Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dear Music of the 2000's

Hello! I know you're busy wrapping things up and all, so I'll keep this brief. I feel like I need to ask you a question before you're totally history and stuff, so here goes. Why do I feel so underwhelmed by you? Pretty much everybody in the whole wide world has put together exhaustive "best of the decade" lists and each and every one I've seen leaves me underwhelmed and anxious. And yet, when I look back at the 1990's, there's stuff like this:

Maybe it's just me, you know? But there's nothing from the 2000's that makes me feel like that. So, with all due respect, please don't feel bad that I have no plans to roll out some decade music retrospective. There's enough of those, and they all kind of feel like the time Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Academy Awards. But she's on The View now discussing the difference between "rape" and "rape-rape" and stuff, so things can still turn around for you Music of the 2000's. Maybe you just need more time. Maybe I just need more time. It's been real.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wonder Twins: Fiery Furnaces, Dent May and Cryptacize at the Magic Bag in Ferndale 11.11.09

It was kind of a toss up as to what show we'd end up covering for the Wonder Twins column this week, but with both D'Anne and I fighting off colds and (in D'Anne's case) a possible kidney stone, seeing this show at the Magic Bag was an obvious choice. Why? No smoke. Plus, a pretty sweet line up. But mostly, the lack of smoking. So to the Magic Bag we went.

I love going to shows, but the smoking thing keeps me from going out as often as I would like. I really wish more venues would consider going smoke free - even just for a couple of nights a week. There's all this talk about people not going out to shows and how to fix that, and I have no idea what the answers are. But I do know that a show at a smoke filled room that doesn't even start until 10pm on a weeknight is very unlikely to make my "must attend" list at this point. It just becomes such a chore. Getting home super late, having to take a shower and wash all the clothes my girlfriend and I were wearing (and if it's cold, that includes coats - this can equal a whole load and a half of laundry!) and waking up the next day tired with a raspy throat and sore eyes. Just thinking about it exhausts me. Sometimes a show looks great, but I think to myself, "gee, I'm already behind on laundry." Then I stay home. I don't think I'm alone. Possibly the only one uncool enough to admit it, but I can't be the only one.

Reasonable (and consistent!) door and start times and no smoke. I have a hard time believing these are totally impossible and radical ideas. And it seems to be working for other cities so it couldn't hurt to try it here, right? If other things are not working (and it seems like they're not), maybe it would be worth a try.

Oh! Also, this is tomorrow. It should be awesome, and I would love to see you there.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sing Your Life

If you're wondering how big a music nerd you are, you will easily be able to tell by how long this NPR link keeps you occupied...

50 Great Voices: Help Us Choose

From the site:

In January 2010, NPR will launch a year-long exploration of 50 great voices in recorded history. The series isn't an attempt to catalog the so-called "greatest" singers. Instead, we hope to discover and re-discover awe-inspiring vocalists from around the world and across time.

NPR presents to you the top 126 choices, whittled down from thousands of listener nominations. Your job is to try to choose only five from this list to nominate for the top 50. I must say, I'm highly impressed with the diversity of the 126 listed here. Clicking through them, I've run across several artists I've always meant to listen to and explore (Chet Baker, Jackie Wilson, Celia Cruz) and several I've never heard of but now want to investigate (Amalia Rodrigues, Connie Smith, Elis Regina). I'm telling you - it's a music nerd trap of the highest order.

I know, I know - you're just dying to know who I voted for. Well, here are my votes - the first three will be no big surprise:

Morrissey - His voice is unmistakable, and his music has shaped my life more than any other musician.

Tom Waits - The gruffness and the heartache. It gets me every time.

Nina Simone - There are two kinds of people in this world. People who love Nina Simone, and people who are stupid.

And then these two ladies:

Lata Mangeshkar - She is known as the "Queen of Bollywood Music"and is one of the most recorded voices in the world. The only other person who comes close (and according to some, actually surpasses her) is her sister Asha Bhosle.

Asha Bhosle - I'll admit - I just couldn't choose between them! Not for lack of distinction, but because they're both amazing and responsible for some of my favorite music of all time.

Now, there is one person I wanted to vote for, and was surprised to not find on the list:

Blossom Dearie - Her voice is simple, yet unique and moving. One of my favorite singers of all time. It's tragic she's not on the list - particularly since she just passed away in February of this year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lone Star State

To tide you over for a bit more in this Pillow Fights slow period, I present you with a piece written by my friend Nick. He and his wife live in Austin - a city where everything is cooler despite the fact that it is surrounded by (and inexplicably an official part of) Texas. Anyway, his Unfit Times piece is about Ida Maria and the music industry and is really good. Even though I still forget that Ida Maria and Rainer Maria are not the same.

Also, for those of you who have been wondering where to turn now that Jarvis Cocker is perfectly happy churning out crap tunes, I have the answer. Chicago's Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. Think pre His N' Hers Pulp with more care free jangle. They were supposed to play Detroit a couple of months ago, but their entire tour got scrapped because of a tour van accident. I figured they abandoned the tour due expensive van damage, but further investigation revealed that every single member of the band was hurt in the accident - some are still recovering/doing physical therapy, etc. So sad! Their record ... and the Horse You Rode In On just came out in September. Consider it your contribution to health care reform and buy a copy. Also, Nick's wife Meghan is responsible for bringing SYGC to my attention, so this entire post is brought to you by the coolest couple in Austin, TX.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Long play

Ah, November. Just like every year since I got my official music geek merit badge, the start of this month means one thing - it's time to get crackin' on my end of the year list. All the music releases of the year of our lord 2009 scramble in my brain as I try to sort through and figure out my favorites. There's still a few things I need to hear, some records I need to spend more time with and tons of others that I already know are contenders, I just don't know how they fit yet.

