30 August 2009

What Are Your Top 20 Rock Songs of All Time?

This is the question the radio station I cannot get enough of - 101.9 RXP - is posing to its listeners and staff this Labor Day weekend. In order to be a part of their 1,019 greatest rock songs of all time you must fill out the ballot located on their site by tomorrow, August 31st, with your top 20 choices and refrain from repeating any favorite artist more than once. Along with your definitive list, the station is asking for your choice of an ultimate song by their crew of "pioneer rockers" including Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles (pre-Rubber Soul). Results will air Friday morning, September 4 to Monday evening, September 7th.

In case of confusion, they've been kind enough to clog my mind by including on their site the ballots of their DJ's and a few scattered music industry types as examples. I am now obsessed. I need to hear each and every one of these songs immediately. If someone, a disc jockey no less, thinks a song belongs on a TOP 20 LIST OF ALL TIME then I need to know why before my head explodes. I wish I could say it more eloquently but this is the kind of list I create each night before I go to sleep, the kind I write rough drafts of during particularly boring days in science class. I'm at work right now - in the center of the storm some call a Hatebreed concert - and therefore my time is limited but I wanted to complete this post in order to maybe give someone a chance to enter the contest. My list probably won't be finished until tomorrow at which time I'll regret all my choices but still post it here for all to see. Until then, enjoy a sampling of the best list I've read yet - Mr. Matt Pinfield's, the originator of this plan.

The Ramones - I Just Wanna Have Something to Do
The Who - Substitute
Neil Young - Old Man
Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen in Love
The Jam - Going Underground
The Kinks - Sunny Afternoon
Led Zeppelin - Hey Hey What Can I Do
David Bowie - Rock N Roll Suicide
The Clash - Death or Glory
Bruce Springsteen - Candy's Room
Elvis Costello - Accidents Will Happen
Soundgarden - Outshined
The Cure - In Between Days
Jimi Hendrix - Castles Made of Sand
The Smiths - How Soon is Now
Oasis - Live Forever
U2 - Where the Streets Have No Name
Dramarama - Anything Anything
Pearl Jam - Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Nine Inch Nails - Hurt

To cast your ballot go to Rock Countdown Ballots.

New Single Snippet: John Mayer

Well, it's here. "Who Says" by Mr. John Mayer.

The acoustic version he's been playing around LA has been stuck in my head for weeks now but I was expecting a little more from the studio version. I don't know. It's difficult for me to get critical about my favorite artist but based on some other new song snippets from his upcoming album I'm not sure why this was chosen as the first single. I really enjoy the lyrics, both as comedy and slight tragedy, but as one Youtube comment noted: It's very James Taylor. I know Mayer has always been in that genre but it's intensity is up a notch on this one. If I heard it on the radio tomorrow and didn't know it was John Mayer, I would probably love it regardless and think it was hysterical but he has SO MUCH in him that still feels a little repressed. I'm rooting more for "Half of My Heart" than this but I still love it and if I love it now after a few listens I'll probably be obsessed and wondering why I ever questioned it's integrity.

And this is me being really critical of Mayer - this is the worst I can think to say. Other than that, I'm more ready than ever to hear his new music and cannot believe I have to wait until November for more.

(This one minute sample comes courtesy of Youtube but originally from John Mayer's online radio program where he first tested this new material out last night.)

Tentative "Who Says" lyrics:

Who says I can't get stoned?
Turn off the lights and the telephone
Me and my house alone
Who says I can't get stoned?

Who says I can't be free?
From all of the things that I used to be
Re-write my history
Who says I can't be free?

Its been a long night in New York City
Its been a long night in Baton Rouge
I don't remember you looking any better
But then again I don't remember you

Who says I can't get stoned?
Call up a girl that I used to know
Fake love for an hour or so
Who says I can't get stoned?

Who says I can't take time?
Meet all the girls on the county line
Then wait on fate to send a sign
Who says I can't take time?

Its been a long night in New York City
Its been a long night in Austin too
I don't remember you looking any better
But then again I don't remember you

Who says I can't get stoned?
Plan a trip to Japan alone
Doesn't matter if I even go
Who says I can't get stoned?

Its been a long night in New York City
Its been a long time since 20 too
I don't remember you looking any better
But then again I don't remember you

29 August 2009

Song to Love: Divine

It has nearly 2 million views on Youtube, it is a worldwide, underground phenomenon and I cannot get enough of it. "Divine" by French singer Sebastien Tellier is a crazy cavalcade of lunacy. The song, off Tellier's 2008 album Sexuality, was the French entry for the renowned Eurovision Song Contest where it was harshly criticized for being primarily in English to the point of getting the French Parliament involved, partially helping it to place a low 18th out of 25th within the contest.

