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Favorite Singles of 2010

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Over on my music blog, Vehement Flame, I posted a podcast of my favorite 2010 Singles (ie, not ones from my favorite albums, which will come soon). Give it a listen, would you?

Vehement Flame Fave Singles of 2010

Playlist
00:00:23 Rill Rill (Treats) - Sleigh Bells
00:04:13 Lemon Tree (El Turista) - Josh Rouse
00:07:18 Polaroid Song (Allo Darlin') - Allo Darlin'
00:11:32 Call Me (Earth vs.The Pipettes) - The Pipettes
00:14:22 Apply (Ring) - glasser
00:19:22 Alone At The Pier (Maintenant) - Gigi
00:22:41 Hand Me Down Your Love (One Life Stand) - Hot Chip
00:27:15 You Must Be Out Of Your Mind (Realism) - Magnetic Fields
00:30:27 Giving Up The Ghost (The Seasonal) - How German It Is
00:33:49 Electricity (all the stars in your eyes) - 28 degrees taurus
00:37:39 Everyone Feels That Way Sometimes - Computer Magic
00:43:49 Revival (Halcyon Digest) - Deerhunter
00:46:01 The Original Great Recession Math Champions (Radiant City) - Good Old Neon
00:51:41 He's Not A Boy (Release Me) - The Like
00:54:16 Grace (Burying The Dead) - Richard McGraw
00:59:20 Heavy Feeling (Heavy Feeling) - Justine Bennett
01:03:07 Scissor Runner (Jenny and Johnny) - Jenny and Johnny

Meme City

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I got tagged on Facebook wtih a "Random 25" meme where you hit shuffle on your MP3 player and report the first 25 songs that play. Well, I haven't updated my MP3 player (my G1 phone) in quite some time, so I figure I'll just use my computer collection. I don't really want to report the first 25 that show up on, though, because there are a lot of samplers and one time downloads in there that I wouldn't count for real. So I generated a random playlist from the nearly 10,000 tracks on my computer and picked the first 25 that I would consider putting on my player . Here's the list:

  1. Lullaby - The Cure
  2. Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen
  3. My Shepard - The New Pornographers
  4. Hey St. Peter - Flash and the Pan
  5. Roy Rogers - Elton John
  6. King of Pain - The Police
  7. How Fortunate the Man with None - Dead Can Dance
  8. Wham - Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble
  9. South Bound Suarez - Led Zepplinhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Mason_%28ice_hockey%29
  10. Suspicious Minds - Fine Young Cannibalshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Mason_%28ice_hockey%29
  11. Lost Highway - Johnny Horton
  12. Shoot To Thrill - AC/DC
  13. The Id Parade - Danielle Dax
  14. Tin Drum - Big Pig
  15. Love Is A Sign - The Go-Betweens
  16. All My Steaps - The Black Heart Procession
  17. A Dream within a Dream - The Alan Parsons Project
  18. Penny Lane - The Beatles
  19. Paper Planes - M.I.A.
  20. Rudi Can't Fail - The Clash
  21. Heart of Stone - The Raveonettes
  22. Come Together - Aerosmith
  23. Mexican Radio - Wall of Voodoo
  24. I'm Mandy Fly Me - 10cc
  25. All Come Down - Steve Mason

It's not a bad sampling, although it is very light on any real new releases besides the Steve Mason & The New Pornographers songs. Lots of older songs, plenty of 80s New Wave and some rock classics. Not too embarassing!
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The Friday [5] for Nov. 5

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friday-5a.jpgRestarting ross's The Friday [5], wherein I comment on [5] things in the world of media that have attracted my attention over the past week or so.

  1. Barnes & Noble has a new feature where you can subscribe to a magazine or newspaper on your nook and get a 14 day free trial, so I took the plunge and subscribed (well, re-subscribed) to the Boston Globe. We have been getting it delivered for years and years, but at almost $600 per year (discounted even), it just was too much. So we cut back to just the Sunday paper, but I was going into withdrawals, not having my newspaper. And it just wasn't the same reading it online. But I have really been enjoying it on my Nook. It can be a little slow navigating, but it is still the Globe and I love it. It is US$10 per month, which is much more reasonable.
  2. Really enjoyed Up. I added it to my Movie Watching Log, but I need to add a real review.
  3. My favorite music discovery of the week is School of Seven Bells. You can get a nice sampling of their mystical, ethereal, yet substantive music on my music blog, Vehement Flame.
  4. Speaking of Vehement Flame, check out my music-biz Daily, which uses the cool webapp, paper.li to generate a "daily" based up a list of tweeps I listen to via my @vehementflame1 account.
  5. My favorite radio station is WZBC, which is the Boston College radio station. It has some really great indie and alternative rock, as well as its block of No Commercial Potential sounds in the evening. You can download the shows from the past 2 weeks in hourly blocks here and I enthusiatically recommend Alexandra's Friday morning show, Melody du Jour.
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Back To Friday Random 10

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In the next installment of my dive into the CD cabinet, this one is only semi-random, as I grabbed a few in specific. And it takes me more than a week to go through my stack of ten. But here it is, on Friday even!

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  • Goanna - "Solid Rock" (Spirit of Place [1982]) : Hey, it's a diggeridoo, so it must be Australian! These Aussie political rockers made a splash with this debut album and this classic 80s alt-rock hit. Lots of good songs on here, but they went on to release only one more CD (Oceana) and then folded when Shane Howard, the band's founder, bolted. Ah well, they left a great legacy of sound anyway.
  • JJ Cale - "Call Me The Breeze" (Anyway The Wind Blows (Disc 1) [1997]) : Boogie rock pioneer Cale has some great songs and this 2 CD set is a pretty full collection of his "hits". Another Rhapsody Radio discovery, I'd keep hearing these little boogie woogie rock 'n' roll songs pop up and every time I'd check, it would be another Cale song. Two discs might be a little too much, as there isn't much variety, but still some good stuff here. This disc includes songs covered by other artists, most notably "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton.
  • JJ Cale - "Wish I Had Me A Dollar" (Anyway The Wind Blows (Disc 2) [1997]) : Cale live, with a typically low key boogie woogie song. This disc has more favorites of mine, including "People Lie", "Devil in Disguise" and "Change Your Mind".
  • The Go-Betweens - "Karen" (That Striped Sunlight Sound [2006]) : I've been able to listen a lot more to this great release of a 2005 live show in Brisbane done by the newly reconstituted Go-Betweens. It features original songwriters Robert Forster and the late, lamented, Grant McLennan in fine form. Even better, it is a double disc, with the second disc a DVD featuring a video of the very same show, as well as a very nice "songwriter's session" video featuring just Forster and McLennan playing guitar and talking about the Go-Betweens, songwriting and life. This song is a nice long concert ending 7+ minute rocker. While the group doesn't have the same lineup as 16 Lovers Lane, it's still a great CD as well as two spectacular videos. Grant, you'll be missed.
  • Nick Drake - "Road" (Pink Moon [1972]) : The late, great Nick Drake came to recent attention when Volkswagen used the title track of this song in a wonderful commercial, but this is my favorite Nick Drake song. This is the only Drake CD I have and it is a haunting, acoustic album, and turned out to be his last. It is a dark, inward looking album, with lots of wistful and depressing songs, as he would soon die of an overdoes of pills. To this day, it isn't clear whether it was accidental or suicidal.
  • Run On - "Road" (No Way [1997]) : Okay, I cheated here. After hearing the original, I had to go and get this CD from the case, as I actually heard this version first. It's an amazing cover from a wildly flexible band, which sadly folded after this CD, its second. Very Yo La Tengo-ish, with plenty of distortion, but the CD successfully careens all over the map, and this cover is evocative and sensitive. I can listen to this short masterpiece over and over and over again - under 2 minutes of sheer delight. I need to get their other CD.
    You can say the sun is shining if you really want to
    I can see the moon and it seems so clear
    You can take the road that takes you to the stars now
    I can take a road that'll see me through
    I can take a road that'll see me through.

