Friday, December 26, 2008

20 Best Songs of the Year

In response to Midnight Lumberjack, who has sashayed out on his own, my top 20 songs of the year. The list is not 25 because I'll be honest, 25 is too long. You want a focused list, I won't even describe why I like them because it's obvious if you've read any of my previous posts.

I liked old artists, I liked some new artists, some of these songs required me to go outside my comfort zone, other's just snuggled up right next to my existing tastes. It all worked, 2008 wasn't great for music but it had some bright spots.

Always a Friend - Alejandro Escovedo

Faith - Joseph Arthur & The Lonely Astronauts

Strange Overtones - David Byrne & Brian Eno

In My Arms - Teddy Thompson

Gamma Ray - Beck (This is the best song on the album)

Off of Wonderland - Jackson Browne

Quiet Houses - Fleet Foxes

I Will Possess Your Heart - Death Cab (I dabbled with the idea of going deeper on this album for the best song of the year, but this is the song I will remember).

Aluminum Park - MMJ

Fix It - Ryan Adams & the Cardinals

Golden Age - TV on the Radio

Caroline - Old Crow Medicine Show

Andelmans' Yard - Mike Gordon (still making great music, we should all be grateful for a Phish reunion at Hampton)

Make You Crazy - Brett Dennen (feat. Femi Kuti)

It's Not Impossible - Ben Sollee (this guy is sweet).

Manhattan - Kings of Leon (I really like the riff on this one).

Human (or Joy Ride) - The Killers (Midnight, aren't these guys something of a favorite of yours?)

Everybody Pays as They Go - Jakob Dylan (he's back).

Everyday - Bodeans (yes, they're back, making this quote funny again: "Then I met some friends for a beer.. uh.. we went to a BoDeans concert.. and, son of a vondruke, if I didn't leave him at the concert hall! Thank God they had him, the next day at Lost and Found. [ sigh of relief from Tom ] Then, I just flat out lost him!" Will Ferrell

Burn You Up, Burn You Down - Big Blue Ball (this song is probably way older than 2008, but it was released in 2008 so there you go. Peter Gabriel rocks).

Your Christmas bonus (this one makes 21), for the Lumberjack and pop music: Womanizer - Britney Spears (because he too is a womanizer).

Monday, March 17, 2008

German Music, I now have an opinion on it

Do Germans like good music?

No, not from what I've heard, unless you really, really love Kraftwert. Metronome Jones might want to chime in at this point.

While spending a week in Austria/Germany I've learned two things:
1. Germans really love bad American songs like techno versions of "Hey Baby, will you be my girl?" which supports point 2.
2. They can't get enough techno (I think it fits their mechanistic lifestyles)

Just because the music isn't good doesn't mean they don't like to party. They party harder because their music is so awful, and it leads to poor dancing. And in Austria when you party with your friends it involves skiing into the outdoor bar and then having to ski down a mountain plastered. (see picture below, excuse the blurriness)

Songs for your ears (I won't describe any because I can't understand what they're saying):

Olaf Henning - Cowboy und Indianer.
Grauzone - Eisbar
Roland Kaiser - Joana (search for a techno version)
Steinwolke - Katharine Katharine (one of the best 80's songs I've ever heard)

That might be enough. That was really German wasn't it.

In the alternative, there is some good Rap that comes out of Germany. McGroto informs me one possible reason is Deutsche is overwhelming with mad rhymes.

2 artists of note:

Die Fantasischen Vier
Fettes Brot

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fear of Pop: Counterpoint

The Midnight Lumberjack notes a specific decline in the quality, artistry and authenticity, among other subjective criteria, in pop music precipitated by Disco and continuing to the present day. I don't buy it. In romanticizing the 50s and 60s pop it is easy to gloss over hundreds of execrable Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Paul Anka and Pat Boone albums, and later in the 60s the vast wasteland of knock-off psychedelia and Carpenters crap that topped charts for both of these decades. There has always been bad music and bad music has always been popular. In fact pop music of the 70s, 80s and 90s was arguably more inventive, honest and interesting than that which preceded it. I am not about to write the essay "In Praise of Disco", but the staples of that era such as "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps (a 10-minute long, technically difficult funk jam) or Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" were equally, if not more challenging songs than their bubblegum brill building ancestors. The reaction against disco reflected more of a social backlash than a qualitative one as the unrelenting optimism and ubiquity of the music was incongruous with the equally oppressive and cynical weltenschauung of the time (just ask blue-collar south-side White Sox fans on Disco Demolition Night (but don't use the word weltenschauung or you may get punched in the face)). The 80s saw pop acts such as Duran Duran and Tears for Fears explore the inorganic aural sounsdcape that the synthesizer had unlocked. It was both novel and reflective of the increasing tension between culture and technology (songs like "I think I'm turning Japanese" came out while Japanese firms had already bought most of Los Angeles skyline). I will admit that all of the above groups and songs suck (a lot), however comparing their pop cred to the Beatles is a little dishonest, as the beatles became important (in a historical sense) after they had abandoned pop music and veered more avant-garde. Finally pop music is too difficult to taxonomize to begin with that it is nearly impossible to distinguish where pop music ends and alternative music or hip hop or anything else begins making the whole argument hopelessly imprecise. (Full Disclosure: My main motivation for writing this is that the Midnight Lumberjack deleted my last post, probably because it was incomprehensible and it threatened to tarnish the legacy vytriads has built for itself over thes past few whirlwind months)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

