Friday, July 17, 2009

Bastards of Young

Bastards of Young by the Replacements
Pros: They rocked. They didn't give a fuck. They played drunk and were rowdy. They were silly and fun. And they gave us four great albums in a decade that people usually consider a music waste land (the 1980s)... They wrote songs about drinking at the bar! How great is that?!?!?! "I Will Buy", "Here Comes a Regular", "Beer for Breakfast" what's not to love there? Most bands claim to live the rock'n'roll life style. These guys did... Look in the 80s when hair and heavy metal was the it non-it music and the 'live the rock style' was in, these guys did it (tragically in the end... I mean how many guys die because they just partied too hard for 15 years? Sadly that is Bob Stinson)... they understand/understood irony, a must in my book in order to be the Greatest American Band... The idea of the Replacements has always been as big or bigger than the band itself. In America, this is a good thing... have been a huge inspiration for many and most good bands over the last 25 years.

Cons: Some people will say putting them up here is a stretch. 'The Mats weren't around all that long (tad over 10 years) and no one knows of them' they'll say, 'They're not even unknown but known like the Velvet Underground.' True, but when the 'Mats hit, there was nothing like them out there. And they influenced so many bands: pretty much any decent alternative, rock, or indie band of the last 20 years listened to the Replacements and you can hear that in so many songs... you might argue that they sound dated, but I think that's unfair... again, can a band that's pretty much unknown and underrated by the general population be considered the Greatest American band?... Are they too American or too real? Because they were so 'regular' didn't they fuck up just too much (they were banned from SNL for example)? Can the Greatest American Band really be guys who blew it more often than they should have? In a country were the Wizard of Oz was made and is probably the first or second piece of pop culture that we consume, doesn't the Greatest American Anything have to be a bit like the Wizard of Oz (and the illusion of) himself? There was no curtain with the 'Mats. They just were... Or could you say that since they always seemed to blow it some how, they were a bit like the underdog... I'm not sure.

Best Album: Flip a coin between "Tim" and "Let it Be".

Best Song: Bastards of Young -- "We are the sons of no one!" That's it. Done. They win.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rock With You

Rock With You by Michael Jackson

I know I write a lot of these with "maybe" but I like it... it works... so I'm doing it again.

Maybe it's the drums. Maybe it's the smoothness. Maybe it's the bass. Maybe it's Michael's voice. Maybe it's the kick ass chorus. Maybe it's the hand claps. Maybe it's the amazing bridge...
I don't know what it is exactly about this song, but when you put it all together it's one of the all time greats.

"When you feel that beat, We're gonna ride that boogie"

This was Michael at his best. A perfect blend of late 70s yacht rock, disco, pop, rock, and R&B. Michael is never over the top--a rarity for him--hitting each note almost subtly and flawlessly. It's a damn near perfect song.

Editors Note: I've covered Michael enough for the time, so I'll be moving on. I honestly thought I'd dive deeper into his cultural impact, but the music end up taking over. I'm sure a Michael song will come up from time to time from here on out... but for now, Bye Michael and thanks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Want You Back

I Want You Back by the Jackson 5

I've already written about this song, so I'm not going to talk about the great bass line or 11 year old Michael nailing this song like no one has really nailed a song ever since--and I'm dead serious about this... take a second and think of songs that the singer nails. And I'm not talking about Neko Case signing Star Witness, I'm talking Neko Case in "Letter From an Occupant" nailed. And honestly... I think Neko's performance in that song is one of the few that can compete with Michael in "I Want You Back." He owns this song. He doesn't miss a note, it's perfect (what he does with 'girl' is flat out unfair), and sings it with a desperation that is down right amazing.

And this is what makes this song, well, weird. Michael Jackson was 11 years old when he sang this song to the world. ELEVEN. He didn't know heartbreak. He hadn't been in love. Yet here he is singing a song that is all about that stuff, and he doesn't sound ridiculous in the process. He wants her back and you believe it... as unnatural as it is when you really think about it.