    You can take a road that takes you to the stars now
    I can take a road that'll see me through
    I can take a road that'll see me through
    I can take a road that'll see me through.

  • The The - "The Beat(en) Generation" (Mind Bomb [1989]) : My last The The CD. I really enjoyed their (well, his - Matt Johnson) first (Soul Mining), liked their second (Infected) and wasn't real crazy about this one, so I stopped.
  • Laurie Anderson - "Baby Doll" (Strange Angels [1989]) : Very funny and funky CD. I love Laurie Anderson, and I'm disappointed we missed her when she was performing here last fall. Next time, fer sure. This is a funny song:
    I don't know about your brain-
    but mine is really bossy
    I come home from a day on the golf course
    and I find all these messages
    scribbled on wrinkled up scraps of paper
    And they say thing like:
    Why don't you get a real job?
    Or: You and what army?
    Or: Get a horse.
    And then I hear this voice
    comin from the back of my head Uh huh
    (Whoa-ho) Yep! It's my brain again
    And when my brain talks to me, he says:

    Take me out to the ballgame
    Take me out to the park
    Take me to the movies
    Cause I love to sit in the dark
    Take me to Tahiti
    Cause I love to be hot
    And take me out on the town tonight
    Cause I know the new hot spot. He says:

    Babydoll! Ooo oo oo Babydoll Ooo He says:
    Babydoll! I love it when you come when I call
    Babydoll! You don't have to talk I know it all
    Babydoll! Ooo oo oo Babydoll Ooo

  • The Jeff Healy Band - "Confidence Man" (See The Light [1988]) : Some rocking rhythm and blues by the blind Canadian Jeff Healy, who plays his guitar flat on his lap. This is a great John Hiatt song and really perks things up on this hot Friday afternoon. I'm a roots blues and boogie woogie kinda guy, and there's a couple good ones here, including the instrumental "Nice Problem To Have", which really rocks.
  • Richard Thompson - "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (Rumor & Sigh [1991]) : Quite possibly my favorite story told in song. I quoted it in my Motorcycle entry, and it still remains a favorite. There's a couple of other good songs on here too, but it's weird that this song isn't on the three disc Thompson compilation I have, "Watching The Dark".

Friday Mostly Random 10

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Once again, I've wandered downstairs to pull out a random (and hopefully new) collection of CDs to rip to my MP3 players. But I'm going to start it with a couple of choice cuts before I move on to the random ones.

ShesTheCarBanner.jpg
  • She's the Car - "Vibeke" : I've been listening to this song a lot since I downloaded it a few weeks ago, after a mention on the Boston Phoenix's On The Download. What a rockin' great song! And I am totally blown away by the fact this "girlgroup" is comprised of four kids who aren't even 20 from my old stomping grounds, Derry NH. I don't know about you, but my creative output at the tender age of 18 was getting my English essay in on time. And for extra credit, I sometimes did it for my classmates. And here they are, with a long, intricate rock song, with powerful voices and confident music. I wish I had been able to break away and see them play locally earlier in the month. Now, I'll have to hold out until August 11 in Allston. Check out the review of the show here, also from the Phoenix. I haven't heard any of their other songs, but I think we can forgive them for working their way "from precious indie-pop to noisy rock", don't you?
  • The Dresden Dolls - "Perfect Fit" (The Dresden Dolls [2003]) : After being completely wowed by their latest album, Yes, Virginia, their debut album shot to the top of my "To Buy" list. I finally picked it up a few weeks ago and I have to admit to being slightly disappointed in my first listen. It seemed to be a little more scattershot and unfocused, despite having the great Coin-Operated Boy on it (which my girls really enjoy too). So I had put it away a for a bit. Then the other day I was listening to my "New Stuff" radio station, with these groups on it:
    1. Beck
    2. Tiger Trap
    3. Tindersticks
    4. Mazzy Star
    5. Jeremy Enigk
    6. Air
    7. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
    8. Tegan and Sara
    9. The Dresden Dolls
    10. The National
    A fairly eclectic group which is probably hard for the software to pigeonhole. Here's what Rhapsody lists as "Similar Artists": Blues Explosion, Pavement, Automator, Saint Etienne, Ween, Sublime, Beastie Boys, Hayden, Sonic Youth, Rasputina, Stereolab, The Smiths, Violent Femmes, Spiritualized, Slowdive - interesting group. But this song came on that really hit a chord, and I cranked it up. Then I realized it was The Dresden Dolls and it was probably from the debut album (because I've listened to Yes, Virginia so often, I know the songs by heart). Sure enough, it was this song and man, it's great! And the CD even has a video of Girl Anachronism (another great song), means I have to rethink this CD entirely! Maybe I wasn't giving it a fair shake, as most of my listening was coming while in the car, and perhaps this isn't a "riding in the car" kind of CD. And speaking of missing something, I'm really bummed I missed Amanda Palmer at the Brattle the other night in her "Fuck The Back Row - A Night of Celluloid Vaudeville". You can read a story about it here. Looks like they are playing at the Hampton Beach (NH) Casino Ballroom July 4th but it's both sold out and I'm booked. Oh well...

And now, back to our regularly scheduled CD cabinet diving:

IntoTheGap.jpg
  • Thompson Twins - "Hold Me Now" (Into The Gap [1984]) : Neither twins (or even a duo) nor Thompsons, this British trio was among my favorite synth-pop groups of the early 80s, with this song being perhaps the most perfect synth-pop song of the era, hitting number 3 on the US pop charts. And there are plenty more synth-pop classics on this CD, including "Doctor Doctor", "You Take Me Up" and "Day After Day". An important slice of 80s new wave music history, forever conflated in my mind with Tears For Fears, whose first two releases sandwiched this one.
  • Single Gun Theory - "Words Written Backwards" ( Millions Like Stars in My Hands, Daggers in My Heart, Wage War [1991]) : Sort of a more pop sounding Dead Can Dance, this Australian group puts out some fine sounds. Somewhat low key, but with some interesting beats and nice lead singer. Hard to pick out just one song from this CD, as many of them are real good, but none of them are over-the-top great.
  • Indio - "Hard Sun" (Big Harvest [1989]) : Talk about your one hit wonders! Indio, led by Canadian Gordon Peterson, hit it big on the indie airwaves with this smashing song, and he disappeared after this CD. You know, I 'm not sure I've ever listened to this CD all the way through. Heck, I may have never listened to any other song besides this one! But it's enough, as it is a great song. His voice is reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn's, and even the music has that same World-music feel to it. Maybe it is something in the Canadian water?
    when I walk beside her
    i am the better man
    when I look to leave her
    I always stagger back again
    once I built an ivory tower
    so I could worship from above
    and when I climbed down to be set free
    she took me in again

    there's a big
    a big hard sun
    beaten on the big people
    in the big hard world

    This album is mentioned in a cool article called 10 Great Albums That You've Never Heard. Oddly enough, I have another one (the Voice of the Beehive's Let It Bee - a great album), and we have a Texas album, although it may be a different one.