VYT Concert Review: CAKE at Terminal 5 on 12/13/07

CAKE took their Unlimited Sunshine tour to NYC this past week for two nights. Me and a few Triads enjoyed the Thursday night show at the new yet awesome venue Terminal 5. Despite frontman John McCrea's obvious and admitted sickness, and declaration to only play songs which feature him singing in his lower register, it was a kickass show. A mix of rock, pop, trumpets, manifestos, vibraslaps, "oh yeah"s, "all right"s, and jewish Waldos. Here's the setlist.

Opera Singer
Arco Arena
Comfort Eagle
How Do You Afford Your Rock n' Roll Lifestyle?
Shadow Stabbing
Ruby Sees All
Frank Sinatra
Friend is a Four Letter Word
War Pigs
Stickshifts and Safetybelts
Never There

Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town
Short Skirt/Long Jacket
The Distance

And here is Fuck Maguire's video of Stickshifts and Safetybelts taken with his swag-tastic Google/YouTube video camera.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fear of Pop

Pop is a term that has seen many a different definitions and connotations attached to it over the last 50+ years of recorded music. In it's essence, a "pop song" is the most basic and familiar of all. Upbeat, melodic, under four minutes, verse-chorus structure, emotional, and most of all, fun. Buddy Holly and Fats Domino were 50's pop. In the 60's the Beatles and their ilk took over the title. By the mid 70's, those guys were out, and disco had become pop. But beginning with disco, pop became synonymous with cheap, easy, unauthentic and unartistic music. Pop punk, pop metal, teenybopper, alt-pop, brit pop and countless others dominated the charts in the 80s, 90's. So by the time we hit 2007, marking a band or song as pop is like calling a sexually confident young woman a slut. Where did we go wrong? Here are a few recent songs by great artists who should wear the pop moniker proudly.

"Big Drag" by Limbeck
"Love Song" by Sara Bareilles
"People Have a Way" by Matt Pond PA
"Same Jeans" by The View
"See You At the Lights" by 1990s
"Two for My Seconds" by Operator Please
"Dead End" by The Format
"Ole Black 'n' Blue Eyes" by The Fratellis
"The Underdog" by Spoon

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Funk Lives

So I randomly stumbled across a new band the other day (new to me at least). Maktub, a group out of Seattle. They conjure up memories of Prince and Al Green. They hold a place above my other 90s guilty pleasure as Eagle Eye Cherry and strikingly resemble some Jamiroquai minus electricity. I enjoy this entirely inappropriate Michael Deeds of the Idaho Statesmen album review (especially because he's from IDAHO:
"Guitarist Thaddeus Turner blazes through a porn-filthy solo that burns like blisters. Just as the momentum climaxes, Watts spontaneously combusts just as someone shoves him over a cliff. It's brilliant stuff.

Reggie Watts, the lead singer, has an unforgettable afro and some sweet pipes. I'd recommend starting with "Say What You Mean". If you don't like it you can certainly put some of the songs on a mix-tape for your favorite lady friend. "Hunt You Down" is pretty much everything i look for in a pop song. The Lumberjack would appreciate that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bob Dylan is Dead

Well not dead, but "mostly" dead. I had the "pleasure" of attending his October 15th show at Taft Theater in Cincinnati. Amos Lee opened, and I missed it so no comment on that. Then Bob emerged to a ridiculous emcee introduction, which had me confused. Something about Bob Dylan being the best thing to survive the 60s.

His band was dressed in uniform, gray suits and weird hats. Fairly standard, guess I could say I expected this. The most no frills stage I've ever seen, we're talking nothing at all. As for the pieces in the 5 piece backing band: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, slide guitar, bass guitar (often standup), and a solid drummer. Not enough here to cover up the fact that Bob played often silent keyboards, and feigned playing guitar through 2 songs. What they were missing was a brass section to really keep the pace for Dylan's penchant for the blues.