How will we remember Michael Jackson? It's far too early to say, but if it's anything like Elvis, then most of us will remember Michael as sort of a joke who made some great songs. But that will be unfair... Michael Jackson was always in the public eye. He didn't have a childhood. We made him a star and in the process took his childhood away. When I was eleven, I was playing baseball in the backyard. If Michael Jackson did that, even he knew he wasn't really playing baseball in the backyard like any other 11 year old.

I'm not saying that we, society, caused Jackson to become a freak... to become a joke -- we didn't. It was his parents that put him out there to entertain the world. And Michael was really really good at entertaining people with his dance moves and voice. But since he started so young and became famous at such a young age, we robbed him of anything 'normal' or 'typical'.

I know a bunch of people have pointed this out, but it's worth rehashing. Michael was probably always trying to get back to that age that they/we took away from him. And that age was 10. His success allowed him to do everything possible to try and get back to being 10. He ended up living a life that is the dream of almost every 10 year old boy.

But Michael could never go back. His path was made for him. And he didn't complain (at least publicly) in stead he took his opportunity and ran with it. Within 10 years of him singing "I was wrong to let you go" he had produced one of the greatest pop albums of all time AND what would become the biggest selling album of all time. By the time he was 22, Michael Jackson had, for all intents and purposes, conquered pop culture. No one before or since has come close.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Man In the Mirror

Man In the Mirror by Michael Jackson

"You can't close your... your mind!"

Michael Jackson songs were a lot of things: some were dance songs, some were love songs, some tried to save the world and others attempted to bring racial peace, but no matter the message his songs were, for the most part, fun. You could (and you wanted to) dance to them. Black or White, a song that I assume was trying to bring racial harmony to the world (and probably a bit biographical), in the end was just a fun song that made you want to move.

And that's what's so different about Man in the Mirror. A self help song if there ever was one, the lyrics can hit home if, say, you can't catch a break. Listen to this song, and you can't help but think, 'Hey, maybe it's me... I need to make a change!'

Man in the Mirror is an unbelievably well crafted song, starting off slow and letting Michael's voice shine with little background or arrangement help. It's a simple and subtle start and while the song builds a little bit over the first 2:30 or so, it also sounds a bit dated (a bit 80s if you will). But then at 2:52 the choir jumps in and pushes this song to another level... and Michael pretty much goes off doing Michael Jackson things with his voice.

However, no matter how well the song is arranged and how enjoyable the lyrics* are... the unintentional comedy scale hits near record highs when at the very end of the song as the music dies down and you think it's over Michael says/whispers, "Make that change." Never fails to crack me up... for all the obvious ironic reasons.

*even if it's obvious and cliche; the lyrics hit home.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


ABC by the Jackson 5

Seriously people... do we actually realize what kind of voice this boy (and man) had? I can't get over it. Throw in Motown arrangements and it was a can't miss.

And look at him move! Look at this kid! Look at him dance and the joy and the energy... this is pure pop bliss. This is music at its most fun. You have to smile when you hear this... you have to dance. There just isn't another way to take this in other than succumb to the joy of him singing.

No matter what happened after these young years -- no matter what Michael ended up looking like or what he did or even his music after his young years... those songs with the Jackson 5 -- ABC and I Want You Back especially -- are like nothing out there. Both songs are amazingly fresh and unbelievably fun. Pop music has few moments that ever reach the heights that these two songs reach. And sure, they're damn well written, but it's young, little Michael with his infectious energy and that voice. That voice of God. Ahhh, it's moments like when he sings "It's like counting up to three!" that I enjoy with a joy that makes my heart skip a beat.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)

P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) by Michael Jackson

It shouldn't have taken Michael Jackson's death for me to fire this blog up again... but here I am, bummed out about Michael's death and needing to figure out his life and his impact on pop culture. So I'm going to run down Michael's top songs, I've got a list of six right now, so I'll work off that.

P.Y.T. is fun, and if you went to the right places over the last five years, it's one of the few Michael songs you'd hear played. Unlike other Jackson songs it's aged increditably well. Fun, easy on the ears and makes one want to dance... pop doesn't get much better than this. P.Y.T. isn't Michael at the top of his game--there really was never a top for Michael, he just had a mind blowingly amazing 18 years--and it's not even the best song on this album. But unlike so many Michael songs, it's isn't forced or over the top. The song just moves along eventually hitting the show stopping, dance your ass off chours and top off by one of the bridges out there in music.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Big Star

Big Star by Haley Bonar

She's got the voice that's for sure. And she can write a great tune... just check this out here. And at such a young age, I can't help but think we're watching one of the next 'big' female stars/voices along the lines of, dare I say, Neko, Liz, or Lucinda.

(I also thought Annie would be the next female pop star back in 2005/2006, but I'm not sure what happened there... label problems?)

But Haley's got the voice to do it. It's huge and it doesn't sound nearly as big on any recording as it does live.

I love the guitar on this song... it's chilling yet beautiful. Stragley, I get a lot of pleasure when I can't fully articulate a sound and the feeling that sound gives me. You can say that saying something like that shows the weakness that I am as a writer (and you'd be right), but at the same time as David Byrne said, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture." The best songs and the greatest music are those that one can't fully articulate. The feeling is too great -- much like love -- that it's impossible to fully capture what a note, or voice, really does to the pit of one's stomach. When we're upset -- angry or sad -- the inability to express our feelings creates frustration which leads to us becoming more upset. But when it's a good feeling? It makes us (or just me) want to explode, in a good way -- to be so over come with a lovely emotion that it feels good all over is fantastic.

Anyway, that back ground slide like guitar? It makes me feel like that. Throw in that voice, and as John Madden would say, BAM! And that's why I come back to music... for those moments when a note or the way someone sings a line that make me feel good all over.

If you were ever wondering if God Exits, the answer is yes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dukes of Hazzard Theme

Dukes of Hazzard Theme by Waylon Jennings

The summer going into my freshman year of college I worked at a fish store. I was a fishmonger. It was a great place to work.

For some reason there was a PlayStation in the back room. And during our lunch breaks, if one decided to eat at the store, one could also play some video games. Some times I would do just that. And the game I played? Dukes of Hazzard. Eventually the goal was to see what level one could get to in an hour. Good times!

Now, the Dukes of Hazzard... I've seen the show. It's silly. It's fun. It's racist. It's awesome. It's sexist. It was a pop culture phenomenon. It portrayed Southerners as morons, hicks, and rednecks. But despite all this they turned it into a movie I did not see a few years ago.

I'm not sure where Daisy Duke falls into the whole pop culture pantheon, but she's got to be some where right? If for no other reason that putting the feminism movement back twenty years yet still inventing a fashion that lives on today... sadly, I haven't seen the Dukes enough to actually place them in this 21st century world that we live in.

I'm all over the place... time to end this.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Not For You

Not For You by Pearl Jam

Is it me or did this song some how get lost in the late 90s? This was a really good song. Eddie's voice is interesting and you sort of want to sing like how he sings.

This song just rocks.

Oh yeah, the bridge sucks. But it's fifteen years old now, which is sort of old, but is sounds fresh (other than that bridge). Music doesn't rock out enough these days, and even bands that do rock out, don't really rock out (other than Wolfmother but what happened to those guys?). Rocking out is a lost art.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rainy Day

Rainy Day by Coldplay

Okay you know how I'm more fascinated with Coldplay than just about anyone (not they can't just be good, I have to look at them at every angle possible). There is good Coldplay (this is the Coldplay that sells out arenas and tries to be U2). There is sucky Coldplay (see: X&Y). And there is wow, this band can write really good songs that take some chances (see: Shiver).

This song falls into the wow, this band can write really good songs that take some chances.

I'm not sure what it is about this song, maybe it's the chorus with the strings and Martin singing "I love it when you come over to my house". I guess this song is sort of cheesy, but at the same time it seems so honest.

But I'll just face the music. I love the chorus. It's simple, it's lovely, it's hopelessly romantic, yet totally realistic. That moment when someone comes over... that's just so great. The woman/man you love at your place, on your couch, in you bed... that's how it should be.

"But I love it when you come over to my house, I love it when you come over to my house"

NOTE: sorry about the month off, but I fried my laptop and it took forever to move my songs from my old hard drive to the new one. And yes, it is that hard to do this on an iPod. So I just waited until I could actually get a good shuffle.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Immigrant Song

Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin

There is something so effing awesome about this song.

There is something so effing cheesy about this song.

I've got a new theory about "III". It's basically Jimmy Page showing off. And it's awesome. And therefore it isn't the worst Zeppelin album as I always thought in high school (personally, "IV" or whatever we're calling it today, is the worst Zeppelin song because really it's a singles album). In fact, the idea of one guy in the band just showing off for an entire album and the band being cool with it (apparently) is pretty cool.

Page is downright dirty on this album, he seems bored that he can play the guitar as well as he can. He does things with the guitar that don't really fit into half the songs, but since he can do it, he does it, and it some how works. Take his work on this song. I'm not sure what or why he does what he does in the second half of the song, but because he can do it, he does it, and it sounds good (I've just set the record for pronouns used in one sentence!)

Okay... Immigrant Song... okay... well don't they play this at every hockey game in North America? Isn't this the unofficial, official song of the NHL? Since it's Zeppelin and Plant sings "Land of the ice and snow" hearing this at an NHL game is as certain as hearing "I Will Survive" at a wedding.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stay or Leave

Stay or Leave by Dave Matthews

On a cold day in the middle of March, this song fits the mood. And I haven't broken up with anyone.

Since I'm not in a melancholy mood, where do break up songs fit into day-to-day life? I guess we can be taken back to past loves, but dwelling on past lovers isn't something I would guess most of us do unless something strikes us. A location, a picture, a song, a TV show... to bring back the memory. But just a random break up song? Nah. It doesn't flood my mind with images of the woman I've dated.

Of course that's me. That doesn't apply to everyone (I assume). So what happens to break up songs when we haven't broken up with someone? Do we keep them in the back of our mind and forget about them entirely? Or are they like a potato peeler... something you take out only when you need them.

I honestly don't know. I listen to "Last Goodbye" a lot more when I'm in the process of or just have broken up with someone. Does that mean at some point in my married life I'll never listen to "Last Goodbye" again? Will I just skip it? Or will I let it take my mind to the girl it associates at that moment?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Piano Man

Piano Man by Billy Joel

I think I'm in the minority here, and while I like this song, I don't think it's all that great. Maybe it's the uninspiring bass line.

But it's not. I'll admit it. I hate the down-on-my luck lyrics. I can't stand the people at the bar... I can't stand their defeatist bullshit. And I can't stand Joel's Piano Man... the man who makes them forget about life instead of inspiring them to do something about it all.

I know this is Joel's first big hit and it isn't a do or die song. But it sounds like a do or die song. Joel sings it as if this is his last chance in the music business. But it wasn't. And it pisses me off.

See a do or die song is Springsteen's "Born to Run". That really was Bruce's last chance. And he pours everything and then some into that song (and album). Sure it's over the top and the lyrics can be laughable at times, but it throws caution into the wind. It's about Bruce and the American Spirit.

But Piano Man? It sounds nice, it moves you, if you're drunk it's a fantastic song, but it's calculated. And Billy Joel knew it was going to be a hit. The Piano Man is a pretentious hero who helps people forget about their pathetic lives. What's the difference between the Piano Man and drugs? Should the song and the Piano Man himself, strive to be more? Should the writer and the narrator want to inspire instead of trying to tell us that he can save us for five minutes at a time? Big deal... there are so many distractions in the modern world that getting away from life isn't difficult and one should not be proud of such 'ability'.

Thirty-five years later, the sad (or ironic) part is that Billy Joel is now one of the losers he sings about in this song. He has become the drunk. On the irony scale where would Joel listening to this song at a bar rank?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I Want To Hold Your Hand

I Want To Hold Your Hand by the Beatles

I read somewhere once (probably some review of the "I Am Sam*" soundtrack) that it is impossible to mess up most Beatles songs because they're so well crafted.

And this song is living proof of that theory. It might be the best crafted pop song of all time. As I wrote about a year ago:

"I Want to Hold Your Hand" features hand claps... you've got to love how the drums and Harrison's guitar work together... the song is about love, puppy love on top of it... the song builds up throughout, but the amazing thing is that it you really never know what it coming next. When they throw that bridge at you about halfway though the song, it's so out of the blue yet so perfect. I mean there may not be a more perfectly put together song out there.

This is pure pop bliss. There is nothing wrong with this song. Nothing. And once TV Carpio and her voice got a hold of this song... well it just goes to show how great of a song it is.

The Beatles' original is perfect because of how they play the song--the instruments, the unpredictability, and and words. TV's cover is great because of her voice... they down play the unpredictability of the song which sort of sucks. But she sings the song without any noise--true, she's showing off--and it gives the song a new lease. It's cleaner. It soars. It's beautiful...

God, I love this song. It's the type of song that makes you love music even more. It's the type of song that makes you love pop music. It's the type of song that makes you want to turn on a Michael Jackson song just so you can hear his voice. It's the type of song that makes you want to have a Coke and smile. It's the type of song that makes you realize that holding the right some one's hand is so much better than sex.

* Insert Sean Penn comment here: ______________________________________________________________

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Everything in it's Right Place

Everything in it's Right Place by Radiohead

It's been a while, I know, but I've been busy out of my ears. But I'm back... if you even cared/missed me.

My freshman year of college—during the fall especially—I hadn't found my niche. And what I ended up doing to kill the time on Friday and Saturday nights would be to walk. I'd hop on the Metro, and then walk from DuPont west into Georgetown eventually hitting the Barnes &Noble on M Street.

Kid A was released the summer or fall of 2000. And this album was always on display which allowed me to throw on some headphones and listen. Every time I found myself in that Barnes & Noble, I would throw on the headphones and listen to "Everything in the Right Place". In my mind I'd debate if "waking up sucking on a lemon" was one of the worst lyrics I'd ever heard. But I loved the organ, it fit those some what lonely weekend nights, some how giving me comfort as I waited to fit my place, my friends, in college.

After the song ended, I'd put down the headphones, maybe browse for a few more minutes, and then head out into the streets of Georgetown... wondering who lived in all those beautiful houses.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This Love

This Love by Maroon 5

I have no clue who's in this band, but I love the dude's voice (sorry for using dude there). At least during the chorus, it just sounds neat-o.

Now, do I have anything to say about Maroon 5?


So I'm going to talk about how stupid the Grammy's are. I turned on the last ten minutes and unless you're down with:
a) Bizarre musical pairings that never ever work and
b) The winners being stupid, bad bands/groups who don't make good music...

Well the Grammy's are for you.

The Grammy's would be cool if say Coldplay and U2 played a song together. Or Bruce Springstein played Mr. Bojangles. Or Neutral Milk Hotel reunited. Basically it'd be cool if the could get the ironic forces of pop music to collide... or if they had our favorite good musicians play kick ass covers. But that doesn't happen. Instead we get to see Stevie Wonder play with the Jonas Brothers (not sure if this happened, but you half believe me don't you... which is exactally my point).

It'd also be good if the winners were actually good. But instead we see Robert Plant winning for some soft rock crap that he put out... not for anything he ever did with Led Zeppelin. How Radiohead didn't win album of the year I will never know. I mean it isn't even a contest... you cannot tell me that Robert Plant's soft rock album was better than Radiohead. BECAUSE IT'S IMPOSSIBLE! RADIOHEAD IS BETTER, THIS IS LIKE COMPARING BABE RUTH TO KEVIN MENCH.

Okay, for some odd reason I'm talking about the Grammy's which only gives them bizarre creditability... so I'm stopping. Maroon 5... yeah... interesting... not really.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rain King

Rain King by Counting Crows

I'm not sure there is a song out there that makes me feel better and love life more... I mean everything about it is happy (well maybe not the lyrics), but the chords... so happy. So carefree. You can hear the band having fun playing this song.

I love that. When others are having fun, it rubs off on everyone... if most of us are having a good time then all of us are having a good time.

I guess you could call this song A Fun Drunk. You know, the guy or girl who you always love to see and hang out with when they've had a few drunks (amazingly, it was "Friends" that first tapped into this way back when with "Fun Bobby").

Rain King, the fun drunk song, the song you love to hear in almost any situation... which come to think of it is unlike the fun drunk (face it, you only want to see them on a Friday or Saturday night... and never ever during the day).

And sadly, I've been call a fun drunk (or Fun Bobby)... this is heartbreaking. Was I now fun to these people sober? Was I only worth a few drinks and a Friday night to them? I want more meaning than that damn it...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dry The Rain

Dry The Rain by The Beta Band

The songs I listened to the most in 2008:
1) Mansard Roof by Vampire Weekend
2) Cinderella's Daydream by Zuzu's Petals
3) 11:11 by Andrew Bird
4) Walcott by Vampire Weekend
5) Don't Forget Sister by Low vs Diamond
6) Queen of Everything by Haley Bonar
7) Dry the Rain by The Beta Band

Had to go all the way to #7 to find a song I hadn't blogged about yet... wow or yikes?

Let me just put it this way—this is one of the best songs ever. I mean, there is nothing wrong with this song:
* It's got cool lines "This is the definition of my life/Lying in bed in the sunlight..." and "Spray on dust is the greatest thing/Sure is the greatest thing/Since the last, since the last"
* The opening with the acoustic guitar and pleasant chorus—some what slow and methodical—that slowly builds but never gives itself away until after the second time they bang out the chorus.
* And what happens after the second time though the chorus? The song goes to another level, drums kick in, the bass turns it up, the guitar becomes sort of harder...
* Now you nodding your head in that cool, perfect beat kind of way... electric guitars making even cooler sounds cascading over the ever present acoustic... and that perfect beat still is moving your head isn't it?
* Then all of a sudden the bass line goes to a whole new level (yes that's right this is the 3rd new level thus far)... and now your head and body are swaying to that beat.
* "If there's something inside that you wanna say/say alright it will be okay/I will be your light, I will be your light"
* And eventually you fade out...

Okay go find me a cooler, more chill, more awesome song out there? Sure "Something" and "Maps" are more beautiful... but this song is so effin' good. Love it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ready or Not

Ready or Not by the Fugees

I'd never choose this as my favorite song... but the President of the United States did back in August. Hey, I'm not going to argue with him since his taste doesn't appear to be horrible (forced, but not horrible). I guess in a way it's good that he isn't obsessing over his favorite song list ala Rob Gordon until there isn't even a list...

So in honor of President Barack Obama, today's song is his favorite song—the Fugees stellar "Ready or Not".

Congrats President Obama. You've brought change. You've brought hope. And you've done so in a poised and peaceful manner.

I'm proud to call you my President.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hit the Road Jack

Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles

This is a gimme I know... but as GOB would say... COME ON!

Today is the last full day that George W. Bush will be President. Tomorrow morning, he'll be a former President, about 39 people in this country will be upset. The other 300 million of us will be happy. George is gone. Ding dong*... yada, yada, yada.

However, if nothing else, Bush will always have this moment:

It's one of the best moments of his Presidency—maybe THE best moment—not only does he not freak, he gets out of the way with ease both times. After I saw this, I thought for a few seconds that maybe I totally misjudged him. But then I reminded myself that his domestic policy has been a total disaster... and his foreign policy appears to be as bad.

But back to my real point: hit the road George, and don't you come back no more no more no more no more. And don't let the door hit you on the way out. And we're going to miss you like Poot missed The Clap. Only less. And no, we don't want you're advise ever again except when it comes to what NOT to do. And I look forward to watching "Frost/Bush" in 2033.


God, it feels good to be an American again. No more Canadian flags on backpacks when we go to Europe`! George W. Bush's time as President is over. And some how most of us lived to tell... but sadly we're all worse off than we were 8 years ago. That bums me out no matter what.

But he gone. A new day will come tomorrow, and George W. Bush won't be apart of it when the sun sets. That feels good. Really good.

* Can you imagine Hollywood remaking the Wizard of Oz?^

`Never did this.

^ Yes I realize they've already done this with Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.