Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Three For Halloween

Dr. Demento, "Monster Mash"

The Misfits, "Monster Mash"

Magnolia Electric Co., "Werewolves of London"

Gotta go! Got laundry to do! (Whoot hoot. Don't tell anyone how crazy I am...)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Five Songs I'm Loving This Week

Jeremy Enigk, "Been Here Before"

I'd never heard of Jeremy Enigk before, but I'd heard the name Sunny Day Real Estate. I've never actually heard any of their music 'cause back then I was too goth to listen to anything with the word "sunny" in it (obviously I've changed a lot since then), and also I lumped SDRE (as the kids called them) with the scream-o bands I disliked.

I'm still ignorant as to whether Sunny Day Real Estate was scream-o, emo, grunge or vitriola music. Jeremy Enigk, the principal songwriter/singer/everything for SDRE has released a new solo album, World Waits. The first single, "Been Here Before" is not scream-o, emo, or anything belonging to teenagers circa 1997. Instead, it's a mature, melodic and thoroughly complete entity, showing range beyond my (limited and probably biased) perception of the lengthy-named bands of the 90's.

The song starts off with a deceptively ambient, atmospheric guitar line, but eventually builds to a crescendo that while forceful and dramatic, is not screechy like the scream-o bands I shudder at. His clear vocals initially ride along with the soft guitar part, but with the introduction of the crashing drums and a change to a more persistant and intense guitar line, his voice coalesces, carrying the song to a strong but still melodic conclusion.

(If I'm wrong about SDRE, let me know. Enigk's Myspace even says they were emo, and I dislike emo.)

Jeremy Enigk's Myspace and Official Site.

Channels, "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend"

I have a soft-spot for songs with dire, nihilistic lyrics encased in poppy, catchy music. Maybe I like the contradiction; maybe I just like really bright music with really dark lyrics. For some reason, lines like "we're already dead but not yet in the ground" make me feel comfortable, like I'm listening to my goth of yore. Yet the music still serves the indie girl in me. I've heard the mark of a genius is to be able to hold two opposing viewpoints concurrently. Maybe this just goes to show that I'm one sharp l'il Indie girl.

The dark lyrics slip into irreverance with lines like "life and death are things you do when you're bored". I will say I'm a little alarmed by that sentiment, but with the current level of apathy in my country I can totally see that line as being timely and disturbingly accurate. The main character from Harold and Maude "killed" himself because he wanted to have an effect on his mother. A modern Harold might be so disaffected that he would pretend to commit suicide because he got tired of playing Half-Life and he didn't have any money to go down to Tilt.

Seriously, I'm not sure what this song is about, but while the lyrics are creepy, the music is downright boppy. The guitar follows the melody gently, supporting it almost like a hammock. The verses move slowly, in no hurry to reach the crunching, guitar riffy bridge. The explosion of a bridge segueways into a seemingly at-odds sing-songy chorus. The different parts merge in a very interesting, very arresting whole (from their EP Open).

(Huh. According to their website, this song is originally a John Cale song, but they've reworked the music some. It so totally makes sense that the lyrics are his, though).

Channel's Website,Their Label Site and Myspace.

Damien Jurado, "What Were The Chances"

Hey, guess what? Damien Jurado's one of my favorite songwriters and guess what? He has a new album! It's a good year if it's a year with a new D.J. release (and he releases alot, so I shouldn't complain so much).

In this song, he shares vocals, something atypical of his style. It's a nice effect, though; adding an echoey (but not matching; the other singer is female) and at some times responsive element to the song. The music is hauntingly numb, like those days when you don't know how to feel so you just sit and stare. Remember what I said about the lyrics in the last song, though. I like sadness in music. Like that feeling of despondency, this song creeps into your conscious and places itself into your music receptors before you even realize you're listening to it.

Damien Jurado's Online Presence is Here, Here and Here. The name of the album is And Now That I'm In Your Shadow.

Badly Drawn Boy, "Born In The U.K."

Okay, ignore the Hail To The Queen bit at the beginning. That part annoys me. The rest of the song is up there with the best of Badly Drawn Boy. It's upbeat, but not silly. It's vaguely Golden Age sounding, as in poodle skirts and bonfires. The Jerry Lee Lewis piano playing is what invokes images of Kathleen Turner in Peggy Sue Got Married. I feel like I should be getting ready for a prom in 1956.

It literally seems to be about him being born and raised in London. He even mentions the year he was born. I like the fact that the song is a mini-biography; in fact, according to his website, that's exactly what it is: "The first track is 'Born In The UK', 160-seconds of rollicking rock'n'roll which details the events that have shaped his life since 1969." It goes on to say that he wanted to "'capture something about being British or English. [He] didn't want it to be just a list of events, but it had to be things that captured a version of events in [his] life.'"