This show had some highlights. "Highway 61" really got the crowd moving again because I think we forgot how. But barely recognizable "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" and "Blowing In the Wind" left so much to be desired. Do I expect him to be able to sing anymore, hell no. Do I expect him to change the music so much that it turns into a crappy blues review, hell no, and does that make me mad? Yes it does.

Most disappointing was his renditions the great songs from "Modern Times". I thought those would have been great live, but they were about as slow and as soft as the rest of the material that was never made to be played in that fashion. The only thing that saved the show was an occasion guitar solo, but I've seen enough solos to know this improv was about as rehearsed as Milli Vanilli.

He left the stage weirdly waving his hands at his sides in some strange drunk conductor fashion as to egg on the crowd. Sorry to disappoint you, but Bob Dylan is dead or confused. I have some advice for Bob: stop touring, keep making records and we'll still love you.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hitmaker: "Under The Blacklight" by Rilo Kiley

This album is great all the way through. It’s easy to listen to, with a lot of levels, while maintaining a "party-ability" from top to bottom. It's fun, mostly because it's genre-spanning. There aren't two songs alike, and it showcases a songwriting ability in both Jenny Lewis and Blake Senner that has obviously flourished during the band’s hiatus and each of their solo albums. So which female "musician," who is in need of a hit badly, could benefit from a song like this being written for them? Let’s go down the tracklist.

Silver Lining - Lisa Loeb
This has "geek-chic" written all over it. And with her breakup from the Zappa kid, it all makes sense. Yeah, I missed you.

Close Call - Edie Brickell
Sure she's married to Paul Simon, that doesn't mean she's not attempting a comeback. This song has “former 90's hippie” written all over it.

The Moneymaker - No Doubt
I'm tired of the Geishas and the dance tracks and that dude from Bush. Gwen needs to team back up with her ex-boyfriend bassist and the drunk guy and the naked drummer. This song could have been their return to rock.

Breakin' Up - Kelly Clarkson
It's a disco-y party romper, and the only true way for her to follow up the eternal "Since U Been Gone." Besides rehab.

Under the Blacklight - Sheryl Crow
Light, retro guitar work with a classic rock sensibility to it? That’s Crow territory.

Dreamworld - Fleetwood Mac
Yes, I know, EVERY review of this album cites this song as a throw-Mac (get it?), but it's completely warranted: there is no other comparison that fits. It’s a FM song.

Dejalo - Shakira
Faux rock, a dancing beat, and a chorus that's in Spanish! Muy bueno!

15 - Jessica Simpson
It's got big horns and a down-home feel, but contains very adult and taboo subject matter. Just the thing to bring this ditz out of her self-induced sucking phase, and gain her some (fake) maturity.

Smoke Detector - Michelle Branch
She's doing the country thing now with her friend as The Wreckers, but this could bring her back to the pop world. Maybe she can get that other late 90's chick-rocker who plays the piano to help out. Vanessa Carlton, yeah that's it.

Angels Hung Around - Carrie Underwood
Country sound, check. Uptempo, check. Angels, check. Girl power attitude, check. Sugar sweet with an edge. Get Carrie's agent on the line.

Give a Little Love - Mariah Carey/Britney Spears
I'm split here only because it sounds like a track right off of the Glitter Girl's mid-90's albums. But Britney needs it way more. Which is sad.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Animal Collective

This is a band that is so wierd that you're not sure whether you are able to admit to yourself that you like them. They're either extremely pretentious or actually, genuinely insane. I think it's pretty obvious that it's the latter, which is why I think I like them but I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure Lord Newton would like them. To get a feel for what they sound like download "Who could win a rabbit" "Leaf House" "Grass" and "mouth wooed her" but don't tell anyone I told you to. They sound like the troubadour in Robin Hood only underwater and on an LD50 amount of mushrooms, the introduction of which into a listening experience would probably be pretty life-changing. And if you don't like them at least try and laugh at how ridiculous they are.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Midnight Lumberjack Recommends: Summer Rock

1) “Make It Wit Chu” – Queens of the Stone Age
Off their new album Era Vulgaris, this is actually a re-tooling of a track from lead singer and songwriter Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions. It sounds like Chris Cornell fronting a Some Girls-era Rolling Stones covering a song from The White Album. Definitely a great summer cut for driving or walking when the humidity is thick.