  • Love and Rockets - "So Alive" (Love and Rockets [1989]) : the song that, somewhat ironically, marked the height of their popularity (peaking at number 3 on the charts) and the end of their creative impact. Ah well, it's a good way to go out, with this very T-Rex sounding song.
  • Wang Chung - "City Of Angels" (To Live And Die In LA [1985]) : Great soundtrack to a frenetic, if often confusing and disjointed, William Friedkin film. Every time I hear this song, I clearly see the scene from the movie, with the counterfeit money getting set up and the presses running. Many good 80s synth-rock songs to be found on this soundtrack.
  • Bob Dylan - "I Want You" (Blonde on Blonde [1966]) : A double album back in the day, now on a single CD, Blonde on Blonde covers nearly all the 60s Dylan country. This is one of the most accessible songs, and there's lots of stuff going on even in here. Speaking of CDs where it is hard to pick just one! How do you choose between such classics like "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again", "Just Like A Woman", "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat", "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" and "Obviously 5 Believers"?
  • Treat Her Right - "I Got A Gun" (Treat Her Right [1986]) : A Boston sensation in their day, Treat Her Right plays a bluesy rock that rocks the house. Saw them play a couple times live and the shows just blew you away. One of the members, Mark Sandman, went on to form Morphine, which was also a big local cult group, although I'm not familiar with their stuff. Sandman was to die of a heart attack on stage in Europe in 1999.
  • Sleepy LaBeef - "Little Boy Sad" (I'll Never Lay My Guitar Down [1996]) : This CD I picked up at one his shows at the Seaside in Nantasket, and I've got his scrawl on it to prove it:-) I still like the Strange Things Happening CD best, but this one has got some good tracks too, including this one and the wondrously sly lyrics of "Sweet Thang", about a wandering man and his woman looking for him:
    I gave my baby all my money on payday
    'cept what little she don't know that I got.
    There's a cute little waitress at the corner cafe
    she seems to like me quite a lot.
    We were settin in the back booth havin a talk
    she was believing every word that I said.
    When the door flew open and Loretta walked in
    yellin loud enough to wake the dead.

    Well, has anybody here seen my sweet thang
    I had a notion he'd be headed this way.
    When my sweet thang's out tom catting around
    He finds a sandbox like this to play.
    I want to tell all you barroom roses (2nd verse: barroom fluzzies)
    if my sweet thang does happen by.
    You'd better take my advise and if you blink more than twice
    You'd better have something in your eye.

Flag Day Random 10

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Still plugging away at the CD cabinet. I give up as far as making this a "Friday" random ten, though. I start on Friday with a stack of ten, but as I usually listen to the entire CD, it takes me several days to get through the stack. I wonder exactly how many CDs we have, really. Of course, I haven't been doing a good job of keeping track of which ones I've already ripped and which ones I haven't, which makes it all the more confusing. Maybe I should start putting stickers on the ones I've loaded.

I'm ripping these on a different computer, using Windows Media Player. I was using version 9, and having some problems with it. The most annoying problem was it wouldn't noticed when I inserted a new CD, even if I ejected the current CD from the player. So I "upgraded" to WMP 10. Still the same problem. Then I discovered the FAQ about it:

Q. Why does the CD audio playlist refresh only when I restart the Player, rather than when I insert a new CD?
A. Turning on the AutoPlay feature in Windows XP should resolve this issue. For information about AutoPlay, see Windows XP Help and Support.

Um, but I don't want to turn on Autoplay, for many and numerous reasons, plus I just don't like the computer doing something unless I tell it to do something. Every other music playing program I use doesn't seem to have a problem noticing a new CD. And just why the heck wouldn't they at least add a way to tell WMP to refresh its data? Would that be so darned difficult? Instead, I have to quit WMP and restart it. Argh! Anyway, on with the show...

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  • Little River Band - "Lady" (Sleeper Catcher [1978]) : We all have our guilty musical pleasures from times long ago and places far away, before we knew any better. I've talked about them before, and here's another one. I debated long and hard as to exactly which song to select from this CD. I could have gone with the opening number, "Shut Down Turn Off", which at least has some rockin' going on and wouldn't be such an easy target of derision. Or I could have gone with the No. 1 hit (first time for an Australian group), "Reminiscing". But no, I had to go with my first thought, the reason (I think - it's all dim in the mists of time now) I bought it to begin with, this romantic crooner of a song. Just keeping it honest between you and me! I played the album over and over when it first came out and this was probably one of the first transition CDs I bought. It was also the latent Australia-phile in me manifesting itself at a tender age, soon to be reinforced by films like Breaker Morant and Picnic at Hanging Rock. I loved reading the AllMusic Biography page of the band; as a high schooler living in the NH boondocks, I knew nothing about the group, but it turns out it was quite the "All Star" band in Australia, bringing together lots of popular names, including the wonderfully alliterative Beeb Birtle. By the way, a "Sleeper Catcher" is the guy who collects the bets left on the floor when playing "Two Up", the Australian national gambling game. Gabrielle and I actually got to play during our Australia trip, in the Adelaide casino. It is a participatory game, where one player is called into the ring and gets to flip the two coins and the rest of the bettors place bets on what's going to show up. You get a little paddle and need to flick it just so. Of course, Gabrielle was chosen to do it - pretty women always make for a better show! She did pretty well, after a few false starts. If you don't do it just so, they make you do it again.
  • Screaming Blue Messiahs - "I Wanna Be A Flintstone" (Bikini Red [1987]) : Great rockin' CD here, led by this wild 'n' crazy song. Some incredibly driving guitar work by an important member of the "Whatever Happened to..." club. Right down to the last song, the 3/4 time "Waltz", this CD is a great ridin' with the windows down song machine.
  • Juluka - "Spirit is the Journey" (Scatterlings [1982]) : An Afro-pop group from the early 80s. What a wonderful CD this one is - a forgotten classic from the back of the cabinet . They were more well known for the opening song of the CD, "Scatterlings of Africa", but this song is a wonderful paean to becoming a dad. This was the song I sang to myself after seeing the ultrasound of our oldest daughter for the first time, and it still brings a tear to me eye...
    I never knew I had one
    Till I saw yours shine
    Spilling from your laughter
    Sparkling in your eyes
    Sharing my confusion, sharing my surprise
    At finding part of me in you, alive
    ’cause nobody told me
    Spirit is the journey
    Body is the bus
    I am the driver
    From dust to dust
    Trying to be near you
    Searching for a way
    Listening to your life song
    Before it fades away
    We hold on, and when the story ends
    We hold on, we hold on.
    Spirit is the journey
    Body is the bus
    I am the driver from dust to dust
  • Queen - "The Loser In The End" (Queen II [1974]) : Talking about Queen last week got me a-hankering for this CD, so I picked it up last week. Still a pretty solid listen. I love all the Roger Taylor songs on the first four discs, and this one is no exception. There is no mention at all on the CD of "Side White" and "Side Black", although I don't think there is any real change in the songs from one side to the other; not sure I can track down my vinyl version of this to figure out exactly where the split was. It must have been either after this song or the next one, "Ogre Battle". I find it ironic somehow that the album (and CD) made big deal out of "... and nobody played synthesizer...again", while the two remakes at the tail end of this CD make heavy use of them, especially the abominable "Seven Seas of Rhye" disco remake - ugh, it's horrible.
  • Pink Floyd - "Welcome to the Machine" (Wish You Were Here [1975]) : The entire album was written as a tribute to founding member Syd Barret, and making it in the music business. There should be an SACD version of this one too, like the SACD I have of Dark Side of the Moon. This song especially would be way cool in surround sound. I love the lines from the next song, "Have A Cigar":
    Come in here, dear boy, have a cigar,you're gonna go far.
    You're gonna fly high, you're never gonna die, you're gonna make it if you try;they're gonna love you.
    Well I've always had a deep respect, and I mean that most sincerely.
    The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think.
    Oh by the way, which one's Pink?
  • Lui Collins - "Wildflower Song" (Baptism of Fire [1985]) : A signed copy of this CD from one of my favorite folk singers. Many wonderful songs here; she sings some songs from excellent songwriters, including herself. There's a nice song written by Stan Rogers about competing and not winning in the Olympics, as well as a very funny Greg Brown tune. She has such a great voice and gives a really enjoyable show. Obviously someone who likes her work!
  • Trial of the Bow - "Serpent" (Rite of Passage [1997]) : Sort of a Middle Eastern tinged Dead Can Dance, Trial of the Bow is an Australian (there's that country again!) group who make some great sounding instrumentals. This is a very lethargic, yet moody, piece. This whole CD is a good one to listen to while programming.
  • The American Analog Set - "on the run's where i'm from" (the fun of watching fireworks [1996]) : One of my all-time favorite 'ZBC college radio station discoveries. When this CD first came out, this was a favorite song of mine. It's great, laid back, sort-of electronica, with some quiet vocals and a soothing Farfisa playing in the background. Wonderful stuff from this Austin, TX based band. Reading the AllMusic.com AmAnSet entry makes me want to pick up their follow-up sophomore effort, From Our Living Room To Yours. It's also funny how tastes can be different. This song isn't even one of their favorites, but I've often put this CD on just to listen to this one song. Oh well, there's no accounting for taste. At almost 10 minutes, this is quite the epic; exactly the sort of song that would never get airplay on a regular radio station.
  • Sleepy LaBeef - "Stagger Lee" (Strange Things Happening [1994]) : They don't call Sleepy "The Human Jukebox" for nuthin'! He's been singing his style of wild 'n' woolly rockabilly for nearly 70 years and he's still going strong! What a live act he is, an imposing 6 feet seven inches tall, with an impossibly deep voice and just gives his all at every show. Springsteen himself could take lessons from this guy. He used to be based here in the Boston area, I think, but has since moved back South, although he still makes plenty of trips to the area. This song is a true standard, and he does it credit. I always ask for this at a show. I think in the interview I heard of his where I first heard of him, he said he know like 6,000 songs!
  • The The - "Uncertain Smile (12" Remix)" (45 RPM : The Singles of The The [2002]) : I thought I was in heaven when I discovered this two CD set. One of my all-time favorite songs, "Uncertain Smile", in not just one but two new mixes - yee haw! With one of them a nearly 10 minute remix! And yet ... I ended up terribly disappointed, not just in the two remixes of "Uncertain Smile", but in the whole 2 CD set in general. The remixes feel like striving for either a top 40 hit (the first one, from CD 1) or some kind of dance club trance-rock (the second one). My absolute favorite part of "Uncertain Smile" is the long piano bit at the end, and here, in both songs, the piano is either removed completely or pushed way in the background, all for some kind of flute or clarinet or something playing instead. Yech. I was crushed, as I was looking for 5 minutes of piano from it, and instead I got bupkis.