"Born In The U.K." is the title track from his new album, released two weeks ago.

Badly Drawn Boy's Website and like 98% of the Western World, he has a Myspace.


Sarah Harmer, "Capsized" (2000)

This is a stark, heartbreaking song, accompanied by a sparsely played guitar and supported by a constant keyboard refrain. I'm not sure if the song is about a romantic break-up, but it seems to be about someone in her life who is causing her to feel pain. She says "It's been years since you capsized, and you've been lying out there in the sun". We don't know who capsized, but it seems to have left her feeling void and feeling abandoned. Earlier in the song she says she wishes she could wake up from the dream, and she tells the person "there's a hurt and sadness there, maybe I'll tell you all about it. I thought you'd care". Hopefully the person does care--this song is so sad that I want her burden to be lifted.

This is from her 2000 album They Were Here. She has a new album called I'm A Mountain. I haven't heard any of these songs, but if I find one of them extremely favorable, it'll make its way onto this blog.

Sarah Harmer's Website. She doesn't have a Myspace, but a fan made one for her.

Note: I had intended to do a podcast, but tonight's blog post took much longer than usual because it turns out (ha ha) that while the Channels song is on my mp3, I somehow deleted it from my hard drive. I couldn't find it at all, and no mp3s were present on the web. I had to download it from Musicmatch, burn it to a cd so that I could reupload it as an mp3 file. Yes, this Five Songs post has been very problematic for me. I'm tired now.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tori Amos, Selections From A Piano: The Collection

Rhino has released Tori Amos' first official box set, A Piano: The Collection, and my what a large box set it is. It's comprised of 86 songs, including straight-up album selections, rare songs, B-Sides and remixes. The packaging is instantly recognizable as being associated with Tori Amos: It's grand, distinct and utterly representative of the girl from North Carolina that so many people love. In addition to the music is a song-by-song commentary by Amos, possibly making this the most comprehensive guide to understanding Amos' songwriting process and her motivation in choosing subject matter and composition.

Unfortunately, I don't have access to the whole collection for this review, so my commentary will center around twelve songs featured on the promotional release, Selections From A Piano: The Collection. It wouldn't be fair for me to try to comment on all 86 songs, but I can give you my take on what I have available.

A few of the songs (“God”, “Silent All These Years”, etc.) are the album versions; though they are integral to Amos' catalog, they're not new to the public. I'm not going to include them in the discussion (though it's hard to talk about Tori Amos without mentioning them), instead focusing on the rare cuts and alternate mixes that haven't been widely available.

“Mary”, originally found on the Crucify single (from her first record, Little Earthquakes, 1992), actually has been published as part of the collection Tales Of A Librarian (2003). I'd never heard it before Tales came out (yes, Im a shameful Tori fan. I'm a lukewarm Tori fan. She just releases so much...I'm too poor to keep up). Like a lot of Tori's songs, the chorus in “Mary” is where the song revs up the most. Her passionate vocal delivery of just the name “Mary” rattles the windows (well, my windows, anyway. I live in an old building, though). The strength of her playing makes me wonder how often she has to change out the piano keys. Like a lot of her lyrics, it's difficult to tell just from the words who she's talking about; if it's a fictional character used to create a story or if she's talking about a person/historical character. Whoever Mary is, people are making a lot of demands on her.

I unfortunately didn't get any of the demo versions featured in the collection. I would've loved to have heard the demo of “A Sorta Fairytale” and “Beautyqueen”. My abbreviated copy is made up of several alternate mixes and remixes, though. “Baker Baker”, originally from Under The Pink, gets an orchestral treatment here (violins!), instead of the minimal piano on the album version. The song is beautiful in whatever form (well, I don't know if I'd like a polka mix or a version done by a Japanese punk band...), but the added orchestration adds a flourish that certainly doesn't top the original (c'est impossible!), but serves as a wonderful companion piece (which is the purpose of an alternate mix).

“Flying Dutchman”, AKA the “take a trip on a rocket ship” song, is as quirky as the original. The song was originally on the “China” single (the CD tells me so, but if every in doubt, check here). The original starts out with very soft, light piano strokes, then Tori's precise vocals come in and almost dance over the melody. I'm not sure if the version I already had was the original B-Side, but I can't tell much of a difference--the two versions seem very similar to me. The style of the song in both versions has the crispness of the Little Earthquakes/Under The Pink era. Tori's arrangements became more complex beginning with her third album, Boys For Pele. This is one of the least vocally acrobatic of her songs, but that's not a criticism of the song. It just means that not every Tori song is a showcase for her amazing vocal range. Sometimes the song itself is the star. The lyrics are as obtuse and unscrutible as ever: one line includes the statement “your brain is a comic book tattoo.” Sure, I know exactly what that means...Musically, the instrumentation, like on many of her songs, is sparse. A horn glides in to augment the piano, but other than that, she's sparing with the accompaniment.