2) “Goodnight Rose” – Ryan Adams
The crowned prince of prolific songwriting is supposedly sober, and his new album Easy Tiger is the proof. His songs are tighter and more melodic than anything he’s done since his first two albums Heartbreaker and Gold. This song, the opening track, is all Neil Young, but it reminds us of how talented Ryan can be. As the catchiest songwriter in all of rock n’ roll, he could be writing the next big hit for Britney or Kelly or Avril, but its comforting to know that he chooses to reject the corporate state of rock and move to his own beat.

3) “You Don’t Know What Love Is” – The White Stripes
This is the reason that Jack and Meg are the best band in music right now. A straightforward rocker, this song punches you in the gut sonically and makes you smile with its melodic hook. The guitar work is what you would expect, and its subtly overlaid with a great organ. Dare I say it is catchier than “My Doorbell,” and deserving of all the attention this band gets. I can’t wait to see it played live.

4) “Tears Dry On Their Own” – Amy Winehouse
My new favorite track on this deliciously retro and likeable album Back To Black, Amy mixes classic Motown sounds with her larger than life voice. Even the subject matter, though updated a bit, fits the sound behind it perfectly, as if Otis or Marvin wrote the song in the 60’s. Think “Aint No Mountain High Enough” mixed with “You Keep Me Hanging On” with the spirit of Janis Joplin behind it.

5) “Passing The Hat” – Cold War Kids
You may have heard this at the end of an Entourage episode, where it fit perfectly with E having to swallow some pride at the cost of Billy Walsh. It’s a dark jingle-jangle rocker with a haunting backbeat. It is off of their album Robbers and Cowards, which I don’t think is a concept album despite this song being about both. Another great driving song that will get you whistling.

6) "Ol' Black & Blue Eyes" - The Fratellis.
A good honky-tonk-ish rock song that's great for walking in the city when its this hot out. Simple stupid fun pop rock from a buzz band who may or may not make it past their debut album.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

John Cage: complete fuckhead

Written by avant-garde classical composer John Cage in 1951, I present you the unparalleled "4'33""

For more on this masterpiece′33″

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sound of Silver (turns to Gold)

LCD Soundsystem -- "Sound of Silver"

I don't pretend to understand where the music comes from or who James Murphy is. I'm not hip, as the Lumberjack is quick to point out. But I do know I freaking love good electronic music, when its not Techno, and it hooks you in for about 5-7 minutes of mesmerizing fun.

This album does exactly that. Some of their previous stuff is clearly worth checking out, but I jumped on for this album and fell in love immediately. The first time I heard the music was on my local Communist outpost WNKU, which had a feature listening party and agonizingly picked apart the lyrics and the musical syncopations (not that I know whether or not they were used) for their significance, something I'll try to avoid here.

So I heard the music, thought it was interesting, listened to the album a few times on their MySpace page (still there if you want a sample of the full tracks), downloaded it up and plugged it into the iPod. That is the power of MySpace, I was hooked, but wanted the songs so I went out and got them. Brilliance. This is my driving soundtrack, my late night fix, my help me wake up in the morning, everything music.

The best songs are clearly "Someone Great" and "All My Friends". These are more the storytelling variety with beautiful instruments leading the way. But the rhythmic and repetitive "Get Innocuous" and "Time to Get Away" are unforgettable as well. Another favorite because of my near obsession with the Talking Heads is "Us v Them", think "What a Day that Was".

This album works well together from beginning to end and its final track, "New York I Love You" is a sarcasm-filled jab at the NYC life, which I'm sure confused the hipsters.

As for its staying power, it has the capability to be on my most played list for many years. "Someone Great" is one of my favorite new songs and will always hold a special spot in my listening pantheon. Creativity is key, and James Murphy is one great creator.

Bonnaroo Continued

Since my previous post was so long, I split it up.

After the rush of The Police, it may have been wise for me to leave and keep only that concert in my head, but I was determined to check out some more music.

I was blessed with the opportunity to catch the Flaming Lips who are less musicians than entertainers nowadays. This is not to say they still don't make some great music and really rock out with some type of hyped up acid rock genre that the critics tout them as. I personally love them, but to understand the antics surrounding this show, my words might not be enough.

I arrived early, thanks to the Police pulling a fast exit. Wayne realized that we were gonna get bored if they didn't do anything so he went uber-political on us and played a rousing version of "War Pigs". In the background their screen which often displayed a rainbow had a nice slideshow of Bush and his cabinet (these guys are nothing if not political). Of course the slideshow included Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, so I think they need to do some updating.

