All the music (502)
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Mon, 20 Aug 2007

Emerald City / John Vanderslice
Emerald City is sort of political, in a covert rather than an overt way. I'm told the title refers to the Green Zone in Iraq. And as in Iraq, the tracks begin with tension mixed with hope and pass through increasing stages of desperation, resignation and grief. Which sounds more dire than it is, especially if you prefer to ignore the subtleties at play and just listen and enjoy at a superficial level. That's certainly my plan; superficial has gotten me through more than one great political issue of the day. Emerald City
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 17 Aug 2007

Young Forever / Aberfeldy
Young Forever Listening to new music for this blog, all I want to be surprised. Preferably without being repulsed or, worse, horrified. And every now and then I get my wish.

I wasn't expecting it, mind. Seeing two lions humping on the cover of Aberfeldy's first album didn't exactly fill me with anticipation, or at least not the good kind. But I guess that was their little joke. Or maybe lion sex has a different implication in Scotland, from whence these folks hail. Because if I had to pick one word to describe them, it would be something like "sunny". Which hardly ever makes me think of lions, caught in the act or otherwise. Maybe that's my problem.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 15 Aug 2007

No Promises / Carla Bruni
I have no words more convincing than thirty seconds of Those Dancing Days Are Gone. Go. Listen. Then come back and tell me what I should have told you. Or are words superfluous? No Promises
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 13 Aug 2007

Scrubs: My Musical / Original Cast
Scrubs: My Musical Hmmmm... here's a challenge. How should I review this, the album of the soundtrack of the episode of the show Scrubs? (There's a Monty Python joke in there. But not a very good one, so don't worry if it slipped right by you.) See, here's the thing. I've never been a big fan of Scrubs, although I don't know why. And I love musicals, so I should have sought out their musical episode long before this, especially when I found out that the creators of Avenue Q are the talent behind it. Once More, With Feeling is probably my favorite hour in the Jossverse, so having the cast of another show break into song should be just my thing. And yet...

So here I sit, considering the album of the episode. And the first thought that arrives is the one that most of the reviewers on iTunes point out: who's gonna be stupid enough to pay ten dollars for the audio of an episode they can have for two? Which, you have to admit, is a pretty good question. And it did get me to buy the episode, if only to show my contempt for Hollywood Records' attempt to get another eight. Huh. And now I've paid for something I could have seen for free. Maybe they're not the stupid ones here.

[ Category: Soundtrack | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 10 Aug 2007

Uncover Me / Jann Arden
Yeesh. This one ought to be called Strike Up The Bland.

I like covers. And I like most of the songs Arden performs here. Maybe that's the problem; each track reminds me of how much better the originals are. From California Dreamin' to At Seventeen, I wondered why she thought she had anything to add. But it's downhill from there: Love Is a Battlefield, You're So Vain and Downtown shouldn't be attempted by somebody so, well, uninspired. I think I'll listen to an oldies station for a couple of hours until the horror subsides.

Uncover Me
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 08 Aug 2007

Who's Got Trouble? / Shivaree
Who's Got Trouble? Shivaree has a new album out. This isn't it.

The new album, entitled Tainted Love: Mating Calls and Fight Songs, is a collection of covers. But to my shame, I know almost none of the originals. Maybe if I did, I'd enjoy it more. But vocalist Ambrosia Parsley (and isn't that the most perfect name for a lead singer?) has such a distinctive voice that I just had to hear more. That led me here, to the group's third album. And perhaps because I don't know any of these songs and didn't expect to, or perhaps because the performances are more accessible, I found here the kind of listen experience I almost but didn't quite get on the new album.

So I'd suggest you listen to both and decide for yourself. Maybe you'll like one; maybe you'll like the other. And maybe your musical knowledge is better or at least more current than mine, and you'll appreciate Shivaree's way with a cover.

[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 06 Aug 2007

Anywhere But Here / Tim Corley
Tim Corley describes his pop ballads as "melodic depression". Doesn't sound depressed or depressing to me. Does that just mean I've been down so long that everything else seems up by comparison? Anywhere But Here
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 03 Aug 2007

The Quiet Man / Dublin Screen Orchestra
The Quiet Man They don't make movies like this any more, and it's probably just as well. We're far too sophisticated for such a drippy and romantic (to say nothing of neanderthal) depiction of Irish culture. Was it ever like this, or only in John Ford's feverish imagination? But whatever the truth, even we sophisticates can enjoy being strangers in a strange land.

And a big part of the magic of this particular fantasy is the music, here performed by full orchestra some forty years after The Quiet Man. It's movie music of a particularly compelling style, which works rather well without the movie. That's not always the case, as I discovered a few years back at a very special concert by (I think) the now shuttered San Jose Symphony. They chose selections from films, playing scenes on a screen behind the orchestra and then performing the accompanying music. It was kind of awkward, I thought. Maybe it's better this way.

[ Category: Soundtrack | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 01 Aug 2007

Car Talk / Tom & Ray Magliozzi
Their loss is our gain.

I've been a Car Talk fan for years, ever since I first discovered Click & Clack during my regular Saturday morning grocery run. I know nothing about cars, and cared even less, but with these guys it doesn't much matter. They're classic proof that the right teacher can make anything interesting. And now they're a podcast!

So what's with that "their loss" business? Well, when NPR first got wind of podcasting, there were two approaches. Some shows like On The Media and Wait Wait... Don't Tell me! got into the spirit of the thing and began offering their episodes for free download. Others thought there was money to be made from their content and went the pay route. Well, as I say, their failed experiment in capitalism is now one more reason to love the web, podcasting and your MP3 player of choice. Heck, I even know a little more about cars. Okay, a very little.

Car Talk
[ Category: Podcast | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 30 Jul 2007

Songs for Ice Cream Trucks / Michael Hearst
Songs for Ice Cream Trucks There was a time when my record collection was way too heavy on comedy and other novelty discs and frighteningly light on actual music. And even when I got things in balance I still had a certain fondness for oddities. I remember one trip to Tokyo where I discovered a shop selling CDs of music box recordings. They were every bit as tedious as you might imagine, which didn't stopping me from buying one. (Okay, two.)

So it's with a sense of both nostalgia and head-shaking that I approach Songs. It's supposed to evoke those tinny tunes that once brought such joy on the hot summer days of my youth. (Now it's Tanqueray & tonic.) In truth, I hear more videogame soundtrack than joy of summer in these selections. But that's me; your mileage may vary.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 27 Jul 2007

Little Voice / Sara Bareilles
I am so far behind! Love Song was a free track this time last month, and I finally got around to listening to it now! I guess this makes up for all those times when I recommended something before it became a free track. That must have happened at least once, right?


Little Voice
[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 25 Jul 2007

The Simpsons Movie - The Music / Hans Zimmer
The Simpsons Movie - The Music Yeah, like you really need me to tell you about this one.
[ Category: Soundtrack | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 23 Jul 2007

String Theory / The Catrin Finch Band
I make it a rule not to review the same artist twice on this here blog, but if I can't violate my own rules, what's the point of having them? Besides, I last mentioned Catrin Finch two and a half years ago; surely there's a statute of limitations at work here. And as my final defense, that was Catrin as solo artist. Here she's part of a fourteen piece band. That should let me off the hook.

So much for the defense. (Defensive, am I?) Now to the album at hand. String Theory is jazz, which usually doesn't involve any harps. It's a dancing bear kind of album, the impressive thing about a dancing bear not being that it dances well, but that it dances at all. Adding a harp, even one as good as hers, to Puttin' On The Ritz can't make me forget what Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle did to it. Fly Me (AKA Come Fly With Me) isn't really any different with a few more strings, although I grant that Misty isn't half bad. (Clearly, Jessica Walter terrorizing Clint Eastwood didn't scar me the way Mel Brooks did.) But Hang 'Em High? That's just creepy, with or without the harp. Then again, that was the point.

String Theory
[ Category: Jazz | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 20 Jul 2007

Translated From Love / Kelly Willis
Translated From Love From faux country to the real thing. It takes about three seconds to typecast Kelly Willis as country. But what surprised me is that I listened to a lot more than those three seconds. There's something more going on here. Maybe you can figure out what it is. Me, I'm just surprised to be listening to country and not hating it. Maybe even liking it a little. Okay, a lot. But don't tell anybody; I have a reputation to uphold.
[ Category: Country | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 18 Jul 2007

At My Age / Nick Lowe
There's always been something quietly subversive about Nick Lowe, going back at least to 1979's Cruel To Be Kind, whose title song I enjoyed without noticing for a moment the discordancy between its catchy pop melody and the rather more antisocial tone of the lyrics. I was oblivious back then, albeit somewhat less so now. Now he's giving country music the business, with an album so syrupy and rich it'll give you flashbacks to Freddy Fender and Ray Price. Occasionally the perfect American accent slips to reveal the Brit beneath, but mostly the mask stays on. Which, as it always does since I first realized I'd been had, makes me wonder just what he's hiding back there. At My Age
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 16 Jul 2007

Life in Cartoon Motion / Mika
Life in Cartoon Motion When I was a kid, I remember reading a story about a record that you couldn't stop playing; no matter how hard you tried, it just compelled you to hear it again. Today we have a name for this phenomenon, the song that you can't get out of your head: we call it an earworm. Think It's a Small World. G'wan, I dare ya.

I mention this because I think I have another candidate. It was the end of the second week of my trip to Australia and New Zealand (what, is he on about that again?), and I turned on a television for the first time that trip. Flipping the channels, I came upon an MTVish show. And after a few minutes I was assaulted with Mika's song, Love Today. Before it had reached the chorus I was in pain; by the time it ended I realized that life as I knew it was over. I hated that song, and I couldn't wait to hear it again. And again. And again.

I suffer for his art. Now it's your turn.

[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 13 Jul 2007

Thinking Room / Anika Moa
As with my last post, all the credit for this one goes to my host on Waiheke Island. He has this determination to make every detail of his guests' experience perfect, down to the music at dinner and in our rooms. Anika Moa's second CD, Stolen Hill was my second selection from the room's discs. Sadly, it's not available in iTunes yet, so we'll have to make do with her debut. Tough, I know. Thinking Room
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 11 Jul 2007

Passenger / Carly Binding
Passenger I bet you didn't notice, but I had this blog on autopilot for a big chunk of June. It's true; while you Northern Hemispherers were enjoying the warming of late spring and early summer, I was suffering an antipodean chill in Sydney and Auckland. Pity me, won't you?

I don't mention this to make you jealous, although I quite understand if you are. (Unless you're an Aussie or Kiwi, in which case you're wondering what the big deal is.) No, I'm just trying to explain my next few musical selections, for which I must thank my host on Waiheke Island.

Strange thing, that; for some reason my travel agent thinks I have both money and taste. At least that's the conclusion I drew when I arrived at the most amazing little B&B on the island, a half hour's ferry from downtown Auckland. Among the delights of the place was an impressive collection of CDs in my room, which I enjoyed over the next few days. This was the first disc I put on, and the one that left the most lasting impression. It reminds me of Waiheke: lush and rich and full of subtleties, but also warm and inviting and relaxed. Which is making me wish I was back there, if it weren't for the fact that I have you here, waiting for more blog posts. Oh, and that thing about having to make money so I can take more trips. There's that, I suppose.

[ Category: Pop | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 09 Jul 2007

Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast / Reduced Shakespeare Company
I first encountered the Reduced Shakespeare Company before they were the Reduced Shakespeare Company, back when I was first living in California, never mind how many years ago. I was in Anaheim back then, which I thought of then and still think of today as Ratland. (Knott's Berry Farm used to have billboards that said, "Come visit us; the other place has mice.") And I'd go to the Renaissance Faire, where these three guys from Northern Cal would do these outrageous versions of Shakespeare's plays, including faster and faster versions of Hamlet, the last one in reverse. Years later I saw their descendents in London, doing The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) and The Complete History of America (Abridged). Not quite as pleasant as being under the trees at a Renaissance Faire, but not bad at all. Since then the troupe has grown and prospered.

And now they're doing a podcast. It isn't their shows; it's more meta than that. But hearing stories from the road, and the method to their madness, and meeting the players is a whole lot of fun too. And they do include bits from their various shows, two of which I was pleased to note will be playing later this year in San Francisco. Okay, so they're not the originals. Then again, considering what all the intervening years have done for me, is that a bad thing?

Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast
[ Category: Podcast | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 06 Jul 2007

Sky Blue Sky / Wilco
Sky Blue Sky In my last post I invented a new musical genre called Uneasy Listening. (If anybody else has used that line, I'd rather not know about it. I've even avoided Googling it, which will show you how serious I am about preserving my ignorance.) And now we have, well, calling Sky Blue Sky Easy Listening would be to demean it. But what do you call it when a band gives up some of its edge and becomes downright pleasant? Maybe this is the real Uneasy Listening. I suspect Wilco's fans are experiencing exactly that. Me, I like taking it easy now and again.
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

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