Despite the controversy, the song peaked high on Belgian, Swedish, Danish, and UK Singles charts throughout 2008 and the video has become an even greater success with the help of comical montages featuring the singer in strange situations amongst people of various backgrounds.

I promise this is the funniest music video you will ever see.

No no no no no no no
I’m looking for a band today
I see the Chivers anyway
Through my eyes

Oh oh oh
I… I’m alone in life to say
I love the Chivers anyway
‘Cause Chivers look divine
Look away
They try to find the Milky Way
They love to drink it every day

No no no no no no no
You… you and I, it’s like you said
I’m not a Chivers anyway
You look fine

Oh oh oh
I… I’m alone in life to say
I love the Chivers anyway
‘Cause Chivers look divine
Look away
They try to find the Milky Way

I… toi et moi, c’est comme tu sais
Comment mon cœur a succombé
She looks fine

Oh oh oh
I’m looking for a band today
I see the Chivers anyway
I’ll be a Chivers guy some day
In my mind

Dudu dududu dududu…
Dudu dududu dududu…
Du… dudu…

(In case you were wondering, "Chivers" is apparently a fictitious high school band in the movie "Steak" that Tellier was in and composed for.)

They're Playing My Song

I am sick to my stomach today. As much as I feigned excitement about the coming semester, I am not in the mood to go back to the lifestyle it requires: waking up at 7am, walking to and from distant campuses, faking a smile for strangers, awkward encounters, etc. I almost feel like I'm too old for it. Most of my age-appropriate friends have either graduated or decided not to attend college. I am an old lady walking around with Ugg wearing youngsters trying to act like I'm into Miley Cyrus or something.

But I am.

I have a secret that I would only share with the people crazy enough to read this very music blog: I have watched Hannah Montana, I have enjoyed Miley Cyrus's creeptastic rants about her father, Billy Ray, and I have a really strange reason for loving for her latest single, "Party in the U.S.A.". I know! Stop reading now. It might only get worse! This is ridiculous. I'm stuck in the movie Big or something. I'm going backwards in time. While it sounds juvenile to appreciate Cyrus, I promise if you stick it out until my point is finished, you just may find there's quasi-sophisticated reasoning behind my madness.

Okay, to prove my point, here are the lyrics:

I hopped off the plane at LAX
with a dream and my cardigan
welcome to the land of fame excess,
am I gonna fit in?

Jumped in the cab,
Here I am for the first time
Look to the right and I see the Hollywood sign
This is all so crazy
Everybody seems so famous

My tummys turnin and I'm feelin kinda home sick
Too much pressure and I'm nervous,
That's when the taxi man turned on the radio
and a Jay Z song was on
and the Jay Z song was on
and the Jay Z song was on

So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away
Noddin’ my head like yea
Movin my hips like yea
I got my hands up,
They’re playin my song
I know im gonna be ok
Yea, It's a party in the USA

Get to the club in my taxi cab
Everybody's lookin at me now
Like “whos that chick, thats rockin’ kicks?
She gotta be from out of town”

So hard with my girls all around me
Its definitely not a Nashville party
Cause’ all I see are stilettos
I guess I never got the memo

My tummys turnin and I'm feelin kinda home sick
Too much pressure and I'm nervous
That's when the D.J. dropped my favorite tune
and a Britney song was on
and the Britney song was on
and the Britney song was on

So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away
Noddin’ my head like yea
Movin my hips like yea
I got my hands up,
They’re playin my song
I know im gonna be ok
Yea, It's a party in the USA

Feel like hoppin' on a flight (on a flight)
Back to my hometown tonight (town tonight)
Something stops me every time (every time)
The DJ plays my song and I feel alright

So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away
Noddin’ my head like yea
Movin my hips like yea
I got my hands up,
They’re playin my song
I know im gonna be ok
Yea, It's a party in the USA

Okay: when I first heard this song being made fun of on The Soup where Miss Cyrus was kind enough to entertain us all with a pole routine and crazy gyrations on top of a makeshift ice cream truck during her Teen Choice Awards performance, I found myself bopping my head along. I didn't want to but it happened. Then, as I'm proned to do, I watched the same episode of The Soup again. And again. Joel McHale is one of my all time favorite people so I can never get enough. Anyway, with each viewing I found myself creeping more and more out of my seat to the point that I wasn't just laughing, I was enjoying it. Something about the lyrics made that crazy bell inside of me ring.