Sadly that was the only song they played at the time, religiously adhering to the schedule, only to return an hour later. What a return it was though!!! If you are not familiar with a recent Lips show, I'll try to set the stage with a list:
1. Roadies were superhero costumes.
2. Dancing hot alien chicks line stage right.
3. Dancing fat Santas line stage left.
4. Wayne is pretty much a normal guy from Oklahoma.
5. The bassist or who I thought was the bassist wears a black skeleton costume.
6. The band hands out stuff for people to toss around and shine at the band during shows. This time it was laser pointers which made for a cool ambient experience.

To the entrance: The band enters on a large spaceship looking light fixture, descending to the electronic discord that opens RFTP. As the spaceship lit up the crowd, and smoke filled the stage, Wayne ascended to the top of the ship in his gerbil ball. Instead of taking the stairs, Wayne walked down the ship, slipped into the crowd and frolicked around for a few minutes before starting up a spectacular show that lasted well into the night.

Hopefully I did that entrance some justice. It was truly spectacular and one of the best parts of Bonnaroo. These guys are so concerned with entertaining the fans that the music almost becomes secondary, but their setlists never disappoint.

I headed over to Galactic for a bit and heard some pretty good tunes with Charlie2na, that band can really merge genres.

But by that time my Bonnaroo experience had worn me out and I needed a vacation. So I headed home early, hoping to catch the webcasts of Wolfmother, Wilco, and the White Stripes ("W" alliteration at its finest).
Wolfmother seriously is Black Sabbath. I can't be convinced otherwise. The coolest part is the lead singer's crazy fro, and the keyboardists desire to treat his instrument like a pinball machine. They rock, and are unique for our age, but I don't believe they are original at all.

Wilco, who has forcefully taken a prime spot among my list of favorite bands, played a great set that effortlessly encapsulated their new material from "Sky Blue Sky". A testament to their talents, the crowd was just as enthused for the new material as the classics. Serious guitar troubles during "War On War", 3 changes, barely fazed Jeff. These guys use so many guitars its almost overkill. Jeff needs to work on addressing the crowd, he's often so awkward, but people want to hear him talk so he presses on. My favorite song of the show had to be "Impossible Germany", this new song is really excellent, and is a quintessential defintion of Tweedy's geographical rock.

White Stripes bore me. Do I have to say anything else? I don't get it, are they playing a joke on us?

Well Bonnaroo 2008 should be just as good if not better. I hope they have more international acts, which was lacking this week, and part of the festival that makes it unique. Lollapalooza 2007 should be spectacular, but I won't be there. Do it, go check out the lineup. Pearl Jam plus about 25 bands I would die to see and who rarely tour through my neck of the woods. Hopefully it's not tremendously double booked, cause that is the only drawback of a festival like that.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bonnaroo Bonanza

As the only one of these pitiful bloggers who would dare frequent a festival, I had the privilege of attending my 6th Bonnaroo. It was an abbreviated journey, but well worth the music I checked out.
Due to my late arrival and desire to avoid Tool, which I am told by many of my Roo compatriots was a mistake, the only shows I scoped on Friday were of the late night variety. Arguably my favorite part of Bonnaroo, the late night shows really capture the out of control energy of the festival goers.

On to the music. I began with STS9 (Sound Tribe) playing a lively set that got the crowd moving pretty well, but I quickly moved on to Super Jam because I looked forward to hearing what Ben Harper, ?uestove, and John Paul Jones (of Zeppelin fame) had to offer. Let me tell you it was brilliant. If I had been soberer (or less inebriated, your call) I may have been able to tell you all about the jams, but basically it was Dazed and Confused, jammed in with some other riffs and an amazing jam for over half an hour, hence the name SuperJam. So a great start to my festival weekend. And for the record, don't let anyone tell you Ben Harper isn't one of the most versatile and genuinely likeable artists around. He always puts on a great show and can belt out some serious harmonies.

Saturday held the big ticket items for me (minus Wilco), starting with Old Crow Medicine show playing one of my favorite country/rock hits "Wagon Wheel". This band's Confederate creativity and homage to Country Western music with a dash of Rock makes them a fun show to investigate if you have the chance.

But my visit with OCMS was cut short due to a desire to catch the Slip peform "Even Rats". That song rocks and the Slip have an ability to get the crowd going, but they were unable to really rock the house due to a poor showing from festival goers. A surpise since I remember a previous Slip show there that was highly popular. But I digress, the festival has changed a lot and people were here for bands like Tool and the White Stripes, drastically altering the mood.