It's hard for me to believe that From The Choirgirl Hotel was released eight years ago, but it was published in 1998. I have a huge wall-size poster of the album cover. Alas, my wall is void of it because it's too heavy for me to hang. From The Choirgirl Hotel makes an appearance in this collection. “Playboy Mommy” is included in a remixed form. I won't lie: the original was never one of my favorite Tori songs. The horn sounds like it was provided courtesy of Casio (no offense to the horn player; it probably had more to do with the sound mix). The melody doesn't stretch beyond the monotonous piano line, and vocally the melody doesn't stray far from the middle ground she's settled. The song's just never grabbed me that much. The new version mercifully doesn't sound as Casio-fied (yay for new production!), but the song's still not as dynamic as her other music.

Besides “Playboy Mommy”, another track from this album is offered as an alternate take. Again, this isn't one of my favorites. “Cruel” is Tori's version of a Madonna song. Heavily produced, the vocals are distorted and the instrumental focus is a series of electronic disco beats. A lot of people really like this side of Tori Amos; I'm not knocking these songs at all. I just know that this particular style is not my preferred style. Give me banshee Tori any day, or reflective Tori. The new version is a little cleaner; less distorted, but still disco-ish. The percussion (which I like) is a little more pronounced in this remix.

“Sugar” is another B-Side from the single “China”. I hadn't heard this in more than ten years, but I'd remembered thinking this was an absolutely beautiful song. This version is no different in that respect. The lyrics are almost inscrutable as many of her lyrics are; the chorus is the phrase “sugar...she brings me sugar”, and she talks about robins bringing her things. Tori fans long ago got used to lyrics that don't lend themselves easily to deciphering. The music can never be questioned, though. The piano is a sparse, ghostly line and her voice whispers and then crackles with all the emotion she would infuse even her most personal song. There is a light keyboard part in the background, but it never overpowers her voice or the rest of the music.

“Take To The Sky (Russia)” is a B-Side from “Winter”, another Little Earthquakes single. Most of the song is a piano-pounding (literally—I've seen her play it in concert—she pounds on the piano), jazzy, and relatively straight-forward. Then for a few short moments the banshee comes out. Tori's voice climbs, crescendos and twists back around. All too briefly, she includes one of her signature rounds with herself, where her voice is interspersed with another recording of herself singing a different line. The result is exhilerating, and very representative of Tori's signatures sounds.

It's very difficult for me to evaluate the entire collection without hearing all 86 songs (I do accept donations—just kidding), but the selections I was given are probably very indicative of the whole of the collection: a mixture of already available (though classic) album cuts, alternate mixes that sharpen and redefine the originals and B-Sides that show that even the compositions that don't make the cut can be quintessentially beautiful and unique additions to Amos' roster.

Rather than spending money on the dozens of illegal bootlegs out there (which I've done before) and instead of hunting for the songs on the internet individually (which I would never, ever do..pinkie swear. Cross my heart and hope to ...ah, whatever), this looks to be a worthy purchase for any Tori Amos fan. The packaging alone is gorgeous. A casual fan may want to work on getting the individual albums first (there are enough to make up a few of these collections), but if you have the money, it would not be wasted on this particular set.

~~Lola Lariscy

Monday, October 23, 2006

Five Songs I'm Loving This Week

(Sorry for the delay--Blogger was down last night)

Syntax, "Pride"

This song's been around for a few years (since '04), but I just downloaded it, so it's sort of new. I've been listening to a tiny snippit of it for a few weeks now (which doesn't mean it can't be a "song I'm loving this week"!) but when I downloaded it, I neglected to change the tag, so it only showed up by song title. No band name listed. I've been running around for weeks now thinking "Man, I love that Pride song. Too bad I don't know anything about it and only have a minute-long snippet." Well, this week I decided I was going to take back the song! I was going to give it my best effort and find a complete copy with the band name listed. Of course Google gave me lots of hits for "Pride (In The Name of Love)". Thanks Google--I first heard that song over 20 years ago. I'm fine as far as that song goes. Thanks to the fine folks at hype.non-standard.net, though, I found the original snipped I'd downloaded. It was cake (and ice cream with cherry topping) to find the band and a full mp3 from there. Yay for me! Yay for diligence!

