Saturday, January 07, 2006

Song Eight

This holiday season, while our children were still in school, we finally got to see a few movies. One of these was Walk the Line, which my husband rightly noted had more story and acting in any random five minutes than one could find in all of King Kong (boring, bad and long--a trifecta). Plus, WTL features the ever hard-livin' Shelby Lynne (dear readers, go buy I am Shelby Lynne right now). WTL also has my absolutely, hands-down favorite line in all of 2005 moviedom: "That boy Elvis sure do like to talk poon." I almost did a spit take of my snuck-in Tab. Perfect!

As a young girl, all I knew about Mr. Cash came from the single "A Boy Named Sue"--which kind of lumped him in with Ray Stevens (yes, I am old). Oh, and I remember he and Mrs. Cash were on a Columbo once. So, time warp forward to the post-Rick Rubin years, and I got to see the whole gang live. It was a great show, but it didn't inspire me to go on a buying binge. The remarkable and winsome energy on display in WTL, though, did make me want to download Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash's "Jackson." And, really, it was more for Mrs. Cash's wonderful hollering growl of a voice than her husband's. When I did see them in concert, I remember thinking, "She is a real piece of work." Hearing her at her prime, so winning and sassy--what a hoot! This is the "His Girl Friday" of country duets: fast, witty, and full of heat. Listen and learn, gals.

357 to go.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Song Seven

First, in this week's EW, Fred Armisen's "Celebrity iMix" is a top pick. Puhleeze. Have you ever browsed through the "celebrity" iMixes? So many problems. A: iTunes has adopted a remarkably generous definition of celebrity (clearly following the trail blazed by Dancing with the Stars). B: Almost to a one, these are the lamest lists I've ever read . . . and this is coming from someone whose first download was Mariah Carey's "Shake it Off"--great song btw. And, C: an unsurprising number of the celebrities put their own songs on their lists. Unfortunately, I can believe Steve Perry and William Shatner do listen primarily to their own music. And, while my husband thinks it a striking statement that Frank Black's list consists entirely of Burl Ives tunes, I just find it kinda sad. So, message is--don't pick your songs from the celebrity iMixes.

On the other hand, I have had great luck with's best of 05 iMix. I don't know anything about WOXY, but it seems to have some fingers on the alterna-pulse. And, from this list comes song seven,
a few seconds of Sufjan Stevens's "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!" parts one and two. Mr. Stevens has popped up on all kinds of lists with his tribute to Illinois album, the follow-up to his Michigan album (which was also a critics' darling and off which I've heard nothing). This level of critical love makes me nervous, but let me tell you this song is super-cool. And at over 6 minutes, you'll get a real bang for your buck!

It falls into the "seven-layer bean dip" category: lots of instruments that envelop you and what I would call looped subliminal samples, where I'm thinking: "I know this . . . god, what is it?!" It's the kind of song I'd listen to repeatedly until I figured it out, which is fun. The lyrics are also really tightly packed. Plus, Mr. Stevens has a very comforting voice. Not archly sensitive or twee, just lyrical as it bounces along the Chicago River of the music.

This is one of the first iTunes I've bought that really makes me want to download the whole album--and not just because it includes a song titled, "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." (Well, maybe a little because.)

358 to go.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Song Six

I can't believe I'm missing Dancing with the Stars to write my blog. Why, oh why did I leave my laptop at work. Tatum O'Neal, Drew Lachey, and George Hamilton--the possibilities for dancing enchantment are gurgling all over. Still, I must blog on . . .

I was once driving across the state to attend a meeting the next morning. I tend to leave very late at night for these excursions, so I can first put my children to bed. In my haste to get out of the house and to my destination before 2 am, I forgot to bring any CDs, and on the radio, I caught a few seconds of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl." I spent the rest of the drive with my radio on scan trying to find the song and managed to listen to it about a dozen times--singing along the whole way. What a great song! (I once did the same thing with the Foo Fighters' "The Best of You," what a cutie that Dave Grohl is . . . but all that gum, yuck.)