Slinked by Hot Tuna for a bit, pretty well unimpressed, with a band that lives in the 60's, but who am I, I just listen to the music. Then Regina Spektor bored med for about 15 minutes. At that point I wanted a quiet place to sit down, because festivals are hard work.

I move on to some artists I genuinely enjoy, Ziggy Marley played a nice lively set of his wonderfully upbeat music. "Tomorrow People" got me dancing around. Watching Ziggy makes me wonder how spectacular watching Bob really was. He is the closest thing we have.

I skipped Fountains of Wayne and Damien Rice, so sue me. I wanted to see my favorite Aussie tooting on his didgeridoo, the one and only Xavier Rudd. He plays off the crowd so nicely, and wows you with his ability to amp it up at the right moments. He's very earthy so dealing with some of his grass roots story telling is a bit much sometimes, but he tells a solid story and involves the crowd that much more. Something about the Cree Indian nation showed his homage to Native peoples and their love of music.

A dollop of The Hold Steady for good measure. This band is utterly old and so unhip they've become cool. Their songs must have been written when they were in high school, but now they're old and sound kind of funny. I'll give you this, their lead singer has a unique voice that plays well into their genre and makes them much more interesting.

I took a break, regrouped, rested my feet, pounded some H2O, because Saturday night was why I came to this place -- THE POLICE!!!! First I had to rein in my excitement as Ben Harper was playing first on the big stage. Excellent show, and I love Ben Harper (two guests John Paul Jones and Ziggy Marley helped out with some excellent material), but I'm too excited about what came next to write anything more.

So I moved in close, tired to get a good spot. I did alright, not as well as I would have hoped. Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers, and Sting arrived on stage to a rousing ovation. One of the best I've seen at the Roo. Quickly sensing that we wanted the hits, boom, "Message in a Bottle". Yes, that is correct, well done Sting. "Syncronicity II" hit the spot. "So Lonely" might have been my favorite of the night. An obligatory "Roxanne" was a crowd favorite, but Sting can't sing it anymore, so the fun is lost on me.

Sting was brilliant, seemed less ticked offed than Paul Simon was during his "Old Friends" Tour with Garfunkel, which I appreciated. Of course reunion shows get a little weird, because these guys broke up for a reason, and Sting went in a totally different direction than his band mates. Nonethless, they gelled, they jammed, and quickly vaulted to the top of the list of my favorite shows of all time. A perfect blend of Reggae, Jamming, and 80s cannot be topped by anyone of this era.

A note on the musical prowess of Copeland and Summers: Summers can shred. He drives the riffs hard and completely overpowers Sting musically. Copeland can do anything and always looks shocked banging out some serious percussion. I know I used driving before but that is the only way to describe his talents. He seriously dictates the whole show and if he is on he is on. You could sense if he didn't have the energy the show screech to a halt.

Random notes:
- Andy Summers looks like Dr. Kelso from Scrubs.
- Sting is in love with himself.
- Stewart Copeland wears golf gloves.
- Worth mentioning, The Police ripped us off, and played 45 minutes less than scheduled. I won't bemoan the point, but at a festival that I pay good money for I expect the band that I come to see to rip it up for their entire allotted time. usually you only get a snippet of a band, but with a headliner, they have got to fill it up.

I'll have more about the late night Saturday and Sunday shows I watched from home in a second installment.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Warren Zevon's Last Public Appearance

On October 30th 2002, Warren Zevon made his last ever televised appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Dave and Warren were old friends, and Warren was the goto replacement as bandleader whenever Paul was pulled away from the show. So as the only guest that episode, he played three songs and talked to Dave about his dirty life and times. Here is the last performance of the night, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner." It's both powerful and kick ass all at once, from a true genius.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Good Stuff: "Because of the Times" by Kings of Leon

Here's a new thing I'm going to do. A public service. Give you the choice tracks off of albums so you can cut through the fat that often plagues good records. Sure it's my opinion, but I'm always right, so listen up. My first victim will be the new KOL album, "Because of the Times," which is very good as a whole. It's still definitely the Followills, but its got a more ambient and spacey sound. Great album, but here's the good stuff (I'm working on the name too):

"On Call" - The perfect example of the new KOL sound. It's still them, but they've discovered more reverb and an organ. I think this is the single, which is nice.

"Black Thumbnail" - This track connects them back to their roots. It's a straight up southern rocker with a crazy powerful chorus. Bluesy and ripe, it would fit nicely on a White Stripes album as well.

"Ragoo" - I love the melody on this one. It's got a little RHCP, a little Pearl Jam, almost a little prog-rock in it. Very mature of them.