"Pride" is alot different from the other songs of theirs I heard; the others seem to be more electronica oriented. I like electronica, but I love the soulfulness and earnestness of this song. Even if it's an anomoly amoung their other songs, it's a wonderful anomoly (frome the album Meccano Mind).

cover of Meccano Mind

Their website is down, but here's a fan's Myspace. This site leads to another Myspace for a band called Fatal which has at least one of the members of Syntax, Jan Burton. There's not a lot of information on Fatal, though (the website listed isn't valid), so I don't know if the other member of Syntax is in Fatal.

Oh well, I have the one song, anyway.

The Decemberists, "O Valencia"

Okay. I haven't liked The Decemberists until now. I've found the previous songs I've heard to be whiny and unbearably pretentious (when you like the kind of music I do, you learn to put up with a bit of pretentiousness). But!!! I am an open-minded person. I listen to politicians when they talk, though I know it's most likely bullshit. I don't laugh uproariously (out loud) when employers say they have their employees' best interests at heart, and I'll listen to music from a band I usually don't like. It's happened many times--I love one song and hate another from the same group of musicians. I'd only be hurting myself if I ignored this song based solely on my opinion of other songs I'd heard. So, I gave it a chance, and I'm glad I did--it's a really good song, with virtually no pretentiousness (from the album The Crane Wife).

cover, The Crane Wife

Their Website and Myspace

Kapow! Music, "Surfear"

I don't understand the name of the band or the song, but that's okay. As I said earlier, I like electronica. I like it much like I like iguanas. I'd never have an iguana as a pet (they get up to 6 feet!), but I like them and like to be around them for small amounts of time. Similarly, I like electronica, but I'm not going to bring it home, raise it and bring it to the vet regularly.

Once in awhile, though, an electronica song will get me in a certain way. The last one was the James Figurine song I posted a few weeks ago (I love that song. It's still posted--I can't bear to take it down). This song, "Surfear", has got me also.

It has no lyrics--the only thing for me to latch on to are the myriad, weird keyboard lines. They're frikkin' quirky! Yes, I said quirky. I know alot of people don't put stock in the word "quirky" as an accurate description, but I'm not sure what else to call it. It's enjoyably weird; therefore, it's quirky (from Ambient: Music For Computer Games).

Kapow! MusicJohn Ribo, AKA the guy who is Kapow! Music

Their Myspace and their Website.

Josephine Sweet, "Sad Refrain"

This is the alias of singer-songwriter D. Mangione, from Birmingham, Alabama. I've known D. for almost 17 years. I became friends with one of her best friends from high school, and their circle of friends adopted me. I was always a little different because I didn't go to their high school, and therefore could read (it's a joke with their high school--they all had t-shirts that read "If you can read this you didn't go to Trussville high school). I remember I had some other friends who lived in the same apartment complex as she and her family did, and instead of going to school, I'd disappear there for days at a time (if anyone needs to know why it took me 10 years to get through college, that's a good example of one of the reasons) and hang out with them and drink.

She was playing guitar and singing back then, and I remember I'd bug her to play the same songs over and over. In hindsight, I bet my constant requests probably did annoy her; those songs had very emotional meaning for her, and I'm sure they brought up difficult memories for her each time she played them. Back then I was drunk most of the time, though, and all I knew was I I thought those songs were pretty.

Choosing the song I was going to use for this post was difficult. It was a draw between this song and "Hearts To Hearts". I was going to use the second song because I couldn't stop singing it and it mentions another friend of mine, Jean-Paul. In the end, though, "Sad Refrain" is a little mellower and a little sadder (though they're all very reflective) and I thought it might make a better intro to her music. She has one of the most beautiful voices I've heard--I really miss being in someone's apartment and hearing her play just a few feet away.

Josephine Sweet
D. Mangione, AKA Josephine Sweet

Her Myspace and Website. More information can be found here.


Elf Power, "Why Can't I Touch It"

(Insert Mark Foley joke if you wish. Hey--it's timely, at least.)

I love Elf Power, but I actually just heard this song for the first time recently. It's from their 2002 album Nothing's Going To Happen. They have a lot of cds in their roster, so it's going to take me awhile to catch up with all of them.

This song is a little different than some of their others; where many of their other songs I can describe as "druid rock", there's nothing ancient about this song. It's a pretty traditional rock song, which is something I want once in awhile. Part of the reason for the difference is that this is a cover; it was originally done by The Buzzcocks. The bass line is fantastic--probably responsible for some hearing loss, but once in awhile i've just gotta tear up my mp3 player, y'know? (I realize I describe them as "druid rock", yet there's a song on this album called "Hot Love". Sounds more Van Halen than Old Celtic, but whatever.)