More Radiohead

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Cool - here's some pictures, the complete set list and a complete recording of the Monday night Radiohead show I was at. And yes, it was definitely "There There" that was the multi-drum song.

bradley's almanac

Radiohead

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So I went to a Radiohead concert last night (the above picture is not from last night's concert, just a random Radiohead concert photo). Like the Coldplay concert I went to in April, this was driven by David K and, again much like Coldplay, I wasn't too familiar with their work. I listened to a few cuts and said yeah, why not?

The concert was at the Bank of America Pavilion (nee Harborlights) and is a great place to see a concert with a major caveat: the weather had better be nice. While it isn't an outdoor venue, it is, much like Great Woods (oops, The Tweeter Center), exposed on the sides to the elements. Gabrielle and I went to see the Finn Brothers there last summer and it was a beautiful night for a concert. DBK, on the other hand, went earlier in the spring, during our Noah's Ark Simulation Days, and froze his ass off and had to leave early.

I decided to take the T in, as Rhiannon's last U8 soccer practice for the season ended early enough. I drove down to the Wellington station, as the line from there to the closer Oak Grove stop is often down during the late night hours for construction, requiring a bus ride. Turns out it wasn't good enough but more on that later. The trip in was smooth. I almost forgot to change at Downtown Crossing for the Red Line over to South Station, where you pick up the new Silver Line buses. And I happened to meet DBK there as well. So we arrived right at 7:45, the scheduled meeting time, met the friend of his with the tickets and headed on in.

There were lots of signs and searches for digital cameras, but I don't think they were very effective, as there were plenty of them in evidence. But given the proliferation of camera phones (which were regularly popping up during the concert), I don't know why they care about digital images or what they think they can do about them.

A small group opened for them. Willy Mason played guitar, brought on someone to play violin and then a drummer. Interesting short show, as they finished up by about 8:30 or so. But not as good as the guy that opened for the Finn Brothers; Martin Sexton completely blew me away.

Radiohead came on at 9, played until about 10:20, came out for a 20 minute first encore and then a 10 minute second encore (still wondering about those encores...) We had simply amazing seats; quite possibly, the best seats I've ever had for a real concert. About 15 rows back, but smack dab in the middle. I swear I made eye contact with the lead singer a couple of times. And we were definitely in the audio sweet spot - the bass buzzed your sternum from start to finish. Amazing sound, but of course real loud. I should have been warned though, when the guy with the tickets (a real Radiohead head who had gone the night before) pulled out a case with ear plugs.

So it was a good show. A lot of it reminded me of Coldplay. The lead singer looked and even sounded much like the Coldplay lead singer. The music had more of an edge, certainly, than the more radio friendly Coldplay sound. Not sure there's anything I could sit down and listen to with the girls like I could with Clocks or Speed of Sound from Coldplay. Not that that is a bad thing, of course. I thought it a little strange that the crowd seemed to react the same no matter what song was started up. Usually, the first few chords of a couple choice songs will send the crowd into a special frenzy. But in Radiohead's case, pretty much every song generated an enthusiastic roar. Probably just means the crowd really knew its Radiohead songs, even the new ones.

I guess I'm not a huge devotee of "twisted, skittering melodies and complicated, chorus-free rock songs" and falsetto singing voices, so I didn't rush out to buy a Radiohead CD, but it was still a solidly entertaining couple of hours. The light show wasn't in Coldplay's league, but it was still really good. The highlight of the show to me was when they wheeled out a couple of extra drum sets for the rhythm guitarist and the other guitarist/keyboard/toy player, so there were 3 drummers playing. Listening to some cuts today, I think it was There There from the latest album, Hail to the Thief.

The ride back was a drag, even if it was free. First was the crush for the Silver Line buses. We had to wait until the third bus, which wasn't too long a wait, maybe 15 minutes. Certainly better than cramming on like packed sardines in an earlier bus. Changes went pretty smoothly after that until I got to Haymarket, when I could barely make out something about "blurgle blurgle ... last stop blurgle blurgle ... Oak Grove". I got out, thinking it wasn't going any further, but then saw others still on board, so I got back on. Turns out, the next stop, North Station, was the last stop, and I needed to go back to Haymarket and pick up a bus from there. So instead of busing from Wellington to Oak Grove, the Orange Line was shut down from North Station to Oak Grove, but you had to catch the bus from the previous stop, Haymarket. Jeez, how complicated can you get! So I rode in the bus to Wellington and finally got home about 12:15. Not sure it was worth saving the $15 or so in parking to take the T.

Update: On The Download, the Boston Phoenix MP3 blog, as a set list and a link to the Phoenix review of the June 4 show (the night before we went): OTD Set List. I'm still pretty sure the multi-drum song was There There, although the review said the other guys were playing "tom-toms" in the previous evening's show. Upon further review, the two little drums they were playing are "tom-toms" - learn something new every day!

