Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sweet summer tunes....

August is here, the back to school clothes are in the catalogs…before summer is over I want to mention a few good, fizzy summer songs I’m diggin’ right now. I had a rental car a few weeks ago and inevitably the station pre-sets were all at top 40 stations. I thought to myself, let’s see what’s happening outside of my little world, and listened for a while as I drove. Ouch. Auto-tune, R&B wailings, growling, doofusy Nickelback…and then I heard The Ting Tings’ “That’s Not My Name”. At first I was derisive, but once that super stoopid yet catchy chorus kicked in,
“They call me hell / They call me Stacy / They call me her / They call me Jane”,I was a goner. It's the way she says "STAY-cee" and the intricate girl/girl harmonies that embellish the end of the song. That set off my taste buds for more sugar. Somewhere, I heard The New Young Pony Club’s “Ice Cream” and that also made my heart go pitter pat:

“I can give you what you want. I can make your heart beat short. I can make you ice cream We could be a sweet team Melting in your vice dreams, sport.”
It’s British and sassy and young. I loved it. So I got those off of iTunes, and also added in Tegan and Sara’s “Back in Your Head”. I heard that song last year when I was in a cheap accessories store, trying to figure out if a necklace with a plastic strawberry on it was appropriate for a 46 year old library director, and it lodged in my brain, its little piano notes and the plaintive “run run run” part. I had half-remembered it as “I Just Want You In My Head”, and had no idea it was Tegan and Sara, so I looked fruitlessly for it on iTunes for a while. Fruit! That’s it. These songs are like having a bowl full of ripe apricots, ready to eat.

Friday, June 12, 2009


It started with “Cut Your Hair”, my fierce love for Pavement. The silly video and the vocals won me over. The silky, floppy hair, strong jaw and patrician nose of Stephen Malkmus made me feel fluttery. Then I fell into the cd Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and could not stop listening to “Stop Breathin’”. “Got struck by the first volley..”. The song had swooping power chords, passionate singing, confusing yet evocative lyrics…why, they were more than just sarcastic songwriters making fun of Stone Temple Pilots (“…those elegant bachelors”). They had depth, mixed with silliness and wordplay. My favorite combo! I stuck with Pavement and listened non-stop to Slanted and Enchanted and also took a shine to Stephen’s solo stuff. And when I feel blue, I look up the performance of “Jenny and the Ess-Dog”, performed by SM and the Jicks on Letterman, easily accessed on YouTube. Malkmus does a rock-star perfect yell and tosses his floppy hair and looks like the aging yet handsome slacker that he is.

Friday, June 5, 2009

For about two weeks straight I was listening to The Decemberists’ “The Hazards of Love”. I caught them performing on The Colbert Report and knew I needed to hear more. The husband caught the bug too and purchased the CD the very next day. I reveled in its ambitious themes, and the smoky, powerful voice of their guest female vocalist on “The Wanting Comes In Waves”. I listened to “The Rake” over and over and dug its sharp drums and mean lyrics. In "The Queen's Rebuke" these lyrics are awesome:
"I'm made of bones of the branches the boughs and the brow-beating light/While my feet are the trunks and my head is the canopy high/And my fingers extend to the leaves in the eves, and the bright/Brighter shineI/t's my shine/And he/Was a baby abandonedEntombed in a cradle of clay/And I was a soul who took pity and stole him away/And gave him the form of a faun to inhabit by day.."

But now, I’m over it. The spell is broken. I still like it, but I don’t need to hear it every day. It’s funny how that happens.

Friday, May 29, 2009

See Me...Feel Me

Just saw a picture in Rolling Stone of Roger Daltrey on stage at Woodstock. In his GLORY. Mop of hair, mutton chop sideburns, tight trousers, rockerly expression on his face, but most importantly: the fringed jacket. Balls-out, serious fringe, tons of it, so when he moved his arms the fringe floated around him in mesmerizing waves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Britney...you're off the list.

I liked Christina Aguilera’s song “Genie In a Bottle”. A lot. Restrained vocals and a tinkling piano. I liked Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”. Fun production values. Her smoky voice and the slow-fast-slow structure. Rhianna’s “Umbrella”? Yes please. Ella ella…eh eh eh…so weird and catchy. I loved Mariah Carey’s song “Vision of Love”. A gal singing her ass off. I even liked Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry”. Don’t look at me like that…her voice curls nicely around the dumb lyrics. Gwen’s “Hella Good”? Hella GREAT. I liked Madonna’s “Hung Up” (the way she said slow-lee and the robotic groove). I loved Madonna’s “Angel” (a much earlier, perfect song before the voice lessons). These are all songs I procured at one time and put in mixes for myself. Not my usual fare, so they were like a salty, crunchy little snack in the middle of a larger meal when they would pop up between sludgier sounds. But then there’s Britney. I don’t seem to have a favorite Britney snack. Hit me baby…nah. Oops, I did it again…no thanks. Not sure why they’ve never made it into a mix. I guess her voice left me cold.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Aimee Mann, X and fireworks

Two of my favorite songs are about the 4th of July. For all the rah-rah, grillin' up wieners, pyrotechnic aspects of the 4th of July, both songs are melancholy mood pieces.
John Doe and Exene of X sing about a couple, living in a "dark apartment" in downtown L.A in their song "4th of July". They've had some kind of argument or are in a general state of unraveling. I always liked these lines:
On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below
Hey baby it's the Fourth of July

It feels like L.A. You can see the apartment and feel the hot, summer air. You can identify with the pensive guy sitting there while loud festivities go on around him.

Aimee Mann's song "4th of July" has one of the best-written first stanzas ever:
Today's the fourth of July
another June has gone by
and when they light up our town
I just think what a waste of gunpowder and sky

I love the clever economy that says so much. "Another June has gone by..." And then that sharp finish, "what a waste of gunpowder and sky". That's so good. Gives me goosebumps.

Oh blond, angular, depressed Aimee. So talented. I hope she picks up some sparklers and potato salad this year on the 4th. There's usually a Twilight Zone marathon on if she prefers to stay indoors.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jon Anderson and caftans

“How can the wind with its arms all around me?”

I don’t know….but it can. I’ve been listening to some vintage Yes lately and am especially stuck on “Heart of the Sunrise”. I still admire the musicians’ skill and it also reminds me of my teenage self, responding to those awkward lyrics involving dreams and sunrises and arms all around me. Yes always sounded clean and metallic to me, not like heavy metal but like it existed in an airless otherworld. Jon Anderson’s “..sharp!....distance!” in his high, reedy voice rang like a bell through my feverish teen brain. The shifting tempos and that hyper bass, scurrying around like a low-bellied bulldog through every song seemed like good mathematics. I liked picturing all those skinny English dudes completely lost in the song as they played it, glancing at each other to stay within their tight timing, then breaking for a prim round of tea and biscuits. I looked on You Tube for an old, live performance of it and found one from way too recent 2003. Sure, they sounded good. Pretty tight, even. But except for the drummer, who looked perfectly fine in a black t-shirt, they were all wearing flowing outfits, the kind of thing mature ladies buy at Chico’s. Worst of all, they were in natural daylight. The caftan-esque shirts, the balding pates, the harsh lighting… I guess I just want them back in my stereo.