Elf Power
Elf Power

Their Website and Myspace.


Too tired to do podcast. Too tired to finish Tori review. I also didn't vacuum or wash all the clothes I needed to. For that I apologize to myself and the world in general. I'll do better. I did hang a curtain in my kitchen, though! (cue loud applause).


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Five Songs I'm Loving This Week

I love my music. Only problem is there's so much of it that I can't keep any of it straight. I went to download a song that a blog was enthusiastically recommending, and after listening to a few seconds of it, realized I already had it. How did I not know this? What's the point of downloading so much music if so much gets buried? Well, my only answer is better to download too much, then not at all. If I could actually set aside five minutes during the week to make a decent playlist on my mp3 player, though, I might actually get to hear these songs on a regular basis. Instead, I end up stuck listening to "Damn, It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta" and the same remix of "Hung Up" over and over.

This mini-rant has absolutely nothing to do with this week's post. Just trying to motivate myself to sort through my mp3s sometime in the next five years.

Oh, and I'm pleased to announce that I decided to stay at home and do this post. No more flies in my coffee (or if there is, it will be my own fault), no more weird yawning man, no more noise (other than the songs I'm playing) and hopefully no low-flying plains or near car-wrecks (though that could still happen here). I learned my lesson from last week; don't do anything that's going to take an hour or more unless I'm in the comfort of my own home. Okay, so that's not practical in all aspects of my life, but I can at least attempt to apply it where I can.

I'm not sure what the point of that was, so I'm going to start the post now.

Nina Nastasia, "Treehouse Song"

Cool name, huh? Alliterative and vaguely erotic, I latched on to her name before I'd even heard the song. The song starts out simply; some staccato strumming and vocals. Then the song is accompanied by a piano line, alternately following and countering the melody. The melody, while not complicated, isn't simple either. It doesn't settle into one area of the scale; in fact, it seems to skip constantly from one end to the other within the space of a verse. Her voice follows the rapid changes assuredly, able to capture several notes in one syllable, without ever losing her place or bungling the precious line. The story of the song is a simplistic one; it seems to be about holding oneself aloft in a "treehouse in the sky", finding excuses not to mingle among the citizens below. Not unfamiliar to anyone who finds it more comfortable to stay in a familiar environment, rather than taking the chance of feeling unsure of one's surroundings...from her 2006 album, On Leaving.

Nina Nastasia

Her Myspace, Her Label Site, an older Label Site and an Unofficial Myspace Page

Herman Dune, "I Wish That I Could See You Soon"

The title explains the subject of the song. Boy goes away, Boy loves girls and misses her, Boy hopes girl will still be around when he gets back. What sets this apart from other lovelorn songs is the lack of sadness in the melody. It sounds more like something Jack Johnson's grandfather might've done in the 50s (providing Jack Johnson's grandfather made music and wore a lei). The responding female back-up vocals complement the male lead singer perfectly. I even like rhyming "see her" with "better"--the way he sings "better", it actually sounds like "see her". The song's so cute I want to dance to it--especially once the horns start. The video's goofy as hell, completely fits the song and is on their Myspace (from the album Giant).

Herman Dune look back wistfully at the 70's, when shaggy hair and big sunglasses really hit their peaks

Heh! I'm not the only one! Myspace thinks it sounds like surf music, too! Grunge, I don't know...(Their Website)

Goldenboy, "Summer Of The Evening"

For it being Fall, I sure am finding all sorts of wispy, billowy, summer-y songs! Maybe I'm just feeling nostalgic, or more accurately, maybe the blogs I'm reading/podcasts I'm listening to/magazines I'm reading are exhibiting signs of nostalgia by featuring these songs. Anyways, as is suggested by the title, this song is about Summer and Evening. It's also, like the previous song, about someone who's far away. Once again, though, no actual sadness in the song, which for someone like me who has a mad depressive streak, is a good thing. I would say more about the lyrics, but well, there's not much more. He talks about taking the van up north and that's really it. Then someone's far away from him. Summer shouldn't be complicated, so it fits perfectly that this song is spare also...from the album Underneath the Radio.

Yes, I was in The Young Ones

Their Myspace, Their Label Site and Official Site. Oh--listen to "End Of Summer", found on this blog. If I hadn't just heard it five minutes ago for the first time, it probably would've been the song in this post.

