• Category Archives Music
  • My favorite original Weird Al songs

    A_Yankovic_2982211bAl’s new album is number one and it deserves to be. Everyone loves Al right now, and everyone should! Al is a man we need to clone – he brings such joy to the world, and he’s such a freaking nice guy! Seriously, search for stories about Weird Al being a jerk. You might find a couple, but I guarantee you’ll find an overwhelming majority of said stories showing what a nice guy Al is. Al is such a nice guy that he asks permission to parody artists. He’s not even legally required to!

    But I digress…in response to all this love of Al that’s happened over the last few weeks, I’ve decided to show a little Al love of my own. So….here’s my favorite original Weird Al songs.

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  • Dear MusicfFestNW…GET OFF MY LAWN!

    hires_custom-9407414d6e47cacf19d48fe0f70e9c5a14fc8376-s6-c30MusicFestNW has announced their line up. This year, many changes have been made. Instead of a citywide event, providing business for many venues in the area, MFNW has been reduced to a two-day festival on Waterfront Park. Instead of showcasing a ton of local acts and artists, as well as a handful of nationally known artists, MFNW has decided to only feature larger names – with only two local artists on the ticket. Instead of featuring a variety of musical styles, appeasing several different age groups and tastes in music, MFNW has instead decided to limit themselves to the most hip and young bands they could find. I have one thing to say to this new and not so improved MusicFestNW – GET OFF MY LAWN!(and get back to the venues where you belong).

    I’m quite serious. If Pioneer Square is Portland’s living room, it stands to reason that Waterfront Park is Portland’s front yard. Therefore, as a citizen of Portland, I shall raise my cane in protest and yell once more, “Get off my lawn!” A little history of MusicFestNW through my eyes….

    My first time going to MFNW was about eleven years ago. I saw so many bands that I can’t even remember them all. I saw many local favorites – Viva Voce, Menomena, Stovokor, The High Violets, The Helio Sequence – and that’s just to name a few. I saw Vancouver BC’s Delirium, Seattle’s Pedro The Lion, and even got to watch the now defunct Portland Organic Wrestling. I paid 35 bucks (43 in today’s dollar), and I was never turned down because the venue was full. Oh, and there was no such thing as a VIP ticket. That’s quite a deal, and a better deal than the current 85 dollar ticket (300 dollars if you want the VIP treatment).

    In other years, I got to see The Decemberists, Portland Cello Project, Crooked Fingers, Quasi, Neko Case, the 1900s, Mogwai. and even Rilo Kiley. Save for perhaps the Decemberists, I don’t believe any of these bands would fit this year’s line up. They’re either too small, or just not hipster friendly enough.Even Rilo Kiley would probably be deemed too “Country sounding.”

    Ok, so despite the fact that there’s nothing for me at the current MFNW, the changes are a serious blow to local venues. Sure, the past few years have seen shows at Pioneer Square, but there were also shows at venues such as Dante’s, The Crystal Ballroom, Mississippi Studios, Ash Street Saloon – pretty much every venue in the city, large or small, wanted a piece of the action. I’m sure MFNW was a yearly boon for these business, and lined many a pocket, from the owners all the way down to the servers. Rich, middle class, and poor all benefited from previous MFNW.
    Oh, but it gets worst than that. This could very well cost local businesses and service people more than just a yearly bonus – this could actually hurt the local venues (and their employees) during that weekend. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, if you’re booking a show, do you really want to book a show against a huge festival with close to unlimited seating? A show with huge, nationally known bands at such a low cost? It’s the same reason why, during the Winter Olympics, most networks aired repeats instead of new shows. They knew they could not compete. But besides competing against MFNW, there’s also the fact that the venues downtown will suffer from people who want to avoid Downtown while MFNW is happening. I’ve read several comments stating just this – that person X is going to avoid Downtown that weekend – it’s just not something they wish to do. The crowds of people who drunkenly stumble out of Waterfront Park – just not something they want to deal with, and neither do I.

    keep-calm-and-get-off-my-lawn-1Perhaps I’m over reaching with that last paragraph. There’s one group of people the new MFNW is really going to harm – the local artists. In my past treks to MFNW, be it one show or the whole weekend, I heard a lot of new music. Even in the years where I had to camp out at the same venue, I was always exposed to some artist I had no idea existed before that night. Some became favorites (the High Violets, Stovokor, and although not local, the 1900s). I’ve bought a lot of music from artists I was first introduced to via MFNW, even from bands I do not consider favorites. People like me will not be exposed to these types of bands, and therefore, these bands will miss a great opportunity in gaining new followers and fans – or at least an opportunity to sell a record or two.

    The new hipster friendly MusicfestNW Sucks. The new MFNW and is just going to fiscally hurt those who can’t afford to be hurt. The New MFNW will isolate people, and it just isn’t something I want in my city. So what can we do? Well – there’s two things. Firstly – pay attention to the shows being advertised by venues during the weekend of MFNW. If there’s a show that sounds interesting to you….go! Buy your tickets early, buy records, and make sure to show up for the opening act. Fully support local venues and artists during MFNW.

    The Second thing one can do to protest MusicFestNW might sound a little crazy, but it just might be worth a shot. If you’re not supporting a band during the weekend of MFNW, join me in literally protesting MFNW. I plan to walk around Waterfront Park, yelling “Get Off my Lawn and get back to the venues.” If it’s just me doing this, they’ll just thing I’m a crazy person, but if a whole group of us gather to do this – well my friends, that’s how we start a movement.

