Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season

After a long day of fighting holiday crowds and insanely cold weather, I came home to find an e-mail from my advisor sitting in my inbox.

"Thought you might be interested. Hope you're doing well . . . -- TAS"

Smiling, I clicked on the attached link. It brought me to a blog entry entitled "The Best Music of 2008." Oh yeah, I thought. It is about that time.

As the days dwindle closer to the end of December and each of us takes stock of the past year, the powers that be (or any schmuck with a blog or a column) in the music world do the same, releasing lists of the top (in their opinion) albums and singles of the year.

Although it may seem arbitrary to find out what did or did not make so-and-so's list, oftentimes the music that they choose represents music that was noticeable, if not notable. It is music that caused some kind of a stir; music that affected the culture as a whole, connected us, changed us.

When you think about it, music defines a year as much as the major events that happened, the clothes people wore or fads in pop culture. Like a soundtrack to a movie, each year lives and is forever remembered in the context of certain songs.

In the same way that the context we hear music in personalizes that music, so I think the music that accompanies our lives molds and changes us. Did we know joy before "Singin' in the Rain" or loneliness before "Piano Man?" Maybe so, but hearing those songs for the first time is like the difference between seeing a picture of a skydiver and feeling the rush of air against your skin and the thrill and terror in your stomach as you plummet towards the ground. Hearing those songs, we are Dorothy, stepping into bright technicolor and changing our view of our grey beginnings forever.

So what are your top picks of 2008?

Here are links to a few different versions of the top albums and singles of 2008:

the Slate list
Rolling Stone's list
Rolling Stone's list, part 2
Sondre Lerche's list (he has interesting things to say, though he doesn't seem too fond of music journalists...oh well)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Funny Music

In a scene often rampant with egomaniacs, pretentious pricks, too-obscure-for-you bands and self-indulgent artists, it can be refreshing to encounter musicians who don't take themselves too seriously. Here are a few:

Jack Black/Tenacious D
Behind all that funny, Jack Black packs some pretty impressive musical chops. This one is just him in a clip from School of Rock.

Legend Of The Rent - Your Not Hardcore - School Of Rock

Barenaked Ladies
Though not all of their songs are meant to be humorous, songs like "If I Had a Million Dollars" and "Grade Nine" are charmingly funny, like those friends you had in high school who could always make you laugh.

If I Had $1,000,000 - Barenaked Ladies

Flight of the Conchords
A little underground, a little comedy club, this duo is nothing short of hilarious.

Business Time - Flight of the Conchords

Adam Sandler
Funny and somehow cute even when he's being offensive. (Maybe it's just because I'll always see him as the wedding singer...or Billy Madison)

The Thanksgiving Song - Adam sandler

Weird Al Yankovic
The father of comedic music.

amish paradise - Weird Al Yankovic

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Artist(s) You Should Know About: Sondre Lerche

Eeee! I am finally the owner of Phantom Punch, Sondre Lerche's second-newest major album. For some reason, it has been particularly hard to find, and I have been searching for what feels like forever for it. This means only EPs left, and I should have his entire discography.

Sondre Lerche is the only artist that I've ever tried this for. I have an album from this artist, a song or two from that one, but have never had the ambition (or the money) to try to get everything from other artists. It'd be exhausting, to tell the truth.

Having very ecclectic tastes in music (and being a very indecisive person), I always found it incredibly difficult to pick my top five or ten artists, let alone a favorite.

That is, until I 'met' Mr. Lerche. I don't know what it is, but something about his music is just right - even though it is different on each album. I first was introduced to it in high school when a friend of mine included a couple of his songs on a mix CD. It was love at first listen.

Although -- or maybe because -- he continues to tweak his sound on each album, he is one of the few artists who has survived my axe (or rather, disclusion from my iTunes library) during the transition from high school to college. Now that I am on the verge of entering into yet another phase of life, Lerche continues to be my favorite artist, and I doubt that will change any time soon.

As I've grown up, so has he. The 26-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist from Bergen, Norway has metamorphosed beautifully from the contemplative indie on Faces Down to the plugged-in poet on Two Way Monologue to the rocker on Phantom Punch and to the jazz crooner on Duper Sessions.