The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, "Lisa"

If you can believe it, I no longer have to look their name. I now actually know it by heart. I have to sit and think for a second to get the "Arthur Digby Sellers" part right, but I no longer have to consult allmusic.com or any other such site to remember. It's all in my memory, baby. In contrast, the name of the song is very simple. A girl's name, and not a long name like "Arthur Digby Sellers". Instead, it's a short, relatively common name. The song itself is not common, but is not overly wrought, either. It's simple in the best possible way: un-ornate. Oh, and if you're keeping track at home: this song is sad (from their free album of rarities and B-Sides, Redux, found on their site).

Tried to say the band's name five times fast and has a headache now

Their Myspace and Their Site


Lloyd Cole, "Past Imperfect"

I've posted about Lloyd Cole before; more than a year ago (don't ask me to find when, though--I've tried) I posted his song "Forest Fire". I happened to hear this song ("Past Imperfect") recently and I love it. It's pop with a weathered, experienced attitude. It's not the young kids' pop, it's more my generation of pop. It's not dated, though--much like my taste in music, Lloyd Cole's music keeps evolving to sound current yet true to his style. It's not from his new album--I actually haven't heard any of his new album, but if I like it as much as his other songs I've heard, then he may be coming up in a near-future Five Songs Post ("Past Imperfect" is from the 2000 album The Negatives, billed under "Lloyd Cole and The Negatives")

Lloyd Cole looks challenging

Lloyd Cole's Website is having difficulties. Meanwhile, here's his Myspace. Lloyd Cole has a new album out called Anti-Depressant.


RIP CBGBs. Blondie wouldn't have been the same without you.

Next week I will post a review for Selections From a Piano Collection. I've just been so busy this weekend. I went mega-shopping yesterday, then went to see the Grudge 2, then had vivid, excruciatingly terrorizing nightmares about it, then wrote to my boyfriend overseas, then went to see my friend who just had a baby (I got to hold the baby for a long time!) So, hang on folks, I'm getting there.

Also, I'll begin deleting songs from early September posts. If there's something you didn't get, go in the next few days. Eric and Gary: the songs will end up on CDs for you, so don't worry about it too much. I still owe my Livejournal friend Jen a CD. I'm a sucky Livejournal friend :/


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Five Songs I'm Loving This Week

Wow. This is a first. I'm doing the Five Songs post from somewhere other than my apartment. I've been practicing typosldng on a laptop computer so I could make this, the big step. I'm usng wireless in coffee shop. I am part of the early 21st century. I'm a poser hipster. Okay, so I'm too geeky (and spill too much coffee) to be a poser hipster, which is for the best.

For anyone wanting to know, I'm having a cafe latte instead of my usual mocha. I felt like being different. I wish I'd gotten a mocha.

The Sheds, "Too Many Pictures"

I kinda had to be out of the house if I wanted to avoid depression from this first song. I love this song--it's a really happy sounding song. The lyrics are very depressing, though, and in some parts very true to my family. The Ba Ba Ba background vocals and sunny playing keep the really dark thoughts away, but the lyrics are brutal. His family has a history of cancer and addictive personality. He smokes a lot and doesn't eat right. He drinks too much. Like me, he should go out more. There are too many pictures outside, though. What that means, I don't know. I still somehow understand. Ba ba ba ba.

The Sheds

The Sheds' Website (where two albums are downloadable for free) and their Myspace

I knew I shouldn't have brought the earbuds. One of them keeps falling out of my ear.

Oh my God. I paused the music and right then someone near me yawned very loudly and very exaggeratedly. Maybe this is why I do stuff like this at home.

Tegan and Sara, "When You Were Mine"

I'd forgotten how much I loved this song! I originally heard it when Cyndi Lauper did it--imagine her yelping the notes. It's a Prince song, and both versions, along with another really good version by Mitch Ryder and of course the T & S version is available at Un Violin, Un Jambon. The Tegan and Sara could do with some more production and the vocals could stand to be a little more polished (most Tegan and Sara songs aren't as rough as this one), but I'm still thrilled that they're doing one of my favorite Cyndi songs--and they try to do the yelps! Nothing beats the Cyndi version, though, as it should be. Cyndi's version was originally on her first album, She's So Unusual. I'm trying to figure out where the Tegan and Sara version is from; it could be unreleased. Maybe only the jambon people know. No, the person at Teganandsara.org knows! It's either unrealeased or a B-Side. Thank you FAQ Keeper! Oh, thank you My Old Kentucky Blog for the Ani DiFranco version!

Tegan and Sara's Website and Myspace. Cyndi Lauper's Website and Myspace.

Tegan and Sara

I really, really tried to look like Cyndi Lauper when I was young. I succeeded in looking like a dime-store version of her.