June 2 Friday Random 10

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NightAtTheOpera.jpg

Back at the Friday Random Ten. Well, at least I'm starting this on Friday. Who knows when I'll finish it!

  • Queen - "You're My Best Friend (1991 Remix)" (Night At The Opera ) : What a crazy Queen fan I was, up to and including this album. Things got shaky after this, as they started producing their own stuff (the great Roy Thomas Baker, of The Cars fame produced this one). They started to become a hit machine and lost most of their creativity. The followup to this was Day at the Races (another Marx Brothers film), and it was moderately entertaining, but I never did like another CD by them. Queen I and Queen II (esp) were rock opera classics. I always thought it was cool that II had "Side White" and "Side Black". This is another CD I don't think I can pick just one song from, as each of them is great in its own way, including, of course, "Bohemian Rhapsody", which was #7 in the 'ZLX Top 500 (#1 being, of course, Stairway to Heaven):
    Rank
    Artist
    Song
    Date
    1
    Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven
    1971
    2
    Rolling Stones Satisfaction
    1965
    3
    Lynyrd Skynyrd Free Bird
    1974
    4
    Pink Floyd Time
    1973
    5
    Who Won't Get Fooled Again
    1971
    6
    Beatles Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)
    1967
    7
    Queen Bohemian Rhapsody
    1976
    8
    Aerosmith Dream On
    1973
    9
    Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love
    1970
    10
    Derek & The Dominos Layla
    1972
  • Toni Childs - "Don't Walk Away" (Union [1988]) : The CD was quite the critical darling when it came out, and is probably why I picked it up. Can't say as I've listened to it much over the years. This song was the one minor hit from it. Childs has an amazingly deep voice, and the CD shows remarkable musical range.
  • China Crisis - "Red Letter Day" (Diary of a Hollow Horse [1989]) : My least favorite China Crisis CD, one where they turned into Steely Dan, probably due to Walter Becker producing (or over producing) it. I don't think I bought any more after this one. This song is a nice, jaunty number though.
  • The Go-Betweens - "The Devil's Eye" (That Striped Sunlight Sound 2006) : I picked this up the other day, so I haven't watched the accompanying DVD yet, but I shall. This is a recording of a mostly acoustic show they did as the later reincarnation of The Go-Betweens. This is a great version of the final song on 16 Lovers Lane.
  • The Cocteau Twins & Harold Budd - "Sea, Swallow Me" (The Moon and The Melodies [1986] ) : Bought during the height of my 4AD fixation. Nice music to program by, with some interesting rhythms, but not too challenging. I like the Cocteau Twins in small amounts if I'm paying any attention, and thus when they show up on various 4AD compilations, they come out best to my ears.
  • Randy Newman = "Rider in the Rain" (Little Criminals [1977]) : What a brouhaha the signature song from this album (Short People) created among the humor-impaired out there. I remember WBZ even played a "censored" version of it. But this is a wonderfully wicked CD anyway, and on this song, he brings along his Eagles friends. "Take it, boys."
  • Dead Can Dance - "Severance" (The Serpent's Egg [1988]) : Maybe my favorite DCD album, The Serpent's Egg has lots of great, typically atmospheric DCD songs, including this dirge.
  • Huey Lewis and the News - "Tell Me A Little Lie" (Picture This [1982]) : Another great album from cut one to the last one. Straight forward, uncomplicated rock 'n' roll. They're called a great "bar band" and ain't that the truth. My girlfriend and I drove from NH to Providence RI to listen to them play, as they opened up for .38 Special. We left after they were done, as that's all we wanted to hear. This is a fun little ditty about not wanting to hear the truth.
  • Led Zeppelin - "Fool In The Rain" (In Through The Out Door [1979]) : I was never a huge Zeppelin fan. But this song is probably one of my top five songs of all time. I just love the beats, and the break in the middle is amazing. A great song to drive down the highway with, and me and the girls have the air drums and guitars down pat for this song.
  • Lush - "Nothing Natural" (Spooky [1992]) : I'm a huge fan of Lush's final CD, Lovelife, but it turns out it was a departure from their previous two CDs which featured a more dreamy sound. So this CD, their first full length one, doesn't really appeal to me the same as Lovelife. Still, some good stuff in here.

Thursday Random 10

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TheDarkSideOfTheMoon.jpg

I figure I'd better get my "Friday" Random Ten from last week out there before Friday this week!

Back to the Friday Random Ten. I did finally get a 512mb sD card for my Lyra MP3 player, so I added some more songs. I wish I could convert all the MP3 files that I recorded via Rhapsody in one easy step, to smaller MP3 files, though. I played with a bunch of MP3 encoders, but none were easy enough for me to use. I think a simple 96k stereo recording would work just fine for an exercise "tape", which shrinks the files by half or more. And there is a setting in Rhapsody to convert to this when copying to my MP3 player, but I think it is only invoked if the original song is in a format the player doesn't support.

Anyway, back to my random walk down memory lane, where I pull out a handful of CDs from my CD case and cherry pick my favorite songs from them.

  • Pink Floyd - "The Great Gig in the Sky" (Dark Side of the Moon [1973]) : Man oh man, the stories I could tell... I had a friend in high school who was a huge Pink Floyd fan. Had all their albums, played them incessantly. I liked them well enough, but this was the killer album of my high school years. I can't believe it was released 5 years before my graduation, as it was still an important album. It spent 1,350 weeks on The Billboard 200, 741 on the top 40 list. I also have the SACD version, which is really an amazing listening experience. I think I'm going to have to rip the entire CD, as I don't think it can be listened to standalone. This song gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it, with the plaintive wail of session singrt Clare Torry and Gilmour's slide guitar driving the song home. According to the review on Rhapsody, it's ironic that Syd Barret, the original creative force behind Pink Floyd, was kicked out, in part, because of a desire to add a female singer and saxophones...
  • Patti Smith - "People Have The Power" (Dream of Life [1988]) : Rhapsody gives this a genre of "Old School Punk". Excellent, progressive rock with a political bent - my favorite combination.
  • Fine Young Cannibals - "Johnny Come Home" (Fine Young Cannibals [1986]) : Combine the English Beat with a soulful singer, and you get FYC. This is their debut album and is chock full of great songs, including two versions each of "Johnny Come Home" and "Suspicious Minds", both great songs to add to my workout MP3 player. Listening to this CD for the first time in ages, I'm reminded of just how many solid songs are on it. "Funny How Love Is" also wants to be cranked to 11.
  • Big Pig - "I Can't Breakaway" (Bonk [1990]) : Big splash made by a big percussion band from Australia. Remember Big Pig, with the leather aprons and pounding drums? Hit it big with this song, but then disappeared from the musical map. One of my girls' favorite songs.
  • Richard Barone - "River to River" (Primal Dream [1990]) : Leader of one of my favorite New Wave guitar pop groups of the 80s, The Bongos, Barone's first solo CD, Cool Blue Halo is an all-time top favorite pick of mine, but this followup effort is seriously lacking in originality. This is probably one of the first times I've listened to this CD since I got it and was immediately unimpressed. This song comes closest to re-imagining The Bongos, who's Numbers with Wings ELP will be one of the first I'll do when I get my vinyl-to-CD effort going, as it has some incredible guitar pop. I see that The Bongos' first two albums were combined into one CD, but the only place I can find this CD (Half.com) is asking US$80 for it!
  • Modern English - "Melt With You" (After The Snow [1983]) : A perfect slice of New Wave pop heaven. Hard to believe it never got higher than 76 on the Billboard charts, as it remains a song nearly everyone would recognize. This is probably the only song on the CD I've listened to, although the full CD gets some pretty good reviews.
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn - "Ain't Gone 'n' Give Up On Love" (Soul to Soul [1985]) : Gone too soon, Stevie Ray was a giant among blues guitar players. I'll never forget one time my teen-aged sister came back from a Police concert. I asked her who opened for them. She said she didn't know but it was "some guy who played lots of guitar." Well, it turned out to be Stevie Ray, and I would have wanted to see him rather than the Police! I have a tape of a B.B. King blues special he was on and it is one of my most treasured possessions.
  • Seal - "Crazy" (Just Say Anything [1991]) : Volume 5 of the Just Say Yes series of compilations, this one is actually pretty weak, as you can see by my pick of this Seal mega-hit as the sample from it. The only other interesting song is the low-key "That's Entertainment" cover by Morrissey, but I'll stick with the original, thank you very much. Even a Danielle Dax song isn't enough to rescue this disc from obscurity.
  • TheDreaming.jpgTalk Talk - "Such A Shame" (It's My Life [1984]) : The group's second album, much more "power pop" than their later, more moody albums, one of which I've already talked about. This has some hook-laden songs, including their big hit, "It's My Life". This song is a solid addition to their canon.
  • Kate Bush - "Sat in your lap" (The Dreaming [1982]) : the predecessor to Kate's smash hit album, Hounds of Love, The Dreaming is a solid, very Kate Bush-like album in itself. Her first time wearing the producer's hat, she really tries plenty of different styles and sounds. I love the pounding percussion in this song. There's plenty to like on this CD, including the mysterious CD cover, where she's passing some sort of ring lying on her tongue to her lover.