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  • 6 unfortunately named CCM bands of the 80s and 90s

    Music snobbery and nostalgia just doesn’t mix well. I’ll find myself listening to the most horrid songs (Usually CCM) just because I liked said song in 1991. Still, my always analytical brain is pointing and laughing at the forced rhythms, the cookie cutter harmonies, the forced lyrics, and even the names of the bands. I realize once a band chooses a name, they usually stuck with it for the duration. A band name is usually just as permanent as a tattoo. Even more reason to be very careful when you name your band. Like I said – I listened to a bunch of Christian music in the 80s and 90s, and some of their names are either unfortunate, embarrassing, or a combination of the two. So….let’s look at a few!

    bloodgood_pic1) BloodGood – Let me get this out in the open – I still listen to BloodGood, and not only when I just want a bit of a cheesy 90s Christian Metal. BloodGood actually does rock, even by today’s standards. Having said that, BloodGood sounds more like a really bad Bond villain than a band name. To be fair, the band was named for group founder Michael BloodGood. Still, whenever I hear the name, I think of a conference room full of super villains. Dr Evil is at the podium, looking over at a table of his esteemed colleagues. He asks: “and what do you think we should do, Mr BloodGood?” Mr BloodGood responds by chanting manically: “KILL! KILL! KILL! BLOOD GOOD! BLOOD GOOD! “ This fictitious villain isn’t even an A list villain – more like a trained evil monkey. He’s not Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, he’s Bane from Batman Forever!

    Maybe I’m being a little harsh – as not everyone has the active imagination that I have, but I have to wonder if Micheal Bloodgood even thought about the fact that his last name, while perhaps relevant to Christendom (Blood [of Jesus] Good), might just make him sound like a joke to the non-Christian audience I know he so desired.

    dboy2) Dboy – I never listened to Dboy, mainly because I just couldn’t get over the name. D-Boy. I heard my internal Saturday Night Live commentary saying “da Bulls. Da Bears. Da Boy.” There’s also the question of “What does D stand for” Dial-up? Donut hole? Dumbledore? Turns out it stood for Danny (his first name) – so he basically picked an Irish Funeral dirge for a moniker. Eh, I guess it fits for him – he was a Hip Hop artist who wanted to reach inner city youth. Oh, but I haven’t gotten to the unfortunate part – the poor guy was murdered – shot to death. According to his mother: “They say it was everything from mistaken identity to a robbery attempt, but nobody really knows.”

    I have no idea if his moniker was an intentional play on words – if he really meant to reference the song “Danny Boy,” but regardless, the song caught up with Dboy. He was shot down way before his time. I don’t know anything more unfortunate than that.

    dcTalk3. DC Talk – The name “DC Talk” sounds like a political talk show, and not (as they put it) “two honks and a negro.” (Their phrase – not mine). Seriously, the name DC Talk brings the image of five grumpy, old men in suits on a Sunday morning talk show. They’re arguing about the deficit or foreign policy or something – I don’t know, I just changed the channel to Spongebob Squarepants because I was so bored.

    Ok, ok, maybe you’re saying they picked that name because they’re from DC – well, you’re WRONG! Ok, you’re not wrong about their origin, but the DC actually stands for “Decent Christian.” Seriously, that is the lamest name ever. Decent Christian Talk. I’ve often times said that “Toby Mac” as he calls himself is the Vanilla Ice of the Christian world – and I got to say, this name just doesn’t help matters there…

    stryken - first strike4) Stryken – Wait, is that a typo? You meant Stryper, right? Nope! Stryken (originally named Stryker) was a totally different band. Ok, there’s much debate that Stryken was a clone of Stryper, but this article is about unfortunate band names. At the end of the day it could logically be said that Stryken gets their original name from members Dale and Steve Strieker and spelled their name a phonetically. Going on this story, and ignoring the fact that they copied everything else Stryper did, my gosh –that really is unfortunate! I can imagine them sitting in their garage: Hey Dale, let’s form a band. Ok Steve. What should we call it? Well, we have a cool last name. Yeah, let’s just change the spelling a little. Oops! Stryper’s gonna sue us! Yeah, let’s just pretend that’s what happened. I do have to say, I did enjoy the Song “Rock on,” a lot more than “To Hell with the Devil.” Maybe Stryper copied Stryken! I should point out the latter started three years before the former. Maybe the unfortunate part is that Stryken was less popular than Stryper.

    whitecross_logo_BIG5) WhiteCross – My senior year of high school I was walking to the library with a friend. We both had our headphones on, and she asked what I was listening to. I said WhiteCross. This girl did not know anything about Christian music, and was politically opposite to my conservative Christian worldview of the time. So naturally her response was “WhiteCross?” That sounds like they’re a bunch of white supremacists! She painted a picture of burning crosses and men in hoods. Ever since that day, I’ve not thought about the band the same way again. To be fair – there’s no indications that they’re racist. A lot of their songs were about inclusion of all people, and their song “Holy War” even featured an African American Christian Rapper. There is every reason to believe they chose WhiteCross because of the religious symbolism of the words “White” and “Cross,” and I have found no evidence that they’re racist. But that’s what makes their name unfortunate! The very fact that my friend went strait to the race card by just the suggestion of the band name makes me wonder if maybe, just maybe, they hadn’t thought things through. Or maybe I’m judging this band’s name by anecdotal evidence.

    PID6) PID – Yes – there was a band called PID. Supposedly, PID stood for “Preachers in Disguise,” but I’ve got to wonder how much friggin research they did before naming their band. What, was there already a band named AIDS or Herpes or the Clap? What’s worst is they never really came out and said “it stands for Preachers in Disguise, not Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.” They liked to rap about Bible Stories and Christian morals, so maybe they wanted to discourage any groupies from making advances. Maybe they wanted to avoid lustful temptation and thought naming themselves after an STD would keep the girls away.

    PID did finally change their name to “Preachas,” at about the time the Presidents of The United States were singing “I’m moving to the country, gonna eat me a lot of peaches,” but that’s probably just a coincidence – then again, maybe they’re diabolical geniuses naming themselves after STDs and catchy novelty songs! Maybe that’s why they’re in disguise! Seriously though, this is the most unfortunate name of any band I’ve ever known.
    And what about the people in their lives – did they not come up to them and say “uhhhh – your proposed name is the name of an STD,”? And if someone did say that, were they so arrogant as to say “no one is going to go there!” Or was it naivity? Regardless – worst. Name. ever.

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  • Stand in the place where you are…

    R.E.M. is calling it quits. I don’t blame them – they’ve been at it for a long time, and even lost a member several years ago. I’m happy to know that they’re not going to be amongst the oldies but moldies (cough, The Rolling Stones). At the same time, I feel saddened – like a dear friend decided to move away to a place where I can never visit. I’ll never see them live, and they’ll never produce another album. But instead of mourning, I’m choosing to remember all the memories – and oh, there are so many memories of R.E.M.

    My first memory of R.E.M. is from the late 80s. I will admit, my musical tastes were not that wonderful back then. My musical diet consisted of Christian Rock and whatever the top 40 stations played. Even then, I knew subconsciously there must be more. So one day as I’m riding my bike with my headphones on, I hear the song Stand playing on a top 40. My emotions swelled up – it was such a great song! I felt such hope, such joy – all from one song. From that day forward, anytime I heard Stand, I had to blare it as loud as I possibly could! I remember some of my classmates saying the song sucked – my pre-adolescent mind didn’t know what to think. I wanted to fit in, and thus I had to hate the song because my peers hated the song. On the other hand, I freaking LOVED Stand. Looking back, this may very well have been my first experience in liking a song that wasn’t “cool.” I may very well owe my musical tastes today to that one experience.

    Fast forward a few years – I was a junior in high school, and a fundamentalist Bible thumping conservative republican. I still listened to top 40 radio and Christian rock, though I was a little more open to other types of music. The song Loosing my Religion was being played everywhere. As a fundamentalist, I disapproved of R.E.M. encouraging people to give up their religion – little did I know the song references a Southern term meaning to lose one’s temper. But my hatred for R.E.M.’s (alleged) anti-christian stance did not stop there. One day as I was sitting in Bible Study discussing sin or something, I popped up by saying “Yeah, that song Shiny Happy People is a good example of how New Age is just old sin because it’s just what the hippies did.” A couple years later, I’m watching TV and a commercial for a radio station comes on. I hear “they put a man on the moon…man on the moon.” My thoughts were, “what liberal junk is R.E.M. moaning about now?” If I ever own a time machine, I’m going back in time and slapping myself silly at each of these moments.

    A couple years later, I hold the same beliefs, but I’m less dogmatic. I’m in a pizza parlor. I listened to mostly alternative rock, with a little Christian Rock mixed in. I shunned top 40 music (and I still do). I’m sitting in a pizza parlor with some friends, and the song What’s the Frequency Kenneth comes on. One of my friends starts to sing along, but changes the lyrics a little – lampooning the style change between Automated for the People and Monster. The second line of the song, “I was brain-dead, locked out, numb, not up to speed,” was replaced with “grunge is dead, now gotta relearn electric guitar-ar.” We all laugh. Maybe you had to be there, but trust me – it was funny.

    It’s the year 2000, and I’m working graveyard. There was really nothing to do, and so I kind of slept most of the time – everyone who pulled a graveyard at that job did the same. We all kind of joked about “being in the zone,” meaning we were mostly unconscious, but awake just barely enough to know when something needed our attention – but I digress. I had my CD player and a copy of Up. I’m listening to the song Daysleeper repeatedly. I’m not sure if it was the half-conscious feeling of graveyard, or just the subject matter of the song, but I was in the song. I was living the song. I was saying “Good morning Taipei , good morning Hong Kong!” At 7:00 AM, I’m riding the bus home with a bunch of people going to their day shifts. I kept dozing off. My bed was indeed calling me….gravity.

    About a year later, I went back to school. Every finals week, I would make a mixed CD called my “Stress Mix.” There were certain requirements for a stress mix, among them, a different version of It’s the end of the world as we know it. I’m happy I graduated when I did, one more semester, and I don’t know if I could find another version of the song. Looking back, I’m surprised I found as many as I did – as I know I found more than the wikipedia page lists. I think my favorite was a salsa version sung in Spanish.

    When I first heard the news that R.E.M. decided to call it quits, I wondered if this is how people felt when the Beatles broke up. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I wasn’t alive at the time, so I couldn’t really compare the two band splits. I have the feeling comparing the two splits is a bit of comparing apples to oranges. The Beatles split due to internal strife (and Yoko Ono). They just couldn’t make it work. R.E.M. lasted a lot longer than the Beatles did, and split because it was time. I wanted to call this article It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine), but I figured a hundred thousand other bloggers had also used the same title. It does, express the way I feel about R.E.M.’s break up – it sucks, it’s (semi) life changing, but I’m ok with it. However, given the fact that this article is more about memories – more about where I am, or where I was, I think this title fits the article better anyways. In each of these memories I write about, I’m standing where I am. I’m being myself. In some cases, I wish I had been a different person, but I was being true to myself nonetheless. There are a lot of bands that can write a decent song, but not all bands can influence their listener’s lives so much. So long R.E.M., and thank you.

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  • 10 albums of the Ohs you may not have heard…

    There are several albums that I treasure right now which only a few people seem to know about. Sure, if you’re a DJ or a music aficionado, you might know these albums, but for those of you who do not have the time or energy to search for lesser known bands and/or albums, I decided to put this little list together. So here’s 10 albums from the ohs that you may not have heard, but probably should hear (in no particular order):

    1. Immaculate Machine – Zeros and Ones (2005): The first time I heard this band, I had no expectations. They were the opening another band and I was late getting to the show. I walked in just as they started “Broken Ship” and couldn’t believe such a talented band was the opener. By the end of their set, I was in love with all things Immaculate Machine. From “Army’s” fight for artistic purity, to the stance against fear mongering in “Latest Breaking News,” power pop has never been so deep. Side note, you might recognize the female vocalist: she’s also with The New Pornographers and often times substitutes for Neko Case.
    2. Vienna Teng – Inland Territory (2009): If a folk singer and a classical composer were to have a kid, that kid would be Vienna Teng. Inland Territory, Vienna’s fourth studio album, may just be her best album yet. The songs are darker than those of her previous albums. For example, No Gringo talks about a future where Americans have to sneak into Mexico to survive:  Radio talks about a fictitious bombing in San Fransisco and the media’s 9/11-esque coverage. Inland Territory is not an album to listen to when you want to feel happy, but its a great album to listen to when you need a good cry, or just want to hear beautiful music.
    3. Black Kids – Partie Tramatic (2008): This album is just pure pop fun. But while its pop, its not, by any means, the crap you might hear on top 40 radio. Sure, there’s the crowd pleasing “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You,” which sounds like it should be blaring from every American Eagle store in the country. But there’s also songs about people taking advantage of people, and how  deeply one night stands cut one’s soul. This album is for people who like to dance, but also like to think.
    4. The Violet Burning – I am a Stranger in this Place (2000): This is technically a best of album, but Micheal Pritzl decided, instead of repackaging these songs, re-record them all together – often time with a better feel than the original. The result is an amazingly dark and hauntingly beautiful album. Perfect for playing on a cold, rainy night.
    5. Beirut – The Flying Club (2007): I first heard this album played in a coffee shop, and knew I had to have it. One gets the feeling of walking along a quiet street in the middle of Paris when listening to The Flying Club. The songs are light, but beautiful. Free, but full of meaning. As someone with a BA in English, I have to admire the poetic feel of the lyrics. Try not to smile too much while listening to this album.
    6. Dressy Bessy – Sound Go Round (2002): I bought this album the day after a family friend died, so its always had some dark overtones to it. But despite the dark overtones I’ve laid on Sound Go Round, this album is pure sunshine wrapped in a fuzzy blanket of bliss.  There’s an interesting juxtaposition in the songs “I Saw Cinnamon” and “Buttercups.” In “I Saw Cinnamon,” we get the story of a free spirited man whom everyone likes. In “Buttercups,” however, we get the story of a woman who does her own thing despite the people around her – those around her finally give up on trying to change her, and even “Clap for her.”
    7. Treaspassers William – Having (2006): Another dark and beautiful album from Treasspassers William. The songs on Having feel like they’re longing for the safety and innocence one finds at home. On a side note, fans of Mercury Rev might be pleased to hear that Dave Fridmann produced this album.
    8. The 1900s – Cold and Kind (2007): I discovered this band quite by accident. I walked into their show during Musicfest NW (2008) to see a friend and had no real plans of staying. But as the 1900s started playing, I knew I HAD to listen to the entire set. When I got home, I downloaded Cold & Kind and played it so much, 4 of the 12 tracks are still in my “100 most played songs” Itunes playlist. The music is often light, with a 1970s pop feel, but the lyrics are anything but light. The lyrics talk about such hard subjects as choosing to spend their life single (as opposed to being with the wrong person), to throwing away one’s set of values to pursue what they really believe.
    9. Menomena – Friend and Foe (2007): Those of you who read my Top 25 albums of the zeros album may recognize this band’s name; Menomena’s first album was actually my number 3 pick of the decade. The second (proper) studio release was a great follow up to I am the Fun Blame Monster. When one looks at this album’s cover, one gets a surrealistic feeling – The lyrics and music of Friend and Foe follow through with their own surreal flavor. The entire album feels like a restful dream.
    10. Havalina – Space, Love, & Bullfighting (2002): This album is almost sad, in the fact that it is the last album Havalinia (Rail Company) ever put out, and was sort of a last ditch effort to keep the band together after several members left. Despite these factors, Space, Love, & Bullfighting is a wonderful and smart piece of music. Havalina is known for doing themed albums, but this is the first album where the band merges two unrelated themes (Latin America and the Space Age). This merging makes a very eccentric album of course, but despite the eccentricity of the album, the songs are all very accessible – not to mention just a lot of fun.
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  • Top 5 soundtracks of the ohs!

    I was not going to do this list, but its pretty much writing itself in my head anyways. Besides, there were so many great soundtracks this decade, I almost HAD to write this list. So without further Adieu, I give you the top five soundtracks of the ohs!

    5. Team America: World Police (Film – 2004) : OK. This film is rude, crude, and at the very least, NSFW. But it is also funny as heck. And the soundtrack was done so well! Who could forget classics like “Freedom isn’t Free” and “Montage?” Not to mention the anthem of patriotism that is the song, “America! —- Yeah!” But as funny as the soundtrack is, what made this soundtrack great was the fact that when it (and the movie) was made, we were (and are still) in the midst of a war that doesn’t seem to have an end. It was a time of extreme patriotism at the expense of those of us who dared question why. Team America: World Police dared lampoon these political zealots, as well as those who stood blindly to oppose them (ie the Film Actor’s Guild). This soundtrack and movie was an expression in free speech. I dare say the creators have indeed, with the making of this great piece of art, put in their buck oh five (cause freedom costs a buck oh five).

    4. Spamalot (Stage – 2004): As I type this, I have the song “Run away!” going through my head. Spamalot was based on the classic movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I dare say, the producers found the one thing missing from the film: MUSIC!  “The Song that Goes Like This” lampoons the cheesy hit song that is inevitably in every serious Broadway production. “Find Your Grail,” while comedic in nature, has a good point – one should indeed search for their “Grail.” And who could forget (ahem – sings in my best voice),  all for one, two for all, four for some, and three for all. So bring out your dead and always look on the bright side of life! Even if you’re not yet dead – or wed.

    3. Avenue Q (Stage – 2003): One of these days I might actually get to see this show live (as opposed to the crappy video floating around on youtube), but for now, I have this marvelous soundtrack. And what a soundtrack! I’ve often asked myself  “What Do you do with a BA in English?” I’ve often wished I could go back to college, and I find myself singing “It Sucks to be Me” on a regular basis.  I’m pretty impressed the writers of Avenue Q throw political correctness out the window with “Every One’s a Little Bit Racist.” And “Schadenfreude?” Well, that just makes me laugh.  The Avenue Q soundtrack is not safe for work by any means, but I find myself playing it at work on a regular basis anyways.  Avenue Q may not be the best for those who are offended easily, but it has more than its fair share of valid points.  One has to wonder what the Avenue Q soundtrack would have been like if it had been a television series – somehow I don’t think it would be the same.

    2. Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog (Internet / DVD – 2008): If you haven’t seen this yet, go to Hulu right now and watch it. OK? Watch it? Good. Wasn’t that amazing? And what about the music? A high point on the album (and the video itself), is the song “A Man’s gotta do,” which outlines a pivotal scene in song. The scatting in the second chorus between Penny, Dr Horrible, and Captain Hammer is probably my favorite part of the entire video (the remote control is in my hands! Balls!).  That’s what makes this soundtrack so great – the music is not there for the music’s sake – the music is part of the plot. If you took the music out of the production, there would be no storyline.  If this is what happens when writer’s go on strike, maybe writers should go on strike more often!

    1.  A Mighty Wind (Film – 2003): The soundtrack for “A Mighty Wind” did something different than any other soundtrack mentioned on this list: A Mighty Wind’s soundtrack included songs not in the movie. One notable instance is the Folksmen covering “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones.  They take a traditional sex, drugs, and rock and roll song, and make it a folk song. Quite intriguing actually. And while the soundtrack features other instances of songs not mentioned in the movie, one can also judge between the “toothpaste commercial” New Main Street Singers version of “Never Did No Wandering,” or the Folksmen version which is musically truer to the lyrics. On a side note, if you have not seen this film, you should! The soundtrack is the best of the Ohs, but the movie itself is the best mocumentary of the ohs. I could think of far worst things to do with an hour and a half.

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  • Top 25 albums of the zeros!

    25. Sigur Rós – Takk…  (2005): Ah, what would we do without Sigur Rós? Of course, the lyrics would mean more to me if I could actually speak Icelandic, but one gets the general idea even without the lyrics. I guess that’s what makes Sigur Rós such a wonderful band – their music transcend the language barrier. Of course, knowing that they write the original melody in a made up language called “hopelandic” and add real lyrics sure helps one find an interpretation.

    24. The Flaming Lips – At War with the Mystics (2006): The first time I heard “The W.A.N.D.”, I knew I wanted more of this album. At War with the Mystics might not get the love that “Yoshima Battles the Pink Robots,” has been getting, but its probably the most accessible album The Flaming Lips has ever done. At any rate, how can one pass up ANY album by one of the greatest rock bands of the last twenty years?

    23. Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005): Mr. Bird’s second solo album is also his best. From Opposite Day’s karmatic approach on the world, to Nervous Tic’s painting of two different people’s lives, this album has some of the most brilliant lyrics of the decade. And Mr Bird’s whistling! Don’t forget about his whistling!

    22. Blitzen Trapper – Furr (2008): I have a theory on this album: every song has something to do with dreams. Some songs are dreams, some song reference dreams, some songs talk about dreams. Even if my theory is wrong, every song makes me fish for meaning, and that’s always a good thing. And the 1970s flare of the album always puts me in a good mood.

    21. Jenny Lewis (with The Watson Twins) – Rabbit Fur Coat (2006): Jenny Lewis is no longer starring in Toys R Us commercials, and that’s a good thing! Her first album away from Rilo Kiley explores spirituality, poverty, and even corrupt politicians. Backed by the beautiful harmonizing of The Watson Twins, this album is candy for the ears. And probably the best cover of the decade (Handle me With Care by the Traveling Willburies) is on this album.

    20. Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001): Ben Folds lost the other two members of the Ben Folds Five, and produced this amazing and fun album. The title track is hysterical, telling the story of a white kid from the suburbs and how rough his life is. But the album is not all light fun; “Zak and Sara” tells a story of a couple just trying to make it, “The Ascent of Stan” tells a tale of a hippie who sells out his beliefs, and “Fired” tells the story of an abusive workplace (probably run by Stan actually).

    19. Air – Talkie Walkie (2004): The first time I heard “Cherry Blossom Girl,” I kind of fell in love. That sounds like a Cliche’, but its really the truth.  A month later, I bought the entire album. While the other songs didn’t quite hit me like Cherry Blossom Girl, my first exposure to Air was more than pleasant. Air: they named their band well. We all need a little Air to live.

    18. Rilo Kiley – Take Offs and Landings (2001): Depending on who you ask, this was Rilo Kiley’s first or second album (I say second). To me, Rilo Kiley was a defining band in the early and mid zeros. I remember one college paper that was written in its entirety while listening to this album. Of course, there’s also a negative memory- a girl actually quoted “Science vs Romance” to me as a reason we shouldn’t date….but that’s a different story altogether! And I do have to admit, she was right!

    17. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love (2009): When making this list, I knew I had to include this album. To be honest, I’m still digesting it as a whole – and I’ve had it since February of this year (2009). I am actually surprised it took The Decemberists this long to do a rock opera, considering their albums are always equal parts literature and music, but The Hazards of Love was worth the wait.

    16. Daft Punk – Human After All (2005): Ahhh, funky dance music – how could I live without you? But there’s more than just funky dance music, there’s a running theme in this album about television as well as consumerism. Your feet and your mind will love this album equally.

    15. Elvis Costello – North (2003): This is a great album to listen to on a cold, rainy night or a walk in the snow. Probably the only non-Christmastime album I associate with winter. Its not a typical Elvis Costello album – pretty much piano driven, slow Jazz – but that’s what makes this such a magnificent album.

    14. Blonde Redhead – Misery is a Butterfly (2004): From Elephant Woman to Falling man, this album is everything I love about Blonde Redhead. When they stop playing music as a band, I’m sure I’ll look back at this album and see it as their masterpiece. Well, maybe – they might have a few good albums left in them still.

    13. Ladytron – Light & Magic (2003): I bought this album as soon as I saw it was available. I didn’t even listen to any tracks on the album – just picked it off the rack, brought it to the counter, and paid for it. Ladytron’s sophomore release did not disappoint. The songs are full of metaphors that I’m still trying to unwrap six years later. And one of these years I’ll find a translation to the songs sung in Bulgarian.

    12. Over The Rhine – Ohio (2003): This album was originally supposed to be two albums, but the band couldn’t stand to separate the songs from one another, so they released this masterpiece of a double album. At times Ohio’s songs are minimal and naked, at times they are fully orchestrated. At times Ohio explores personal hardships and spirituality, at times, the songs are outright political. If you can find it, be sure to check out the extended version of “How Long Have You Been Stoned.”

    11. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (2005): The New Pornographers are my favorite band, so of course they would get a mention on this list. Twin Cinema is somewhat of a departure from a simple rock and roll to more of an album rock sound. The band also grew in the literal sense with the addition of keyboardists / Vocalist Kathryn Calder.  And what other band can write a song full of lyrics that don’t really make any sense and make it sound like an epic journey?

    10. The Polyphonic Spree – The Fragile Army (2007): This is the album I always pull out when I’m feeling down and want to cheer myself up. While a 20+ member band cannot really be described as “scaled down” in any sense, The Fragile Army seems to be the most “scaled down” of The Spree’s albums. The songs feel more accessible and while the songs still work as pieces to a whole album, almost all of them work individually – which is a change of focus for The Spree. Next time you feel like curling up with a blanket and sobbing into a pillow, pull up the video for “We Crawl” and try not to smile just a little.

    9. Rufus Wainwright – Want One (2003): I like to think of this album as a musical blog: Wainwright seems to write about random experiences from dancing at a club, hoping someone special will call and “Vibrate” his phone, to hitting on someone (and getting shot down) on a train. Every time I wake up at 11:11, I must quote the song of the same name. Though I have to change the lyrics, because I usually AM in Portland (the lyrics state he is NOT in Portland – or Heaven).

    8. Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003): I picked this album up during a time when everything in my life was changing. The album provided much needed solace to me in a very shaky time. Now that things have changed a few more times, and I’m generally on the upside, this album still provides me with a smile when I hear it. Maybe its the lyrics, maybe its the music, or maybe I’m just a sucker for any band that likes to give their albums a 60s and 70s feel.

    7. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World (2001): There’s a reason this album had two tracks on the Garden State Soundtrack, as well as an in Movie shout out by Natalie Portman. Yes, this band WILL change your life – but you probably knew that already. This band has gotten so much positive press that its hard not to know this band. But in case you haven’t heard it, go listen to it already! Jeez! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?!?!?!?

    6. U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000): No, this was not the Joshua Tree come again, but All that you Can’t Leave Behind is one of the best albums U2 has done to date – I would rank it number four. Sure, its got the crowd pleasing (and thus overplayed) “Elevation,” but its also got so many overlooked songs: Wild Honey, New York, Kite. Grace. There really isn’t a bad song on this album.

    5. Ladytron – 604 (2001): Ladytron’s first full length album is often described as “what 1980s futurists believed music in 2000 would sound like.”  While I’m glad not all music sounds this way, I am also glad 604 sounds the way it does. 604 is probably the best, and most important electronic pop album since Kraftwerk’s “Die Mensch-Maschine.” I’m still waiting for an interpretation to the songs done in Bulgarian though!

    4. Sufjan Stevens – Come on, Feel the Illinoise (2005): This is probably the most obscure album on this list (sarcasm tag).  I think Paste (do they matter anymore?) rated this as the best album of the decade. While I don’t quite agree with Paste, Illinoise is indeed one of the most ambitious pieces of music I’ve listened to in a very long time and is probably in my top twenty all time favorite albums. Now, will Sufjan ever continue with his 50 states album project. or was that really a joke? Come on Sufjan, feel the Oregon already! That didn’t quite sound right.

    3. Menomena – I am the Fun Blame Monster (2003): Menomena is my favorite local band, and one of my favorite bands altogether. When this album finally came out, I already knew all the songs by heart (I saw them several times in early 2003). They also get the award for best packaging ever. The CD booklet was actually an 80 page flipbook and was hand assembled by band members. If you can, get a hold of the song “stability” and compare it to the album version (E is Stable).

    2. The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic (2000): Some might not actually consider this album to be eligible for a best of the zeros list, considering the first songs were recorded in 1998, but the album release date says 2000, so that’s good enough for me. And besides, how could I not include my favorite band’s debut album? The best song on the album,”Letter from an Occupant” is really a show of all the band’s talents, but do not stop there! Even if you’re just a Neko fan and not a New Pornographers fan, listen to the entire album! If you can, find the Japanese version which features a cover of Donner Party’s “When I was a Baby.”

    1. The Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004): Again,an album that has plenty of good press – but the Arcade Fire deserves all the good press they get and more! Every single song on this album is amazing: From Wake up, to Rebellion (lies), to the four “Neighborhood” songs, to Haiti, to…you get the point. The Arcade Fire is one of those bands that puts good use off the talent they have. I think most of the band members must play an average of two instruments on any given song. For an extra treat, watch this video of The Arcade Fire doing “Wake Up” with David Bowie.

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  • A decade long trek…

    I’m in the preparation stage for writing my best albums of the decade post(s). Its quite a  daunting task, because there is a LOT of music from the zeros(or whatever we’re calling this decade) in my music collection – more so than any other decade. Part of it is because not every album I’ve owned from previous decades is in a playable format; many of my CDs have been lost or damaged, and I really don’t have many cassette tapes left. Part of it is because I have more disposable income, and thus tend to buy more albums. But part of it is simply there is more accessibility to music this decade than there has been in past decades.

    I remember in 2001, as a third year student at PSU, I discovered MP3.com. With a few searches, I was able to find so many artists. These artists did not necessarily have a label, or in some cases, even an album, but they had mp3s up for grabs.  I still listen to many of these mp3s today, though I’ve lost a few in the inevitable switching from one computer to another. Adding to the online accessibility equation, there was (and is), of course, the wave of P2P applications that have made it easier to find music; Napster, Kazaa, Soulseek, and Bit torrent clients have all found their ways onto my hard drive over the last ten years. And of course payed services such as Itunes and Emusic have played a part in my musical consumption. Its so much easier to read an album review at midnight in my pajamas, listen to a thirty second snippet of a song, and then download said song – perhaps even the entire album, than it is to read said review and wait till the next day to go to the record store. That is assuming that one remembers to do so.

    But websites, P2Ps, and online music stores are not the only thing that’s made music more accessible in the last ten years; podcasts and Internet radio have played a vital role in finding new music as well. No longer are we a slave to whatever crap our local stations insist on playing. If we don’t like what the Portland stations are playing, we can check out what Seattle or New York or Los Angeles or Denver or London or Singapore and etcetera is playing. We can listen to almost any radio station in the world now. And of course, there are podcasts from both professional DJs, and amateur DJs from all over the world.  Its fairly common for me to listen to a podcast and end up downloading a quarter of the songs played on said podcast.

    While accessibility has played a major part in the music of the last decade, there are simply more bands producing music right now. Any garage band can record their music and upload it to the Internet without having to have a record company. And sure, record companies help, but they’re not necessary. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah produced and distributed their first album without the help of a record company. This could not have happened before this decade. Sure, the early 90s saw a surge of garage bands make it big, and everyone started wondering how to find these garage bands – but that was the problem, no one knew where to look because these garage bands, if they were able to afford to make a recording, could only afford to make a limited number of CDs. Its just easier to market yourself online, then it is to play a dozen or so shows around the city and hope that you develop a following.

    It truly has been a noteworthy decade as far as music is concerned. It makes me wonder what the next ten years will bring. Some of my favorite artists did not exist until this decade. Other bands that I’ve loved all through the 90s, and even into the 80s, decided to call it quits in the zeros. What bands will emerge in the teens, and what bands will call it quits? What technologies will emerge? What technologies will become obsolete? In ten years will we mock the Ipod like we mock the cassette tape now? And will my musical tastes be different in 2019? They certainly are not the same as they were in 1999. Only time will tell on any of these questions, but I suspect the teens will show us all a lot of music. Look out for my top albums of the zeros in a week or so, as well as one or two other best of the decade lists.

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  • How (not) to form a charity supergroup.

    As someone who grew up in the 1980s, I was exposed to many charity supergroups and the songs they produced. Yes, such classics as “We are the World,” “That’s What Friends are For,” and “Do They Know its Christmas” are all part of my childhood – not to mention a few Christian charity supergroups. But Christian or “Secular,” charity soupergroup songs were cheesy, at times unlistenable, but still fond memories. And they laid the groundwork for modern charity supergroups. Two in particular have caught my attention, but for different reasons. In 2005, The North American Hallowe’en Prevention Initiative (NAHPI) recorded “Do They Know its Halloween?” A few months ago the song “Beds are Burning” was re-recorded by a group of international celebrities put together by the organization Tck tck tck. Like I said, the two songs have caught my attention for two different reasons: While NAHPIs song was probably my favorite charity supergroup song of all time, Tck tck tck’s attempt was an exercise in charity supergroup failure.

    NAHPI did almost everything right. They never took themselves too seriously, knowing that previous charity supergroups have been parodied beyond measure. In fact, “Do They Know its Halloween” is a direct parody of “Do They know its Christmas.” While the song’s proceeds go to benefit UNICEF, the song “stems from a frustration with other benefit songs’ misguided, somewhat patronizing attitude, and Western-centric worldview.”  For their celebrity roster, they kept it pretty low key – mostly indie rockers. The most notable people involved in the song are Beck, Feist, Win and Régine (The Arcade Fire), David Cross, and Elvira (it is a Halloween song after all).  The song itself was extremely humorous, and the video even more so. Ghosts with zipper mouths, David Cross yelling about cute Kitten calendars, and even a giant pumpkin moving down the streets, eager to destroy anyone fool enough not to take cover. Do They Know its Halloween is indeed a great song. In fact, its become a cherished tradition of mine to listen to this song over and over on Halloween.

    While the NAHPI song was creative, intelligence, and humorous, the Tck tck tck song was – well, not. I found this “gem” on Itunes for free a while back. As I said, I grew up in the 1980’s, so I was very excited to see a cover of the classic Midnight Oil song. Having said this, I must wonder WHAT THE HECK WERE THEY THINKING!?!?!?!?! Yes, Climate change is a pressing issue, and while I will not debate the arguments for or against climate change,  but I will say I wish I could undownload this song! And its not just because its a bad song, its because downloading this song off Itunes and other services is an automatic signature to a petition that will be presented at the conference demanding “climate justice now.” This was not stated anywhere when I hit “download.” In a sense, they tricked me into signing their petition. Like I said, I am not going to debate for or against climate change, but I am against anyone who is so desperate for names on thier petition that they are not up front what you are “signing.” It makes me question the organization as a whole, and I have to wonder what they’re trying to sneak into their initiatives.

    But I digress. Even if they were honest about why they want people to download their song, one has to wonder still, what the heck were they thinking? Firstly, they were too lazy to write a new song. This is a group of so called artists from around the world, and all they can do is remake a 20 year old song? Can they not use all their alleged musical talent to write a new song? The only good excuse I can think of for using an old song is that its “recycling.” But even if they used Beds are Burning to present an “eco-friendly” model, they could have at LEAST been creative with the lyrics they changed. Instead, you get a song that’s preachy, stuffy, and bland. As far as the “artists,” there’s a few A listers: Fergie (who has the talent and brains of a peanut), and Lily Allen(yawn). They use several international artists (probably the only thing that makes sense about this song, considering its a worldwide conference), a bunch of has beens (Scorpions, Duran Duran, and Midnight Oil), and several top 40 soon to be has been pre-teen rock bands. There’s also an intro statement by Kofi Annan and an ending statement by Desmond Tutu.  All in all, Beds are Burning is about the most boring charity supergroup song since Dionne Warwick and friends did “That’s what Friends are For.”

    Charity supergroups are often times composed of hypocrites. After Band-Aid, most of the artists walked away and did  nothing else (one notable exception is Bono, who stayed in Africa for two weeks afterwards). Most of the celebrities involved in Beds are Burning probably really support the initiatives put out by Tck tck tck, but are they willing to do their part? I would love to see a list of their carbon footprints. Both Fergie and Lily Allen tour on a regular basis. Are their tour buses and jets fueled by bio-diesel? Or do they put out a smog cloud the size of LA every time they tour?  Its easy to get in front of a mic and say they support something, but one cannot expect others to change if one does not first change themselves. Perhaps that’s another factor that made NAHPI such a great charity supergroup. They saw something that bugged them, ie the fact that most charity supergroups were patronizing and Western-centric, and they used their creative talents to do something about it! The money they raised for UNICEF was just the icing on the cake.

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  • Why I (don’t) hate Radiohead

    It is fairly common for me to make snide remarks about Radiohead. In a conversation with a friend, I once said they were only a step above Matchbox 20. While I was using hyperbole on my friend (who is a pretty loyal Radiohead fan), I do not like the way Radiohead has gone in the last few years – but I don’t actually hate Radiohead, I just think and know they can do better.

    Hail to the thief and Thom Yorke’s solo album were, in all honesty, some of the worst albums I’ve heard this decade. In Rainbows had its moments, but I still think they could have done a lot better. And, like I said, that is the point; Radiohead can do better. Ok, I won’t go so far as saying Thom Yorke is a musical genius, but the man has talent. Ok Computer was not a stroke of good luck, but an extremely well done album – and, in my opinion, one of the best albums of the 1990s. Pablo Honey and The Bends were amazing albums! Even Kid A and Amnesic had their moments, though honestly, I think they both start to show Radiohead’s decline.

    So what happened? How did Radiohead go from making one of the best albums of the 90s, to making one of the worst albums in the 2000’s? Maybe its laziness, maybe its lack of inspiration, or maybe its the fact that, in terms of thier fans, they can do no wrong (so again, maybe its laziness). Seriously, Radiohead is the band that you cannot insult. Everytime I post a negative comment about Radiohead on Digg, I get burried so deeply that my comments get deleted! Everytime I mention Radiohead’s decline to my friends, or even complete strangers, I get an earful. Why do people insist on standing so vehemently for Radiohead? I think I would get a warmer response if I were to show up at the Democratic National Convention and declare that Geroge W Bush was the best president we ever had! This is not normal behavior people, and quite frankly, this kind of behavior does not provide the band to do better!

    I mentioned earlier that In Rainbows “had its moments.” Honestly, I might rate In Rainbows right in between Kid A and Amnesic. They are on an upswing I believe. Musically, and in other areas too. I have a lot of respect for them saying download In Rainbows and pay whatever you feel like paying. Bravo! Bravo! They could have done a better job with the whole Miley Cyrus incident, though in all honesty, I probably would have added insult to injury, so I suppose I should give them some credit for that. Radiohead might very well be on an upswing, however, it might be the fans that make the difference. I challenge all the Radiohead fans out there to do this: Do not automaticlytreat everything Radiohead puts out as gold. Listen to it, get to know the music, analyze the lyrics, and scrutinize the albums and songs against what they’ve done. Does it hold true to their level of talent? Are they taking chances? Are they utilizing thier creative talents? Does the music still hold the edge that Radiohead is famous for? Or does it sound like the leftovers from previous albums? Ask yourselves these questions, and if you find the answer to these questions is no, then be vocal about it! Don’t just pass it off as just a bad album, get online and blog about it! Tell your friends the new Radiohead album sucks! Let your voice be heard! Perhaps this is exactly what Radiohead needs! And perhaps thier next album will be one of the best albums of the next decade.

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