Heh heh--I'm taking a break in the post to listen to Goonies 'R Good Enough.

Tim Williams, "I Am Wearing It".

Such a pretty song. Such, such, such a pretty song. I'm not sure what he's wearing, but if he keeps singing about it this way, he can keep on wearing it. However unflattering it may be. The guitar reminds me of The Shins--the first few times I would hear it, I'd think it was "Those To Come". It turns into its own song, though. My favorite part when he says "I Am Wearing It"--it feels like the rest of that song is leading up to that one line.

His Website and his Myspace.

Tim Williams, looking melancholy and wearing a dark and white horizontally striped shirt.

Whoa...a plane just came really low. I was kinda worried it'd scrape us, but it didn't. Man, things happen out in the real world. Weird.

I can't wait until my boyfriend gets back. I think Mr. Yawning Man is trying to get my attention.

Ben Kweller, "Penny On The Train Tracks"

Everytime I hear Ben Kweller part of me wants to be him. Not in a "I want to be a young man from Texas" kind of way, but in a "I wish I'd had a full life like his". I mean, I don't know. Ultimately I know that bragging about bagging a chick in 7th grade, getting stoned and then later dropping out of high school isn't the best indicator of cool, but to a girl who didn't do anything in high school (I even was a 3rd wheel at the prom) there's something romantic and enticing about it. Plus, he went on to become a huge success without school. If he were working at the local Quick Stop (sorry Dante and Randal) then it wouldn't be romantic or enticing at all. It'd be sad and off-putting. But in Ben's case, it's kinda cool.

Ben Kweller
, looking spiffy

Ben Kweller's Website and Myspace

Why do I smell barbeque? How do I get some? Not fair! I think it's from the Middle Eastern restaurant around the corner. Oh God--I should never leave my home.

Two flies are currently losing their lives in my coffee. Uh--Barister? I found two flies in my coffee. That's what I get for sitting here for an hour.

The Whigs, "Technology"

Okay, so my favorite part of this time is the screechy vocal style. For someone who HATES emo, I have a thing for screechy vocals. As long as the singer doesn't bray, I'm all for shredded vocal chords. This guy rachets up the audio level on this one. It's quirky, fast-paced, with a blazing guitar part and the aforementioned scratching vocals. It's a perfect song if you need to wake up and/or want to coax laryngitis along. I can't let the post go by without mentioning that they're from Athens, the music hub of the South (hush, Nashville).

Yes, I do kinda look like Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth

The Whigs' Website and Myspace

I really wish I could afford to go to the Middle Eastern restaurant. Maybe I'll order Chinese later.

Thank God--something in here--I think air fragrance-- is overriding the food smell. I hope this hankerin' for barbeque goes away.

My back really hurts from this couch. I think next week I'm stayng at home. Mr. Yawning Man finally moved.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Pogues, If I Should Fall From Grace With God
(Rhino Reissue, 2006)

"Punk" isn't a genre of music so much as it's a style in which other genres can be played. Since the 70's advent of punk, different sub-genres have popped up: country-punk, pop-punk, electro-punk, probably even frikkin' polka-punk (I'll leave Weird Al Yankovic to sort that one out). Some of the best Clash songs were basically pop songs done in an assertive, "punk" manner (don't get your ragged underwear in a knot over the suggestion that The Clash were pop. I'm not talking about Justin Timberlake pop, I'm talking about pop as in "has melody" and "more than a few chords". "Lost In The Supermarket" and "Train In Vain"--which plays on my local 80's station--are two very prominent examples.)

The Pogues was probably the first band to merge rowdy punk with rowdy bar-room Irish music. The Pogues wrote traditional Irish music and ripped it apart until it was purely, aggressively punk. This is evident in the first song on the album, the title track. It has the lightning-quick tempo of any bar song anyone's ever danced to. The violin is played as a fiddle and the result is all the more Irish for the harmonica and Shane MacGowan's scratchy, shredding vocals (listen to "Bottle of Smoke" for an idea of how much he can tear his voice apart for a song.) The subject matter could be Ireland: "This land was always ours, was the proud land of our fathers, it belongs to us and them, not to any of the others". This isn't the only neo-traditional Irish foot-stomper: "The Battle March (Medley)" (one of the bonus songs) sounds like it would be a great entry to one of the "Songs of the Celts" compilation CDs. In fact I think any one of those cds could do with one less Clannad song (there are hundreds of them anyway) and include this instead.