Grant McLennan, 1958-2006

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It's funny how life works.  I was working out at the Y yesterday and my shuffling MP3 player moved on to one of my all time favorite songs - "Clouds" by The Go-Betweens.  I've raved about the album, 16 Lovers Lane, before, and I realized I hadn't listened to it recently. So before heading out to hockey this morning, I dug through the disaster that is my desk and found the first CD from the dual CD package and listened to it on the drive this morning.  And still agree it is "simply breathtaking", as AllMusic.com says. Just some great all around stuff.

And it was in this very frame of mind that I was reading the paper this morning, as I ate my bagel.; Maybe once a week, or even less, I actually sit down to a breakfast with the paper, instead of just a quick glance at the sports pages.  And as I flipped through the paper, I glanced at the obits and there, at the top, was the sad announcement that Grant McLennan, one of the co-founders of The Go-Betweens, had died yesterday of an apparent heart attack at the all too young an age of 48.  He's the one who penned the "dark side of romance" songs for the Lovers Lane album, as he was fresh from his breakup with one of the other band members, while Robert Forster penned the more "upbeat on romance" songs, as he was just beginning with the other member of the group!

So maybe there was some kind of psychic vibe going on here. Ha!  But still, I think I'm going to have to flesh out my Go-Betweens collection, as 16 Lovers Lane remains my lone possession in their oeuvre.  Maybe I'll run out and get the recent DVD from them, That Striped Sunlight Sound.

allmusic ((( Grant McLennan bio )))

Grant McLennan, 48, singer and founder of Go-Betweens - The Boston Globe

New Music Friday

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AbbeyRoad.jpg

No Random Ten today, for my weekly music posting. Instead, I'm going to do something like I did a few months ago; namely, talk about some recent CD purchases.

First, though, I like to rant a bit about a story I heard on NPR's Morning Edition the other day called iPods Edge Out Home Stereo Systems. The claim is made in the story that iPods are replacing the purchase of "high-end audio equipment", which is as ridiculous a claim as I've heard in a news story in a while. I can barely describe just how wrong that is.

First off, to me, "high end" audio equipment is a system that costs tens of thousands of dollars. You know the system - US$5,000 for the pre-amp alone, because of course they would buy pre-amp and the processor separately. The kinds reviewed in the audio magazines, that you and me would never consider. And these sorts of people, who throw around this kind of money on a true "high end" system, just aren't going to let a US$250 iPod replace it, no matter how "convenient" it might be.

And even at a lower price point, say the US$1,000 for a tuner/amp like I would consider, it just wouldn't pass muster. And I'm not talking about being some kind of audio snob. I'd put myself in the middle tier as far as that goes. I have a real nice Marantz amp and some amazing Phase Technology Teatro speakers, and I'm sure an iPod just wouldn't drive these speakers for crap.

And, most importantly, a real home audio system isn't just for CDs any more. In fact, my setup probably plays CDs only about 25% of the time. An audio system is the very heart of a home theater system. Without a nice amp and speakers, you lose half of the impact of a great DVD. And an iPod isn't going to replace that either. So basically, the story is a crock and I'm disappointed that NPR would stoop so low.

Anyway, back to the music. I took care of the neighbor's dog while they were out in the Midwest checking out colleges for their boys. Elkie wasn't the slightest bit of trouble. At 12 years old, she doesn't move very fast and is a very obedient dog. She gets along great with Spenser and it was nothing to go next door a couple of times a day and let her out to play. But they went above and beyond and gave me a couple of gift cards when they got back. One was for Fuddrucker's, the family restaurant. We went up there the other day and enjoyed a burger and fries.

And they also gave me a Best Buy gift card. So I went up to my local Best Buy and tried to spend it. I did get a SD memory card for my new MP3 player, as I have given up on ever getting the one from CompUSA. But I wasn't sure what else to buy. I didn't want a computer game, as Comcast Games on Demand provides me all the games I want or need. I wasn't looking for a DVD. So I prowled around the CD racks for a bit. And I got pretty depressed, as there just wasn't anything that interesting. Lots of mass market pop junk.

But then I figured this would be a good time to pick up one of the Beatles CDs I was talking about earlier. So I picked up Abbey Road, the last (recorded) Beatles album. Maybe I'll start working my way backward now.

And it is amazing just how many of these songs I've heard. I'm not sure I've ever heard the whole album, but just from the radio and the like, I'm pretty sure I've heard nearly all of these songs before. AllMusic.com has full reviews on every song! My favorites include Come Together, Maxwell's Silver Hammer and Carry That Weight, while the girls really enjoy Octopus's Garden. They're pretty familiar with the Beatles, as they got a Beatles for Kids CD a few years ago, where some big names in children's music each sing a Beatles song. A great CD and worthy of all its praise.

But that was it. I just couldn't bring myself to buy another CD there. But thank FSM for Newbury Comics, a local music chain with its heart in the music and not some mass market pablum. I've only bought a small handful of CDs of the past few months, but pretty much all of them have been from Newbury Comics. And I happened to pass by one of them, so I popped in. And walked out with two new CDs.

One of them was the Winterpills CD. I talked about the great song, Laughing, a few weeks ago, and it is still in heavy play here. And I'm glad to report the rest of the CD is just as solid as this song led me to believe. I would describe the music a either rock with a folkie touch, or folk with a rock touch.

This eponymous CD begins with a really good song, A Benediction. I really dig the bass line, played, I think, with a regular guitar and not necessarily a bass guitar. Very attractive chorus. And that great start is followed up with the aforementioned Laughing:

I started losing you
About the time you told me everyone knew
I felt under the strain
And through the rear-view mirror
watched you circle round the drain

Go back to all the places I know
I knock hard but no one's ever at home
Why does every brilliant color I'm shown
Want to bleed to gray
And I can't hear you laughing... any more
And I can't hear you laughing...