For the soundtrack to Dan in Real Life, he pulled a Simon and Garfunkel (you've seen The Graduate right?...right? If not, let me know and we'll remedy this immediately) by writing and performing almost the entire soundtrack. He's also a very charming live performer and a witty blogger. (Check out the blog on his website, which is listed at the bottom of this post)

There is something about Lerche's somewhat strange, completely unique voice that is so appealing. When he sings, it is like every fiber within him is straining with the passion and force of pushing out feelings so deep they can only be expressed as a musical wail. And yet, the subtext of the tortured artist is covered by a seeming effortlessness and laid back charm. When you listen to him and watch him perform, you simultaneouly see the little boy, with his heart in his hands his eyes wide with vulnerability, and the man, the sophisticated musician with the mad guitar skills and songs full of musical surprises and lyrical complexity.

I must confess that I don't feel that my writing can ever quite capture the essence of this amazing musician and how it feels to listen to his music. All I can say, is give him a listen(I suggest starting with Faces Down or Two Way Monologue), keep an open mind, and enjoy.

The official website

Sondre Lerche Daytrotter session

Sondre Lerche selections

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Like a Rolling Stone"

I thought that as long as I'm sitting here waiting for my iPod to charge before heading to the library, I might as well blog. I know I'm spoiled, but sometimes, I just can't handle the depressing, sterile environment of the campus library without my trusty, apple green friend to drown out the stupid people and keep me from having yet another anguished existential crisis. (For some reason, the campus library seems to spark those)

Anyway, I feel like ranting about something that has been bugging me:

The Rolling Stone has for many years held the respect of the music-loving world. A household name, it has established itself as a venerable source for concert reviews, band profiles, etc.

However, lately, I've noticed that the magazine is diverging from the high standard of music journalism that has music geeks and journalists alike drooling into their Cheerios.

It seems that the magazine is increasingly pandering to the celebrity-obssesed, teeny bopper crowd. It used to be a major accomplishment to get the cover of Rolling Stone. Now, any flash-in-the-pan can get featured.

I get that maybe you want expand into more of a general entertainment magazine, especially with the ever-downsizing climate of journalism these days. I totally get the whole "keeping current" and "making yourself more marketable" thing, but you're the fucking Rolling Stone! You don't need this.

Last month's cover featured Britney Spears. Reading down the list of teasers also on the cover ("Twilight's Sexy Vampire," "Gossip Girl's Mean Girl"), I felt like I was reading an issue of People. It's not just a one-time thing, either. Other covers have featured Brad Pitt, Barack Obama (nobody can say that I don't support Obama, but what does he have to do with music?), Chris Rock, The Hills (The HILLS!), Robert Downey Jr. and 30 Rock.

I know I'm probably coming off as a purist, but please, Rolling Stone. Leave the celebrity gossip to the celebrity magazines. There are enough of those already.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Artist(s) You Should Know About: The Shins

Let me know if you can think of a better title for that.

I've been trying to intersperse some regular segments with my other posts. So far, I just have Top Ten and Album Review, but I would like to add some concert reviews, Q and As and maybe even have featured guests (sort of like "What's On Your iPod?" if you read the campus paper).

The segment I'm adding today is a profile of favorite/noteworthy artists who I would recommend checking out. In this post I'm profiling The Shins.

The Shins were a gamble that turned out well for me. Wanting to try something new, I searched them on iTunes one day when I was buying music. I had heard they were good, and as a general rule, have found that I usually like bands that start with "the" (The Clash, The White Stripes, The Darkness...). I chose the middle album, because I usually find that they are the strongest; not so old that the artists were still trying to figure out their sound, but not so new that they've become cliched.

The album that I bought was Chutes Too Narrow. I gave it the customary full-album listen and couldn't believe my luck: I actually liked every song. Even with artists that I like, there are sometimes albums where this doesn't happen, and I've come to accept it as personal preference. Since then, I have become familiar with some more of their stuff, and so far, have liked it all.

The Shins have a unique sound and represent the perfect balance of indie and rock, of experimental and mainstream, of heartfelt and funny, serious and ironic.

The band consist of singer/guitarist James Mercer, keyboardist/guitarist/bassist Martin Crandall, bassist/guitarist Dave Hernandez, drummer Jesse Sandoval and keyboardist/singer Eric Johnson. They formed in 1997, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

...Oh, and yes, they are the band that Natalie Portman's character is listening to on Garden State.