Even the songs with more international leanings such as "Turkish Song of the Damned" and "Fiesta" sound like Irish songs played with mostly non-Irish traditional instruments. "Turkish Song of the Damned" starts off as an approximation of Middle-Eastern music, but with the addition of the tin whistle soon leaves even the most un-Irish person wanting to drink to freedom in a bar-room on the Emerald Isle. They try to imitate a mariachi band in "Sketches of Spain". I won't say they succeed, but it does manage to sound a little less Irish than the other songs.

Besides writing oddly traditional sounding songs, the band also Include several genuinely traditional songs such as "Worms", "South Australia" and "Mountain Dew". "Worms" is almost dirgish--kinda scary, like something Neil Gaiman would think of in the middle of the night and use in the audio version of one of his books.

Though these songs are billed as "traditional", there's no mention of the culture the tradition stems from. "South Australia" is most likely Australian--it recounts the story of a person born and raised in Australia. Still sounds Irish, though. "Mountain Dew" seems to be Irish--he mentions Ireland, but do not ask me to translate what the hell the man is saying. I have no idea and I may hurt myself if I try to figure it out.

The most famous song from this collection is the Kirsty MacColl duet "Fairytale of New York". As well as writing energetic and engaging quasi-traditional pub songs, MacGowen and his partners write beautiful ballads, this being one of them. The bittersweet story of Irish Immigrants in New York at Christmas, Kirsty MacColl's wistful vocals and the lamenting piano add another layer of snowy gauze over the nostalgic beauty of this composition, made even more nostalgic by the knowledge that Kirsty passed away in 2000 (If you haven't heard any of her music, it's well worth investigating.) "Lullabye of London", another lovely ballad from this record, features (what I believe) is a dulcimer. This song, like many traditional folk ballads, is a prayer, a wish. In this case, he hopes "the ghosts that howl[ed] round the house at night" never keep the subject from sleep or cause her/him misery.

Hearing beautiful songs such as these makes it difficult to reconcile Shane MacGowan's reputation for irresponsible consumption of most things unhealthy. Don't make the mistake of thinking that his problems make him any less a songwriter or a performer. Even when he seemingly couldn't function he still gave the music and the shows his all. He was asked to leave The Pogues in the 90's because of his deterioration, but since he and The Pogues have reunited recently, there's hope that he's relaxed the hard-living somewhat.

The entire band give everything they have to these songs. Their reputation as multi-instrumentalists is borne out by their use of such eclectic instruments as the tin whistle, accordion, mandolin, dulcimer, cello, banjo and spoons (!). Yes, they use spoons. One of the most engaging aspects to a Pogues album is there's no limit. For a self-financed record, this is more intricate and involved than some of the most richly moneyed current CDs.

The Rhino 2006 reissue includes the original layout along with six additional songs, including a beautiful, lilting song named after MacGowan's ex-girlfriend, Shanne Bradley and the aforementioned "South Australia", "Battle March" and "Mountain Dew". It also includes a few paragraphs by Steve Earle recalling some very memorable nights of duets and drunkenness.

There's also a very long essay on the circumstances before and during the recording of the album. The Pogues were stuck in a legal quagmire with their collapsing label. To keep from losing their work, they self-financed If I Should Fall From Grace With God--they played live constantly just to make ends meet. They saw their album banned in Britain because of the song "Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six", a commentary on the erroneous jailing of six people for a Northern Ireland bombing. The situation of these men was immediate and very disturbing for all citizens of Ireland; any creative person living during that time couldn't help but make it a part of their work. The Boomtown Rats wrote "I Hate Mondays" regarding the ongoing strife in Northern Ireland and The Pogues made this song. Obviously being banned in England didn't hurt their career; it probably helped get the attention they deserved.

If you've never heard this album and appreciate good, rousing Irish punk, I would recommend it. Getting the reissue means you get more music and more robust liner notes. Whether you're the traditionalist who wants the album as it was, new liner notes and songs be damned, or you're the person who wants the latest and most enhanced version around, this record still stands as the penultimate Irish recording of the 80's (okay, we'll put U2 in another category because they just can't be compared).

The Rhino reissue can be found here. Credits and song titles can be found here. Also, they have a website.

Personal Note:

Writing reviews is tough for me. I'm not a natural non-fiction writer. I write strange fiction with characters that barely seem plausible. Writing about real stuff is hard for me. Description is hard for me, which is one of the reasons I write reviews. I hate doing it and I'm not good at it, but as a writer it would be beneficial to me to become better at "description".

Soon I'll begin work on the review for Tori Amos: Selections From A Piano Collection. I don't know yet how I'm going to write a review on part of a CD, but I'll figure it out.

If you see anything wrong about this review, let me know. Did I get someone's name wrong? Spell something wrong? I'm sure I made some mistakes, but hopefully not anything too unforgivable.