"Fans" - I want to hear this song in concert badly. It already sounds like a live cut. It's an uptempo rock n' roll thank-you to all the Leon-ites out there, giving a special namecheck to the London fans, where they are platinum sellers. Wake up US!

"Arizona" - Probably the most soothing song I've heard in a long time. Makes you want to drive at sunset or sip a beer in the shade. Another amazing melody by both the vocals and guitar. So simple, yet so good.

Monday, April 16, 2007

VYT Concert Review: Sean Lennon at Irving Plaza 4/13/07

Friday the Thirteenth brought a few strange things this year. First I found out that Irving Plaza is now called the "Fillmore New York At Irving Plaza." Secondly, I didn't eat lunch (which is just fuckin' wrong). And third, I enjoyed the Sean Lennon Concert a whole helluva lot.

His band was tight. He sounded good. The songs were that perfect blend of "what you know and love from the album" and "an energetic live cut." He was funny, if not a bit insane. The beer was cold and not as expensive as I imagined. And my girlfriend abandoned her polo shirt and dressed genuinely rock and roll. I was happy.

He came out during the opener to sing the final song with them. I don't remember their name and I didn't really enjoy them. So when Sean arrived onstage for his own set, I knew what to expect. He is very impish, in full suit and beard, long hair, old lady glasses, and an ever present glass of red wine. His guitar was a dark wood acoustic which he played most of the show. He looked happy up there, and he was engaging and funny. Irving's crowd was perfect size and so close to the stage he seemed to be having conversations with the first few rows.

He won me over when he sheepishly took a swig of his wine and said "side effects may include extreme rock n' roll," and launched into a great version of "Dead Meat."

He switched to a Fender Jazzman-esque electric guitar (which he said was just purchased) about a quarter way through. As it was strapped on, to sound check it, he noodled "Over the Hills and Far Away" by Led Zeppelin, and nailed it. The crowd went pretty crazy (which surprised me, I didn't think Hipsters were allowed to like Zepp) but alas, no covers were to be played. His chops were showcased on "Falling In and Out of Love," which sounded better live.

There was a funny, Nigel Tufnel moment during "Falling" also, when he knelt down to solo. He was squatting down there for a while, and at one point the roadie came out right behind him. I thought he was going to help him up, but he just fixed the amp and ran back off stage. Sean rose to his feet and intentional comedy was averted, but I chuckled nonetheless.

At this point I thought to myself, "thank god I don't date short girls." Why? Well because short girls are high maintenance at concerts. They cant see anything. It sucks for them and for you, as you have to keep moving to clear their line of vision.

One of my disappointments was his lack of guests. I know, sounds very bratty, but I've heard great stories of all of his famous friends joining him at local gigs. And this is as local of a gig as he has on this tour. No Ryan Adams, no Jenny Lewis, no Yoko even! She was backstage and he did name check her, but she never came out. Boo Yoko, Boo!

He closed his set with "Headlights," which on the album is acoustic and choppy. Live, it was very uptempo, bluesy, bouncy and electric, and probably the best song all night. He rocked his Jazzman guitar again, and really let loose on it. There was the inevitable encore, but I don't remember it. I was drunk, and "Headlights" was the highlight. That and the free condoms.

So overall, the show was a...fuck. I'm going to need to come up with some cool/witty rating for concerts and albums for this site. So for now, as a placeholder, this concert was an 7 of 10. Fun, intimate, rocking, cheap, great experience but not life changing. Sean Lennon definitely has a magnetism about him on stage, either because you are looking at the living link to a lost genius, or because he is on his own a great musician. All I know is that I woke up the next morning with his songs in my head and feeling the side effects he warned me of.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

RE: Sports Music - The Masters

Lord Newton noted an obvious and unforgivable omission in my post about sports music, and that is about the musical elephant-tranquilizer that is the Masters theme on CBS. However, this piece does not exist in a vacuum; when accompanied by Jim Nantz' hypnotic HAL2000 timbre and the (often pre-recorded and non-indigenous) birdcalls it becomes a viable alternative to surgical anaesthesia.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Glorified Version of a Pelican

Feels so manly, with arms!

How much funnier of a song would "Glorified G" be if Vedder and Co. just admitted that those were the actual words? A shitfuck load. Here's some other misheard lyrics that I think are better than the actual ones:

Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone"

Real: I'm so moving on (yeah yeah)
Mine: I'm sobering up (yeah yeah)

See? How much better would the song be if it was told in the context of a drunken one-night stand?

Paul McCartney and Wings - "Jet"

Real: Ah mater, want Jet to always love me.
Mine: I made her warm jet to always love me.