Other highlights to the CD include Cranky (about a disappointed woman), Found Weekend (I think it is sort of a still life in audio), and the final song, Looking Down (about being spurned by a lover). I'm bumming that I didn't make it out to see them last night at a local club. They were headlining a show at the Lizard Lounge, which meant they wouldn't be on stage until after 11:30. And as I have hockey at 6:30 on Friday morning, I just couldn't do it. If it had been tonight, I would have been there. But I'll keep a look out for their next show. Really good stuff.

YesVirginia.jpg

And lastly, a CD that could very well be one of the best CDs I've ever listened to. It has been in heavy rotation ever since I picked it up earlier in the week. If you could wear out a CD, this one would be a mere nub of its original self. I am simply wild about Yes, Virginia by the Dresden Dolls. I carry it from my computer to my car and back, listening to pretty much every track. Wow!

This local duo of Amanda Palmer (singer, songwriter and piano player) and Brian Viglione (drummer) make some incredible sounds, filling the sound stage with pounding grand piano and ringing percussion. Each song has a distinct sound and the lyrics are dark and playful at the same time. I've heard it actually has made quite a splash on the national charts even. It is like 51 on the American charts, and number one on specialized charts like "Indie Rock" and the like. And I can definitely see why.

It's amazing how full a sound these two can make, and the first song, Sex Change, really brings this out. Amanda pounds on the keyboard and growls out the lyrics, while Brian really makes some booming percussion.

It is followed by Backstabber, yet another song showing just why you shouldn't cross a good songwriter! In the same vein as songs like Every Breath You Take(Sting stalking his ex-wife) and You're So Vain (Carly Simon ripping into Warren Beatty after being dumped), Amanda tells the unnamed target:

backstabber! hope grabber!
greedy little fit haver!
god, I feel for you, fool...
shit lover! off brusher!
jaded bitter joy crusher!
failure has made you so cruel...

rotten to the core
rotten to the core

Yeah, I think she's pissed. And then she gets seriously angry! Good stuff.

After Modern Moonlight (ragging on the commercial world), comes a real highlight, My Alcoholic Friends. A real bouncy number, hearkening back to the great Coin-Operated Boy from their first album. She's as hard on herself as she is on her partying friends, but the incredibly infectious sound belies any real disgust with drinking, as it sounds like the party is just too much fun.

After Delilah and Dirty Business (where it sounds like she's pissed about prying publicity hounds and hangers-on), comes (heh heh) the sly and dark First Orgasm which is about the first orgasm of the day. But it is a self-administered one, as she's "taking matters into her own hands" because she's not going to "look for love again". So this is more of a lonely call in the dark to see if "won't you hold me?". A song with many different layers and ways to read into it, and one that the lyrics could be sung in many different ways, and nuances abound. Rises way above the risque subject, for sure.

A few more songs about love, hate, social issues and, yes, more masturbating, lead up to the final song, Sing. I'd be shocked if this song doesn't penetrate the Top 40, but it is still a great song. I've hit replay on this song more times than I can count. Almost anthemic, it is amazing how much sound these two can generate. A very lyrical song with some nice singing by Amanda:

Sing for the bartender sing for the janitor sing
Sing for the cameras sing for the animals sing
Sing for the children shooting the children sing
Sing for the teachers who told you that you couldn't sing
Just sing

There is thing keeping everyone's lungs and lips locked
It is called fear and it's seeing a great renaissance
After the show you can not sing wherever you want
But for now lets all pretend that we're gonna get bombed
So sing

Wow, I just love this CD. The only drawback, and it is a minor one at that, is that the lyrics can sink to almost puerile. It could just be the effect she is aiming for, and/or just the way the "kids" talk these days, but the off-color language and descriptions can get a little tiring. But it is only a niggle and, while it probably won't be a CD I can trot out for the girls, it is still a special sounding CD. Now I have to get their first one!

LivingInOblivionV5.jpg

I was listening to my Rhapsody radio station one day and heard a song I really liked. I think it was probably the Alternative History station, which plays new wave from the 80s, which I just can't resist. I'm not sure now even what song it was, but one thing lead to another and I discovered the existence of a series of CDs called Living in Oblivion, The 80's Greatest Hits volumes 1 through 5. They concentrate on alternative bands and songs and I found them quite fascinating. Then I saw that volume five even had one of my all time favorite songs, I Wanna Be A Cowboy by the immortal Boys Don't Cry, of course. And then I was hooked and had to get them.

Problem is, they are out of print, so I went searching. I found several of them on eBay, but they were going for too much money - US$20 or more each. A quick check on Half.com struck gold - someone was selling three of them (including the desired volume five) for only US$4 each! So I got all three shipped to me for less than US$20! Excellent!

So I've been listening to them over the past week. The selection is pretty hit or miss. Many of the songs are forgettable electronica like Perfect Way by Scritti Politti and others I barely remember. But on each of them there are three or four great songs, so thanks to the wonders of ripping, I should be able to create my own Living In Oblivion volume six. Here's what I'll put on it:

    Volume 3

  • Bananarama - "Cruel Summer" : According to Rhapsody, the "most successful British female act of all time". I wonder if that includes the Spice Girls?
  • The Dream Academy - "Life In A Northern Town" : A fun little epic song, hearkening back to 60s psychedelia. I can picture the video even today.
  • Timbuk 3 - "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" : What a fun tune! Listen to this once and the song rattles around your brain all day. In fact, I'll bet just reading this is going to infect your brain right now!
  • Pole Cats - "Make A Circuit With Me" : Another incredibly infectious ditty, even faster and bouncier than Timbuk 3's song. A perfect song for cranking up loud and driving through a summer's night.
  • Stray Cats - "Rock This Town" : The three man band that popularized the swing craze. Brian Setzer went out to form his own swing orchestra. I love swing music, and so do the girls.
  • Talk Talk - "It's My Life" : I recently wrote about Talk Talk, and here they are again, this time with their one big "hit". I have this on the original CD too, somewhere.

    Volume 4

  • Wang Chung - "Dance Hall Days" : The archetypal "alternative dance hit". A pretty solid CD, really, and their scoring of the Friedkin To Live And Die In LA is brilliant.
  • Dexy's Midnight Runners - "Come On Eileen" : If you're gonna have an 80s hits CD, you have to have this song on it, right?
  • Tones On Tail - "Go" : I liked the follow up band Love And Rockets better, but this is a pretty good song.
  • Wall of Voodoo - "Mexican Radio" : Another all time favorite. I have the EP (vinyl!) with a nice long version of this song on it.

There's also an off beat song by The Motels (who I really like) and some other true 80s hits that I'm not crazy about ("True" by Spandau Ballet and anything by The Fixx).

    Volume 5

  • Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - "Enola Gay" : OMD was one of my favorite groups through the 80s and this is one of their most popular songs. I'm always glad to add another OMD song to my collection.
  • China Crisis - "King In A Catholic Style (Wake Up)" : A real pleasant surprise! I have several of their albums and never expected to see a song by them on an 80s collection, but this is a very typical jumpy song. We went and saw Simple Minds, oh so many years ago, and China Crisis opened for them. I came away from the concert much more impressed by China Crisis, as my collection can attest - three China Crisis CDs to zero Simple Minds CDs.
  • The Fun Boy Three - "Our Lips Are Sealed" : A very different version of the Go-Gos hit, as it was co-written by one of the FB3 members and Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos. A much slower, darker version of the song. What a blast from the past this one was!
  • Rubber Rodeo - "Souvenir" : A local group gone national, Rubber Rodeo was a quiet fav of mine during the 80s. I still have both their albums on vinyl. I wonder if either ever made it to CD? I need to take the time and turn some of my vinyl into CDs, especially ones like Rubber Rodeo's "Scenic Views" and, even more importantly, Private Lightning's only album, which I know isn't on CD.
  • Divinyls - "Pleasure And Pain" : Another spectacular Aussie band, the Divinyls rock big time on this hit song.
  • The Icicle Works - "Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)" : You'll recognize this song from the "whisper to a scream" part - not sure I even knew this was actually called "Birds Fly"!
  • Boy's Don't Cry - "I Wanna Be A Cowboy" : A song I remember fondly from my alternative radio days during the 80s, but that I never owned. This was the song that pushed these CDs into must have territory, I have to admit. A true one hit wonder, but man, what a fun song.