Anyway, I dipped into the Stefani catalog for song six: "Luxurious." Why you might ask? Let me recount a conversation I recently had with my husband.

Husband: "It's just a theory, but you might spend less if you subscribed to fewer magazines devoted to consumption."

Me: "What's that supposed to mean?"

Husband: "Well, I'm not certain any one person is really supposed to subscribe to Lucky and Domino and InStyle and Cookie and Vanity Fair."

Me: "Well, I balance it out by occasionally buying Real Simple at the airport."

Husband: loving sigh

So, how could I not love a song with lines like "This kinda life is getting expensive" and "We're luxurious like Egyptian cotton" and "We're rolling in cashmere." Also, the production of this song is top notch and utterly lush and the slow, slow pacing is conspicuously opulent (it clocks in at over 4 minutes)--offering clever reinforcement of the lyrics. Plus, on the responsible side, I do think there's something in the song about not blowing all your cash and investing in long term love. At least that's how I read, "You're my mister. I'm your miss. Gonna be until we're old."

So, I remain convinced those loving sighs will go on for some time, Lucky or no Lucky. Man cannot live by the Progressive alone!

Anyway, as Gwen says, "this is how I roll" :)

359 to go.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Song Five

Ah, Death Cab for Cutie. Years back one of my husband's ex-bandmates burned him an entire collection of Death Cab for Cutie CDs. I can still see them, resting on our credenza in all their shiny silverness like a lost county waiting to be discovered. You know, Orange County, the O.C. Whither Adam Brody? He was so cute as Lane's boyfriend. And, poor Mischa Barton. She was nicely sporty as Evan Rachel Wood's girl crush on the long departed Once and Again. Now, she's much like the guitar playing skeleton on my son's night shirt. In his words, "Oh, that's scary."

But, I do digress. Song five is Death Cab for Cutie's "Soul Meets Body." The only DCC cut I own is on the Wicker Park soundtrack (don't ask). It's a spare acoustic cut. "Soul Meets Body" is far from spare. In the words of DCC's remarkably polished website, "Soul Meets Body" is their "chiming, addictive first single." Kind of starts like an Aztec Camera song. I like the stuff about the Greyhound Station, but I don't think anyone whose ever been to one would send anything there--ever. I get a Yes-feeling about the song that makes me a bit afraid of liking it too much (n.b., my husband disagrees). To my ears, the line between this tune and anything by the Polyphonic Spree (whom I like but find Jim Jones-scary, which may or may not be better than Jon Anderson-scary) is not especially thickly drawn. All told, "Soul Meets Body" is a peppy piece that has a very nerd-cool alternative sprezzatura about it, and I wouldn't send it to the bus station!

360 to go.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Song Four

This is coming in a bit early because tomorrow I'll be off working on some writing for which I really have a deadline. It's not nearly as fun as downloading music and rambling about it, but theoretically, I'll make some money off of it eventually. So, on to song four . . .

Alison Krauss and Union Station, "New Favorite." AKUS, an acronym I learned from CMT (ha!), is an act I've always liked but still couldn't commit to buying a CD from. Sure, I own O Brother Where Art Thou--try to swing a hobo (with or without bindle) without hitting someone who has that one--but the thought of too much fiddlin' makes me nervous. I'm also a bit troubled that Ms. Krauss herself is of the "ever-shrinking" school of fame-makeovers. Girl, there's some chicken, waffles, cornbread, and greens with your name on them in those hills!

I picked "New Favorite" based on the few second sample on iTunes. I bought the live version for reasons that escape me now, especially since there's too much applause at the end (caveat emptor). The song itself is nicely haunting. Here's an odd description of the music that might pique your interest: take "Untitled 3" from Sigur Ros's ( ) and add some vintage (say Making Movies) Mark Knopfler guitar. Stir slowly and relentlessly, then lay over that some quite beautifully sung lyrics that take a dark look at love.

It may be because I just got the latest Haven Kimmel and am thinking back over her oeuvre (say that quickly), but this song really seems like it could be the theme for Langston Braverman from The Solace of Leaving Early. If you don't have that--or all of Ms. Kimmel's books--shame on you, dear reader! The notion of "the favorite"--new and displaced--seems especially and appropriately grad-schooly.

361 to go.

Song Three

As I mentioned in my profile, I just received my first speeding ticket--ever--and I've been driving quite a while. My husband, no stranger to the radar gun himself, keeps reminding me that I more than earned this ticket, and he is astonished that, given my propensity for setting my own personalized speed limits, this is my first. Anyway, this initial brush with the law has engendered in me a deep desire to go on a three state crime spree (one with the lovely cinematography of Badlands coupled with many McGriddle stops). It's kind of the feeling you get when you're on a diet and give in to one Oreo: the "screw-it, I'm eating this whole freaking bag" feeling. So, given my sudden urge to crime, I chose as song three something that would straighten me out a bit: Kanye West, "Jesus Walks."

This is not a new song, nor is Mr. West new to me. For a middle-aged, white as Wonder mom, I have a surprising knowledge of rap music. I even own Late Registration, which has some outrageously great moments and some just plain silly ones but is still definitely a purchase worth making. (And, to anyone whose year end list criticized Mr. West for his increasingly self-centric lyrics . . . hello, this is rap, right??) Still, I do not own College Dropout, but because of the near constant Jarhead ads, I have been hypnotized by "Jesus Walks." So, I coughed up my 99 cents, and now it's mine!

When I think of Kanye West, I think of all the aggressively sullen and immensely intelligent African-American students I've ever taught . . . if they were given room in our culture to express not just their justifiable rage but also their remarkable wit. Wouldn't this be a much better place? "I need Jesus / Like Kathie Lee needed Regis"--that says it all.

We all listened to this song on the way to school this morning (unedited version, 'cause I'm keeping it real). At the end, my daughter said "Jesus?"--much in the way she might say "Verisimilitude?" or "Predictive Metrics?" This comment alone should tell you much about our family.

Before I close, I also have to re-emphasize the incredible joy that "Chicken Payback" has brought to my son. He listened to it on song-repeat all last night and again this morning. Band of Bees, I salute you!

362 to go.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Songs One and Two

That's right. I've discovered iTunes. In saying this, I'm perfectly aware that I'm far enough from the bleeding edge of technology that I shan't even skin my knee. Listen, the last three concerts I attended involved the Wiggles, Laurie Berkner, and Dan Zanes (who decades ago I saw in his original incarnation as a Del Fuego)--so the fact that I know how to download music at all should count for something.

Okay, the first song was an immediate crowd-pleaser for the whole family: A Band of Bees "Chicken Payback." Sounds like someone put the Hucklebuck in a blender with Laurie Berkner (shout out for the moms!) and added a nice distortion filter. We played it about four times on the way home, and it left my son literally crying in the car for more. Plus, it proved to be an excellent song to dance-paint the bathroom to. Turns out Band of Bees was up for the Mercury Prize, which is remarkably prestigious in that twee British eccentrically understated way--so clearly, their appeal reaches far beyond the Noggin shores and likely is the subject of a great paper somewhere on the parodic impulse of British pop.

Second song, a real rump shaker: M.I.A. "Galang." Galang is what happens when Shakira and Missy Elliot have a slumber party and watch Bend It Like Beckham--over and over. Again, a great dance-paint song (three guesses what I did over New Year's). I completely don't know what this song is about, nor I doubt will I ever (though it does involve a BMW). I do get a huge hit of Belle Stars nostalgia when I listen to this song. Anyone not of age in the 80s should check out their version of "Iko-Iko" and then listen to the "Galang" chorus. See, I used to know my stuff!

Just 363 more to go.