Mine sounds like an dirty euphemism. His has nonsense Latin words.

Elton John - "Tiny Dancer"

Real: Hold me closer tiny dancer
Mine: Hold me closer Tony Danza

Okay, I never thought those were the real lyrics, but don't you dare try to tell me that's not the funniest thing when your doing drunk karaoke.

Toto - "Africa"

Real: I bless the rains down in Africa
Mine: Daduhdadadoodah in Africa!

I've never heard this song sober, so it doesn't matter anyways. Reminds me of Mary Anne's though (sniff).

Francis Scott Key - "The Star Spangled Banner"

Real: O' say, can you see...
Mine: Jose can you see...

Every little kid thinks that's how it goes, and dammit, it's better than old FSK's poem. I always worried that Jose was blind, poor guy.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Music of Sports

One of the hardest things to do is to write a piece of instrumental music about a particular sport that musically approximates its dynamism, competitiveness and specific cultural locus, which is why there are few truly great sports themes. One of the other hardest things to do is write an introductory paragraph to an article about sports theme music, so fuck it.

ESPN's baseball theme is more or less an extension of their pavlovian Baseball Tonight jingle and benefits greatly from its familiarity, brevity as well as its Close-Encounters-of-the-Third-Kind simplicity. It's only a few notes long but you'll unconsciously wander into a room whenever you hear it if you're hungry for baseball. Fox's baseball theme, however, is a disaster. It may be catchy, but its strangely militant kettledrumming and intimidating horn blasts make for a theme horribly incongruent with the pastoral languor of a midsummer day game. Besides it sounds like the B-side to fox's equally grating minor-key football theme.

NBC’s coverage of the Olympics is awful for many reasons, the stifling Americo-centrism, the refusal to spotlight interesting or unusual sports and the melodramatic pre-packaged narrative (this annoying trend reached its apotheosis in Sydney when NBC had a full 24 hours to manipulate its footage). One thing that does not detract from their coverage, however, is the rousing majesty of John Williams’ scores, from the regal fanfare of ""The Call of the Champions"" to his more serene but equally stirring ""Atlanta Theme"" (If you listen close enough, you can almost hear Richard Jewell crying in the background). The songs are almost too grand, impossible for any sporting event to live up to, and especially mismatched when accompanying Bob Costas’ dorky visage. Although its theme may not rapturously herald the Second Coming as John Williams' NBC score seems to do, CBS does a perfectly competent job on the odd year they captain olympic coverage. It's been 13 years since CBS last carried the winter olympics but when I close my eyes and listen to this noble score I can still see Dan Jansen doing his best pinball impression on the speed skating circuit.

CBS' NCAA basketball theme, like the Baseball Tonight jingle, actually elicits a warm, almost pheromonal response, at least in me. It evokes a very specific part of the year and announces its arrival with all the lively enthusiasm of Dick Vitale while channeling none of his more unbearable, overwhelming qualities. The only other basketball theme of any consequence is John Tesh's synthesized masterpiece ""Roundball Rock"". In the past 5 years since NBC lost the rights to the NBA, ABC has fumbled through 4 different themes for NBA coverage, all equally unmemorable and uninspired. Why they haven't adopted Tesh's angular and aggressive "Rock", the defacto anthem for the league, is a mystery, and to sentimentalists like myself for whom it wistfully evokes images of Dan Majerle and Cedric Ceballos, a tragedy.

NBC's Football Night in America premiered this year with a theme that is pretty much the unremarkable orchestrated blitzkrieg you would expect for a football program with such a stupid and knowingly bombastic name (to say nothing of Pink’s unspeakable intro that precedes it). Football is a violent game and it lends itself to the scary military music that CBS, NBC and ESPN have adopted, and that Fox probably first popularized. However it is interesting to note that this de rigueur Wagner-esque bravado, wasn’t always so in football theme music. One recent example is NBC’s bizarrely plaintive football theme from the early 90s as well as Monday Night Football’s popular and downright ebullient anthem. I’ve never really liked Fox’s football theme although by now it has become almost a cultural meme and I would be disappointed if it were changed if only out of conservative reluctance. Also I’ve never been able to take it seriously because you can easily sing “giddy-up giddy-up giddy-up let’s go” to it, which kinds of takes the sting out of its self-conscious austerity.

Aside: While looking into sports themes perhaps the most unusual discovery was ABC's retired golf theme, which sounds lifted from an obscure Blaxpoitation film. You half expect Barry White to interject some soulful crooning about the shaft length of his driver. Boo-yah.