A friend recently remarked that, this whole "digital age" thing has really had a huge impact on the role of the full length record. Some bands are swearing off the long play format for future releases. Many more are putting out their best material spaced out over several EPs (some of which never see physical formats but are digital only offerings) rather than blowing their musical wad (did I just say that?) on one expensive to make, hard to sell and increasingly difficult to market hard copy product.

So is it really fair to judge the best music of the year based on full lengths only? Probably not. But I've given it a lot of thought, and for me, it just raises the bar for what I'll consider for my list, and makes me more appreciative of records that are solid and worthy of consideration. Does that mean some really great music might get left out? Maybe so... but I like parameters. And really, who's to say I won't look at the evidence and see I need a "best songs" or "best EPs" list as well? Only time and the extent of my OCD will tell! But as long as I have enough contenders before me, I'll stick with the album format for my main year end list while recognizing that not that far down the road, such a criteria could very well be an anachronism.

That said - any recommendations of stuff you think I should check out are welcome.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Ain't No Joke

So I spent last evening at the Crofoot for the "Creepy Cheapy Halloween Spectacular Shiny Shiny Fun Good Times Spectacular." I actually woke up this morning because I couldn't stop thinking about what bands I wanted to see these bands be next year. That's the kind of nerd I am. But here's my quick recap so I can get it out of my brain and move on with my day.


Devo is a perfect choice for Silverghost and their entire set was totally fun. Dressing the part with the look from the "Whip It" video (complete with little red flower pot hats), they opened with "Girl U Want" which is one of my childhood favorites. I am pretty sure I had the 7" of this one as a child. Perfect way to start off the night.
Laura's picks for Silverghost next Halloween: B-52's, Blondie, Gary Numan

Bars Of Gold/Talking Heads
Up until they started playing, I was under the impression that it would be Wildcatting, but it is my understanding that Bars Of Gold are a Wildcatting related project, so this is acceptable. I love the Talking Heads and from the very first song was really impressed by the Bars Of Gold version of the band. During "Once In a Lifetime" they invited Silverghost/Devo on stage, which led to a fantastic music geek moment. The Crofoot's own Greg Baise came up to me and said, "The choreographer of the 'Once In a Lifetime' video was a singer/dancer/choreographer named Toni Basil. And Devo was the backing band on her first album!" He then pointed at the stage smiling and said, "they probably don't even realize it!" This is why, when I finally make it out to PJ's Lager House for quiz night, Greg is totally on my team.
Laura's picks for Bars Of Gold next Halloween: Roxy Music, Jane's Addiction

Prussia/Velvet Underground
Although I know I lose valuable music snobbery points, I have to confess - I just don't care much for the Velvet Underground. Sure a handful of songs and certainly some of Lou Reed's solo work, but overall I've never really gotten it. Prussia did an admirable job and I had a lot of fun watching them play - mostly because I just love Prussia. I was happy that they closed their VU set with "If You Close the Door" because that's actually one of the few songs by them that I love. Moe Tucker just sounds so earnest and cute and it's such a simple song.
Laura's picks for Prussia next Halloween: Of Montreal, The Pixies, The Replacements

Allan James & the Cold Wave/Weezer
Outside of their first record, I don't really care about Weezer. But that first record was fantastic and a staple in my formative years. Dressed in brown cardigans ala the "Buddy Holly" video, Allan James and Co. were adorable. They even had a big light up Weezer "W" behind them. They opened with a spot on version of "My Name Is Jonas" that actually brought a nostalgic lump to my throat. Their whole set was great - if they wanted to like, work the Weezer cover band circuit for a living, they totally could. Ryan Allen's Weezer guitar work was amazing. Is there a Weezer "Guitar Hero?" If so, don't play him. Ever.
Laura's picks for Allan James & the Cold Wave next Halloween: Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Superchunk, The Cars

Marco Polio & the New Vaccines/The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
I didn't get to see a lot of their set. If an announcement hadn't been made from the ballroom stage that they were, at that moment, playing in the Pike Room, I would've missed it. But what I did see was great - I don't know the Yeah Yeah Yeahs stuff enough to really know how "well" they were covering the songs - but it was a fun, screamy frenetic mess which made some people turn around and leave. It was pretty awesome stuff. I need to see these guys more often.
Laura's picks for Marco Polio & the New Vaccines next Halloween: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails

Child Bite/Rage Against the Machine
I was never a Rage Against the Machine fan. Something about seeing a whole bunch of angry while kids in Che Guevara t-shirts running around screaming "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" just never really appealed to me. I also think that's the only song by them I really know. I missed Child Bite's infamous Nirvana performance last year and didn't want to miss them two years in a row. They wasted no time and started right into "Killing In the Name" and it sounded awesome. I didn't know sax could fit so well into a Rage Against the Machine set, but it was sweet. I figured the crowd would be wild, but holy shit. They lost their minds. There's something particularly insane about seeing Mr. Bill with both middle fingers up in the air as Bert (I'm guessing Ernie's more into twee pop) slam dances with Mario and Luigi. I think slam dancing is the release of latent homosexual tension. Thankfully I don't have any of that so I don't have to engage in such things. Also, props to Shawn Knight for recreating bassist Tim Commerford's sleeve tattoos. Nice touch.
Laura's picks for Child Bite next Halloween: Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool

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