Wincing the Night Away, 2007
Chutes Too Narrow, 2003
Oh, Inverted World, 2001

Favorite Tracks:
"New Slang," "Saint Simon," "Young Pilgrims"
New Slang (Album) - The Shins

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Be Loud

Man, isn't it a little cruel that we get through Tenth Week only to run face first into Finals Week?

With the many things that Finals Week brings come 23-hour quiet hours. Now, 23-hour quiet hours are probably a good idea and likely prevent many dorm neighbor deaths at the hands of disgruntled students who have been reading, say Milton for too long. However, this is also a long time to keep quiet. That is why the 'release hour' in which people are allowed to be as loud as they want is so great.

Here is a little something to blast once that beautiful hour comes:

This Is War - Ben Kweller

My Name Is Jonas - Weezer

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday! Celebrate!

Congratulations! We've officially made it to the last day of Tenth Week. If I could give you all gold stars, I would. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any on hand, so I give you Ringo Starr instead. Almost as good, right?

Also, happy birthday, Evan!!!!

Octopuss Garden - Ringo Starr

Friday, December 5, 2008

"It Gets Me So Pissed Off. It Makes Me Wanna Say..."

Because everybody could use a laugh at this point in Tenth Week:

I hate that they bleep out the swearing so here's a version where you can get the full effect of Folds' held out "FUUUUUUCK!!!!" (Trust me, it's real funny.) Cover your virgin ears if you have them (heh...right):

click here

Fun Fact: Weird Al Yankovic directed the video and makes a cameo in the producer scene.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Safety Dance

Stop. Stop everything. Drop what you're doing

That's right, I said dance.

Doesn't have to be good, doesn't have to involve music, doesn't have to be for anybody but yourself.

Sitting in front of computers or at desks, in the library getting progressively more depressed by the sickly glow of florescent lights, trapped in tiny practice rooms, or wherever you are, I know you need this. By this point in the week stress has probably built up to the point that your body is a bundle of nerves and all that pent up energy is bouncing around inside you like pinballs.

So, loosen up those muscles, forget about Tenth Week for a moment and have a little (gasp) fun. Here are a few songs to get you started:

"Play That Funky Music," Wild Cherry
Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry

"Hey Ya!," Outkast
Hey Ya - OutKast

"Sexy Back," Justin Timberlake
SexyBack - Justin Timberlake

"Are You Gonna Be My Girl?," Jet
Are You Gonna Be My Girl - Jet

"Love Stoned," Justin Timberlake
Love Stoned - Justin Timberlake

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Top Ten: Songs to De-stress By

Oof, anybody feeling the stress yet? I sure am. Here is a top ten list of songs to de-stress by:

"Aqueous Transmission," Incubus
Aqueous Transmission - Incubus

"Let Go," Frou Frou
couldn't find a decent player version, so here is the song.

anything Iron and Wine, here's "Jezebel"
Jezebel (LP Version) - Iron And Wine

anything Kings of Convenience, "I'd Rather Dance" is fun
Id Rather Dance With You (Radio Mix) - Kings Of Convenience

"Feeling Groovy," Simon and Garfunkel
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin Groovy) - Simon & Garfunkel

"Kathy's Song," Simon and Garfunkel ("April" is a close runner up)
Kathys Song - Simon & Garfunkel

anything Jack Johnson, "Bananna Pancakes" is good
Bananna pancakes

"Helplessly Hoping," Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Helplessly Hoping - Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young

"Photographs and Memories," Jim Croce
Photographs And Memories - Jim Croce

"The Crane Wife 3," The Decemberists
The Crane Wife 3 - The Decemberists

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Even Rocky Had a Montage! (Montage!)"

10 points if you can name the movie that's from.

There comes a time in even the most productive person's work when they hit a brick wall. Not literally of course, that would hurt. No, I'm talking about that moment when suddenly, all drive to do work leaves and one becomes incapable of doing anything but staring off into space, daydreaming or sleeping.

In times like these, it can help to have a motivational song. I mean, let's face it. Even Rocky needed one, and who are we to argue with that? What's good enough for Rocky is good enough for us.

My song just so happens to be "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. Every time I feel my drive waning, I hum a few bars to myself. Does wonders.

Since I'm feeling generous, I'll share:

Eye Of The Tiger - Suvivor

For a laugh here's "that Starbucks commerical":

And, because I can't resist, a Rocky montage: