What you're about to read is a collection of pointers to some of the music I've discovered on the iTunes Music Store, music I like enough that I want to share it. If you're an iPod owner and an iTunes fan (and if you aren't, what are you doing here?), maybe you'll find something new. Click on any of the CD covers to bounce over to the store and sample a few tracks. And then maybe stop by my other blog for a few well chosen words (and maybe a random snark or two).RSS feed
All the music (502)
  Alternative (67)
   Audiobook (10)
    Blues (3)
     Children's Music (5)
      Classical (28)
       Comedy (10)
        Country (21)

  Dance (4)
   Easy Listening (2)
    Electronic (13)
     Folk (27)
      French Pop (1)
       German Folk (1)
        German Pop (1)

  Hip-Hop/Rap (2)
   Holiday (5)
    Jazz (35)
     Latin (4)
      New Age (8)
       Podcast (5)
        Pop (72)

  R&B/Soul (4)
   Reggae (4)
    Rock (105)
     Soundtrack (32)
      Spoken Word (1)
       Vocal (15)
        World (15)

Have some music to recommend? I can always use a few pointers. Use the comments link at the bottom of the page.
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Fri, 05 Oct 2007

Bird Nest On the Ground / Doyle Bramhall
Some songs just shouldn't be covered; they're so closely associated with one artist that it's just not worth trying to reinvent them. And even if you could, just to prove you could, you'll never give them the kind of life and soul they had in their more famous version. Elvis is the quintessential example. Has anybody taken a classic Elvis song and turned it into anything more than an homage or a parody? It shouldn't even be attempted.

Okay, that's a gross overstatement. (Mostly.) But it's a tribute to Doyle Bramhill that his version of His Latest Flame doesn't make me long for Elvis. It's that good, as is his totally bluesy take on Johnny Nash's classic I Can See Clearly Now. Gotta love a guy who'll take those kind of risks, and then make them pay off.

Bird Nest On the Ground
[ Category: Blues | 1 comment | Link ]

Wed, 03 Oct 2007

Songs of Mass Destruction / Annie Lennox
Songs of Mass Destruction With a title so reminiscent of of modern warfare, I guess I was expecting something far more explosive. Instead we have heartfelt anthems that are anything but. Not with a bang, and not exactly a whimper either. More a deep sigh at the vagaries of life, where the destruction is less mass and more personal. Not so much wholesale as retail, as it were.
[ Category: Pop | 1 comment | Link ]

Mon, 01 Oct 2007

Things We Wish For / Language Room
I need to spend more time on MySpace.

No, seriously. As much as MySpace is an amazing time sink, there are moments when it actually seems worthwhile. And in this case that value came in a feature I've grown to loathe: profiles with autoplaying music. Who's with me on this? Is there anything more annoying than to move from MS profile to Ms profile and get inundated with noise you really would rather avoid? But I digress.

'Cuz this was one occasion when I was stopped by what I heard. The song was Taking Life All Wrong, and it was just the kind of song I like: distinctive, strong on vocals and not overpowered by instrumentation, with something to say and yet willing to let me focus on the delivery as well as the message.

So thank you, random MSer. You don't make up for the hundreds of grungy or overplayed pop tunes I've heard in my MySpace ramblings. But it's a start.

Things We Wish For
[ Category: Alternative | 3 comments | Link ]

Fri, 28 Sep 2007

The Bluegrass Sessions / Merle Haggard
The Bluegrass Sessions I was reading an interesting forum thread recently about accents. The gist of the thread was that so many singers lose their accents when they sing. Somehow vocals mostly sound American, at least to my ethnocentric ears. Unless they're singing traditional music, when it's okay to sound Irish or Scottish. Or even Southern, if they absolutely must.

Which makes me wonder why it is that every country singer has to sound Southern, and why it bothers me so much when they do. And yet while that makes me crazy about country, and not the good kind of crazy, doesn't bother me at all when it transmogrifies into bluegrass. Am I being irrational Or is it just when it's done this well that the good outweighs the bad so much that I can't complain? And believe me, I've tried. Lord, how I've tried.

[ Category: Country | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 26 Sep 2007

Under the Blacklight / Rilo Kiley
Sometimes they come without being called.

So I was sitting on the couch, reading the Television Without Pity recap for Monday night's season premiere of How I Met Your Mother. Which was silly, since I'd just finished watching the episode. And it's not like there was a lot of insight in the recap either. But there I was, reading somebody's description of something I'd just seen, and I came across a mention of Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and her Rilo Kiley hair. Which, not knowing anything about Rio Kiley, led to a Google search. Which got me to their website, where I got to enjoy Silver Lining from their new album. And, well, here we are. And that, kids, is how I met this band. Which will make more sense if you're a fan of HIMYM, although it still won't be funny.

Under the Blacklight
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Mon, 24 Sep 2007

The Reminder / Feist
The Reminder Blame Apple and their damn iPod Nano ads for this one. I like to think I'm immune to advertising, but Leslie Feist's 1234 is so earwormily catchy that I had to Google the lyrics to find out who was singing. Heck, it's so catchy it makes me want a Nano, for which I have absolutely no use. I mean, I'm already carrying an iPhone, which is what a Nano wants to be when it grows up. And yet I still want it, with that $100 store credit burning a hole in my virtual pocket. You have a lot to answer for, Leslie Feist, with your perfectly imperfect voice. And the rest of the album isn't bad either, even if none of it makes be want to buy stuff.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 21 Sep 2007

Eloquent Cool / David Courtenay
On his MySpace page, David Courtenay describes his music as sounding like blue whales mating. Now what could I possibly say that could possibly improve on that? Eloquent Cool
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 19 Sep 2007

Arms and Legs / Arms and Legs
Arms and Legs What's the best way to experience Arms and Legs? A game of Name That Influence? There are certainly plenty to pick from, and most of them are like shells on the beach just waiting to be collected. Or you could be lazy like me and just enjoy the warm, bouncy and familiar but new sounds as they float by.
[ Category: Folk | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 17 Sep 2007

Music from the Orkney Islands / Allie Windwick & Hugh Inkster
Music has the power to evoke a time and a place, to take us somewhere we've never been and can't even imagine. And so it is with this 1979 recording of a combination of traditional and more contemporary songs (and I dare you to tell one from the other) from the Orkney Islands, ostensibly part of Scotland but, if the album's liner notes and Wikipedia are to be believed, really a world of their own. And one I suddenly have a strong desire to visit, if only the need to actually show up for work tomorrow weren't so very strong. Curse you, 21st century employment! Curse you and all your kind!

Maybe one day...

Music from the Orkney Islands
[ Category: Folk | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 14 Sep 2007

The New Bossa Nova / Luciana Souza
The New Bossa Nova Victoria Hart's new album asks the musical question, Whatever Happened to Romance?. My reply would be that it traded in your overproduced version for the silky Brazilian sounds of Luciana Souza. And that's just fine with me.
[ Category: Jazz | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 12 Sep 2007

The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse / The Besnard Lakes
Funny that a track called Disaster should be so contemplative. Although if it and Devastation are any indication, this duo from Montreal is not among nature's optimists. Then again, neither am I. The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse
[ Category: Rock | 1 comment | Link ]

Mon, 10 Sep 2007

The Many Men of Martha Manning
The Many Men of Martha Manning I listen to way too many podcasts. And my favorites are the dramas, by which I mean audio performances. I've mentioned Decoder Ring Theatre and Mr. Deity, but there's also the weirdly entertaining (or entertainingly weird) Mustache Rangers, and The Dixie Stenberg Adventure Theater, which both try to recreate some aspect of olde tyme radio, to say nothing of podcasts like the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Case Closed!, which give us the real thing, 40s and 50s radio shows with all the crackles and even some of the commercials. But I have a new favorite, a soap operatic drama in six parts called The Many Men of Martha Manning. What I love about Martha is that it's both over the top and extremely carefully written, performed and produced. Just listen to the "foreign" dialogue and you'll see what I mean; I haven't encountered such subtle absurdity since the Tolkienesque "poetry" of Bored of the Rings. Hmmm... I wonder if anybody's ever considered dramatizing that...
[ Category: Comedy | 3 comments | Link ]

Fri, 07 Sep 2007

Golden Wing / Amy White & Al Petteway
I discovered this album by way of Bittersweet ~ an American Romance. Which is nice enough in an instrumental New Agey sort of way, but feels like warmed over Liz Story or maybe Mannheim Steamroller on Valium. But at least it got me here, where I could be charmed Ms. White's folk vocals. Much better, I'm thinking. Golden Wing
[ Category: Folk | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 05 Sep 2007

Let's Be Honest / Maple Rabbit
Let's Be Honest Whenever I discover a listing for a new band on the iTunes Store, I start by sampling their Top Songs. My assumption is that somebody who got here before me might know something I'll only discover through actual effort. And with effort being something mightily to avoid, I'll take whatever shortcuts the world hands me. But I'm not stupid, in spite of what you may have heard. I'm immediately suspicious when the Top Songs are the first five tracks, that being an indication that anybody who bought this stuff just picked up the album.

So when I discovered Maple Rabbit on the store, I wasn't immediately suspicious as I listened to the first Top Song. Interesting, I thought, in a goofy sort of way that went with the album graphic. And I went to the second Top Song, which was coincidentally right above the first in the album's tracks. And the third was above that. And by the fifth, I realized there was a pattern here. Now, I'm no conspiracy theorist, at least not usually. But there's clearly something going on here that can't be explained by random chance. I blame aliens. Or maybe Republicans, assuming the two are mutually exclusive.

