drummer.)
As for the song: The chiming guitars that lead off are recoded in some sort of expanded stereo that makes them sound incredibly rich. It also sounds like it's played in drop-D...there's a low D that undercuts the intro contributing mightily to the aforementioned richness. Maybe the bassist is helping out. And the name of who they remind me of (strongly) is escaping to the air around my head, but I'll repost the minute I remember.
New Young Pony Club. "Hiding On The Staircase" and "Ice Cream". "Ice Cream" is the "I can give you what. You. Want./I can make your heart. Beat. Short." song from the Intel processor commercial. That led me to their MySpace where "Hiding" was available for listening. I think "Hiding On The Staircase" was also in Fluxblog recently too.
North Atlantic Explorers. "When My Ship Comes In" Not the whole thing. The first 1:55 is dreamy cool whip that reminded me of what gets played in churches sometimes while people are filing into the pews. After that emerges a simple piano melody underlaid by simple drums and overlaid with a simple vocal. (And big ups for the Vasco De Gama reference!) Found at Some Velevet Blog: http://somevelvetblog.blogspot.com/
Surkin. "Kiss and Fly (Tacteel remix)" Not the whole thing. The first minute and a half is a heavy techno/dance, but then after 88 seconds a soft soaring techno texture descends...very soothing to my ears. Drums come in after a minute and a half or so. Found at BLISS's March 07 list: blisspop.com/playlist.html. (NOTE, 7-1-07: That first techno/dance section that I glossed over a second ago is really starting to grow on me. And I don't know who the hell Tacteel is—French techno artist?—but he's my hero because I recently heard the album/studio/non-remix version of this and while imminently danceable, nothing that I love in the remix is present. "Wha happened?") (7-5-07. The only words here are: "Whoa, gotta kiss and fly." My 12 year old sings it: "Why-y would I kiss a fly.")
YACHT. "See A Penny." This was buried in the middle of an hour-long mix a buddy of mine posted to MetaFilter. The mix is called "Music by Friends for the Radio in France," and this song is one of many memorable tunes in the mix. The combo of the trippy little keyboard lick and atonal harmonies (contradiction?) and then that fake crunchy guitar?? fa-BOINGGG!!
(I think you can still DL the mix here. 84 MB.)
Camille. "Jolie Bruine" Not....quite as good as "Ta Douler," (4-22-07: I don't say this any more....I'm liking "Jolie Bruine" more each time I hear it these days) but this one is still pretty dern catchy in its own right. It starts out slowly with a long fade in, the only accompaniment being the droning "thread" note that runs behind the album "Le Fil" (whence the album gets it's name, of course.)
She Wants Revenge. "These Things" SWR is hugely goth, which normally isn't my speed, but this song isn't too extreme, which opens the door for "try anything once" blokes like me to poke my nose in and sniff around. For better or worse it reminds me of Daniel Ash, Peter Murphy, etc. and it's got me good. (And don't ask me why but I've always been a sucker for 'pleasure' as a transitive verb. Literarily AND connotatively, of course.) (Found on some web radio station calling itself The Buzz.)
Yoko Ono & Le Tigre. "Sisters O Sisters." Finally finally FINALLY! A Yoko Ono song I can say I like!! Granted, her contribution here is rather minimal, but still. Tinkly keyboard textures, bombastic drums, and horns! Found on http://fluxblog.org/.
Field Music. "A House Is Not A Home." This brings me back to Madness ("Our House, in the middle of our street..") but not just because it's about a house. The beat is sort of a march (a trombone would not be out of place, no kidding) and there is a Beatles song that is knocking on the back of my brain but can't get in...(CURSE THIS AGING BRAIN-O-MINE!) Anyway, if I can ever remember the name of the beatles song I'm thinking of, "A House Is Not A Home" is like a cross between THAT song and "Our House." Found on http://fluxblog.org/.
Sloan. "Flying High Again/Who Taught You To Live Like That?"Not an Ozzy cover, but a very Sixties-feeling pop tune. Found on http://fluxblog.org/.
Tom Cochrane. "Beautiful Day." I've had my eye on this guy ever since I first heard "Lunatic Fringe," and while most of the time I don't quite connect with his stuff (he has like ten CDs out) when I do...lookout: "Lunatic Fringe," "Boy Inside The Man," "Life Is A Highway" these are all HUGE lifetime favorites of mine. (And for the record, the Rascal Flatts version isn't different enough from the original to qualify as a bonafide cover, IMHO, despite it's having been the top Country song of the year for 2006.) I found "Beautiful Day" here buried in a documentary about ski bums called (you'll never believe this) Ski Bums. The film is Canadian, as is Mr. C.
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