So number five is the best one, but they are all fun slices of 80s alternative hits. They also come with some great liner notes, written with a cynical voice, a paragraph or so for each song. Like I said, many of them are forgettable stuff, but there's just enough great songs to make me want to go grab volumes one and two.

Winterpills

These are some songs that I've heard from various sources and wish I actually owned them. Most of them I've heard via the Comcast Rhapsody player, so I can play selected songs 25 times a month. I hear them at first listening to the various "radio" stations, like Downtempo, Ambient and Indie Rock. Too cheap to spring for the "Premier" version, where I could play them as much as I wanted. Hopefully, I'll get around to buying the CD they are on, if at all possible!

Still getting used to my new MP3 player. I have to find some tool that will shrink my 256kb MP3s down to something like a 128 or even smaller, as I think the quality is lost via my $10 headphones anyway, and I could get a few more songs on it. I'm still awaiting my 512mb SD card for it. I picked one up from CompUSA for US$9.99, but it wasn't in stock, so I got a raincheck. Here it is, about two weeks later, and still no word. Sigh...

  • Winterpills - "Laughing" (Winterpills [2005]) : A song I've been listening to over and over, via the Utne Media Player, and it's really great. UMP is a multimedia presentation from Utne magazine, which is an "alternative" magazine that I like quite a bit, and they review lots of offbeat bands and this offers a sampler of the songs from the reviews. Winterpills plays a sort of jangly folk rock (think Innocence Mission or Nick Drake) and hail from Northampton MA, so now here's another quasi-local group I'll have to keep an eye out for. This song has some great guitar rhythms.
  • Hurdy Gurdy - "Tok Jons" (Prototyp [2005]) : Another UMP song, this one is pretty wild. It is a Swedish duo who are playing nothing but hurdy gurdy machines! You know, those cranked fiddles, often pictured with dancing monkeys. Too weird, but this song is really neat. Sounds vaguely like an electronica score or something, with a touch of bagpipes.
  • The National - "Karen" (Alligator [2006]) : Nice, relentless drums and base guitar song, with some startingly explicit lyrics:
    Karen, I'm not taking sides
    I don't think I'll ever do that again
    I'll end up winning and I won't know why
    I'm really trying to shine here, I'm really trying
    You're changing clothes and closing windows on me all the time

    Well, whatever you do
    Listen, you better wait for me
    No, I wouldn't go out alone into America
    Whatever you do
    Listen, you better wait for me
    No, I wouldn't go out alone
  • Uncle Kracker - "Drift Away" (No Stranger To Shame [2002]) : Uncle Kracker does a bang up job with one of my all time favorite pop songs. And yes, Dobie Gray does pitch in and help out.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - "Shuffle Your Feet" (Howl [2005]) : stompin' sing along song here. One music site compared them to Winterpills, so I guess I'm not surprised I like this song.
  • Beck - "Nobody's Fault But My Own" (Mutations [1998]) : Never really was much of a indie rock idol Beck fan, but this song is pretty good. Nice sitar work, and I love the chorus.
  • Tegan and Sara - "Speak Slow" (So Jealous [2004]) : A very cute punk folk(!) Canadian sister duo, with high, almost squeaky voices. This song really rocks.
  • Air - Talkie WalkieTindersticks - "My Sister" (Tindersticks (2nd) [1995]) : Interesting, quiet, spoken word "song", sort of like Leonard Cohen, with a little bit more music. An 8+ minute story.
  • Mazzy Star - "I've Been Let Down" (Among My Swan [1996]) : Sort of country/folk song, very nice guitar strumming and the female lead singer has a wonderful voice.
  • Air - "Alone in Kyoto" (Talkie Walkie [2004]) : I really enjoy Air, a French duo. Not danceable electronica, exactly, but ethereal synths combined with female vocals made for a pretty good debut CD, Moon Safari, which I have. This song is from their latest album and continues the electronica/trance/ambient pop music. It was originally a piece used in the movie Lost In Translation.

Friday Random 10

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More Friday Random Ten

I got my Spider CD in the mail last week, and I'm still bumming that I missed her at The Lily Pad. So let's start with a Spider song:

  • Spider - "Midnight on the Nile" (This Way To Bitter Lake [2005]) : Another great folk song from this CD. She's got a nice, soft voice and the lyrics are clever and touching, with just enough other instrumentation besides guitar to really put it over the top.
  • The Beatles - "When I'm Sixty Four" (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [1967]) : As one of the most beloved albums in rock history, obviously there's plenty to like here. The boys have finally branched out from singing Silly Little Love Songs of various kinds and start singing about life. This bouncy tune is a favorite, although I find it hard to shake the image of the bouncing baby from the Garp movie.
  • Kate Bush - "Cloudbusting" (Hounds of Love [1985]) : Her US breakthrough album, with a few hits and an amazing video of this song starring Donald Southerland. I was already a big fan by the time this CD came out, thanks to a couple of krazy Kate fans where I worked at the time.
  • The Jam - "That's Entertainment" (Compact Snap [1983]) : Kings of the UK 3 minute pop/punk song (think Replacements with a British accent), The Jam were wildly popular over there, but barely made a dent here. This is one of the CDs where I've almost never listened to the whole thing, concentrating on my two favorite Jam songs, this one and "A Town Called Malice". Compact Snap! is an early compilation of "hit" songs, so I suppose I should take a listen to the rest of this CD some day.
  • Christopher Hogwood; Academy of Ancient Music - "Vivaldi's Four Seasons" (Antonio Vivaldi 12 concerts, Op. 8 [1983]) : I've always felt like a bit of a classical music dilettante when I say that Four Seasons is my favorite piece of classical music. I get the feeling it is too "popular" to be "serious", but this is really good. The Academy of Ancient Music plays on "contemporary" instruments and this CD sounds great. Hogwood was musical director for the local Handel and Haydn society, although I don't believe he is that active any more. And I've yet to go see a performance. Some day soon, thing to do #235,583,550... Hard not to conduct while this is playing!
  • Love and Rockets - "Haunted When The Minutes Drag" (Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven [1985]) : My first introduction to the Bauhaus/Tones On Tail artists, I can still remember how exciting this CD was when it came out. Really different sound for me and I loved every track. This is a particularly epic song, clocking in at over 8 minutes, but a really great one even still. I also did try some of the earlier groups, but this CD pretty much was the peak, as even later efforts by L&R paled in comparison for me.
  • Karacter - Guesthouse (MP3 from On The Download). As they mention in their article on the song, it hearkens back to the days of 80s electronica (think Flock of Seagulls, Gary Neuman, etc), but in a good way! It's a big (10mb), long song but pretty good nonetheless.
  • The La's - "There She Goes" (Children of Nuggets, Vol. 2 2005) : What a great song! And what a musical ear Adrienne has! We were in the car and this song was playing, then the next song started. After a minute or so, she asked if I could put "back on the song before this one" - smart kid! My favorite from this volume of the four volume set, by far. Only ripped 3 other songs, and none of them approach this jangly, bouncy goodness.

Didn't quite have time for a full ten songs. Man, have I been busy! I have to go downstairs now and clean up a little. Our annual rotisserie baseball draft is here tomorrow, so I have to get setup.

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