[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 03 Sep 2007

Easy / Grant Green
If you're in America, I hope you're enjoying Labor Day by not working too hard. (If you're anywhere else, I guess it's just another manic Monday.) I mention this because I didn't expect to work this hard to find something to write about. Turns out there's not much to inspire out of this past week's iTunes offerings. I guess the late summer blahs attack the music business along with everything else.

Which makes Easy a seasonal poster child of sorts. It's so safe and unimaginative that even my parents would like it, assuming of course they were still listening to Musak music. Me, I'm looking forward to autumn and the chance to escape those blahs.

(It occurs to me that if I were awake enough, I could have written this review in one word. And that word, in case you haven't already guessed, would be blah. I mean, it's not like I'm being paid by the word here. Or at all for that matter.)

[ Category: Jazz | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 31 Aug 2007

Brontosaurus / Da Vinci's Notebook
Brontosaurus An old friend introduced me to Da Vinci's Notebook during my Farscape music video phase, a fortuitous happenstance that changed my life! Okay, not really; all it did was lead me to make my best video, and likely the reason I didn't do any more after that. How after all do you top perfection?

You may think I'm overstating the case, but bear with me. Da Vinci's Notebook is/was (they are no longer performing together) a DC-based a cappella group that started by mixing straight covers and comedy material and by this, their third album, had turned their back on serious for good. Anyway, I was listening to Brontosaurus in the car, a dangerous activity as it's hard to concentrate when you're in hysterics. And then that track came on, the one that I knew I had to immortalize in Farscape video clips. And so I did. And it was good. And I got to watch it with a few hundred of my Scaper friends at a convention, and listen to the laughter. And that was very good. Which led to one female Scaper telling me later how much she enjoyed my Enormous Penis. Which, you'll admit, is not the sort of thing one can hear too often.

[ Category: Vocal | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 29 Aug 2007

Who Killed Rock N' Roll / Rick Springfield
Asked and answered.

(Sometimes I'm ashamed of myself. Then I get over it.)

Who Killed Rock N' Roll
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 27 Aug 2007

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter / Josh Ritter
The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter Historical Conquests starts out sounding like Dylan, except less nasal, but where it goes after that will surprise you. At least it surprised me, as the too-cheerful-for-a-sleepless-Sunday-morning tracks gave way to the almost Cat Stevensesque The Temptation of Adam. The styles here are all over the place, but in the best possible way. Surprises are good, although not necessarily on a sleepless Sunday morning.
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 24 Aug 2007

Umbrella / Marié Digby
This is another moment where ignorance is bliss. Judging by the reviews on the iTunes Store, people who knew Rihanna's original version of this song hated Hated HATED this one, where people like me who haven't listened to the radio since the 90s (if not earlier) think it sounds pretty nice. Marié has just the one track on iTunes, but there are a few others on her MySpace page, both covers and what may or may not be original tracks. Oh, and a blog post about the shock of her Rihanna cover becoming so popular. She sounds nice, and level headed about it all. Umbrella
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 22 Aug 2007

High School Musical 2 / Original Soundtrack
High School Musical 2 As I type this, the sequel to Disney's insanely successful High School Musical is still a few hours away from broadcast. That means I'm reviewing without having seen the program or listened to more than a couple of minutes of the music. Still, lack of knowledge doesn't imply lack of opinion. So here we go...

I'm not a big fan of what Disney has done to Broadway. I liked Beauty and the Beast, in a "don't expect much" kind of way. I was totally underwhelmed by The Lion King; I thought the innovative staging was undermined by mediocre music and a superficial story of talking animals. (Somehow talking cutlery didn't seem as ridiculous. Go figure.)

But High School Musical raised Lion King to high art by comparison. This story of incredibly attractive teens who resist being labeled as the best ever at one thing, because they want to be seen as the best ever at everything is, from my aged perspective, a terrible lesson for impressionable kids. (And adults for that matter.) As with every production aimed at kids, the adults are either morons or monomaniacal villains, and generally both. And kids manage to resolve all their differences and see the errors of their ways by the final curtain. If it weren't so relentlessly upbeat (and so completely divorced from any reality I've ever experienced or observed), it would depress the hell out of me.

Still, this isn't about art, and it isn't an Afterschool Special. It's Disney doing what they do best and worst: creating a fantasy world that's brighter and cheerier and far more desirable than reality ever was. And making a couple of tons of money in the process. Oh, and giving us the next generation of Britneys and Christinas. Anybody want to take bets on which Musical star will be the first in rehab?

[ Category: Soundtrack | 2 comments | Link ]

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Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California