This song is all about music in a really interesting perspective. Other songs may have done this before but I didn't catch it. Blatantly the lyrics are saying music will save us from everything. This young girl arrives in LA full of frustrations and anguish about what lies ahead of her then she joyously hears her favorite Jay-Z song (sometimes replaced by "Michael" - as in Jackson - during live performances) and everything is okay. She's suddenly moving her head "like yea" and shaking her hips "like yea". I'm not sure what that means but I approve. And I know what she's saying.

Who among us hasn't had a god awful day when suddenly our favorite song comes on the radio and we instinctively raise the volume knob and starting singing along? This freaking song has tapped into the truth behind the love of music. I might still be slightly intoxicated but I sincerely believe this.

I'll give you an example:

When I thought I would be a driver, I took a meaningless computerized permit test at the DMV. I was about a 100 years old at the time, nowhere near 16 or whatever the normal age is, and I absolutely didn't want to be a part of this scene. I don't know if you're aware of what happens at a DMV in New Jersey but there are hairy, old men with open shirts and large protruding stomachs, scary, young women with so much hairspray on their heads they look like bad wax statues, and angry people of all shapes and sizes behind the counter - a situation that can only be described as the creepy leading the creepier. It was one of the most miserable days of my life. I am not a person that gets excited about studying for a test that will only lead to bankruptcy and car crashes. Suddenly, in the middle of maybe question 22 on the test, John Mayer pipes out of the speakers. "Waiting on the World to Change".

My head popped up, I regained a sense of the outside world, and passed the test. I scheduled a driving test date that I never attended and marched out the door. It was a victory - mostly due in part to them "playing my song, and the butterflies fly away, moving my head like yea..." You get the idea.

This is not the first time a song came on the radio that miraculously changed my thought process - not by a mile. John Mayer always comes on at exactly the right time and just the other day I was feeling like a sack of broken old bones (this is not a strange feeling for me) in the car when Snow Patrol's "Hands Open" started playing on my favorite, favorite radio station, 101.9 RXP, and I had to turn it up. I was barely even conscious and I just had to hear that song louder. It is simply involuntary. That same day there was also this James Morrison song on the same station that I managed to write down in my phone as not to forget it when I could consciously look it up. Some things just sound so good (hence the title of this blog, baby).

In relation, I realized yesterday how much music can take the shape of a human being. My dear friend in from Ithaca for the weekend was playing a great deal of music in her car on the way to a concert. While we have similar musical appreciation, I couldn't help but notice that her music sounded very much like her - not her voice but the style of who she is. It fit her just right, like a snug jacket. When someone is open and honest about the kind of music they love and know themselves the way they should like she does, this wonderful cloud of music surrounds them in just the right way. I can't see if my music does this as it must be an aura thing that only others can see but when it's there, it's beautiful. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say. It's almost too poetic to express properly.

So here's a video of Miss Miley doing her thing and getting me all messed up and introspective for no reason. I sort of hope you enjoy. She rocks it out better than real rock stars. I hate that I like this stupid/non-stupid girl.

I'm sick, right? I'm a sicko.

27 August 2009

Indecent Infatuations: Set to Music

It's pretty extraordinary how much music plays a part in my everyday life without me consciously provoking it. It seems like any element of my life worthy of discussion has something to do with music - either directly or indirectly.

As usual, while being the epitome of a creepy, young girl I googled something that lead me to the lyrics of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and "What I Go to School For" (I'm sure the more clever of you can use the context clues to figure it out). I'm probably one of the only people strange enough to look for songs pertaining to even my weirdest of obsessions. I heard "Don't Stand So Close to Me" at a bar a few months ago and whilst drunk found it incredibly endearing. That Sting definitely knows what he's talking about from the female perspective at least. I'd post the lyrics but they're slightly incriminating to my character. I have a lovely boyfriend and my indecent infatuation is on his last nerve. With the growing anticipation of classes next week, I will admit I'm out of hand. But I invite any one of you to come with me and see for yourself. It's practically a rite of passage within pop culture to be in love with at least one gorgeous prof. Funny note, my iTunes is telling me that I haven't listened to that Police song since Christmas of 2007 until now. Oh my.

Now I'm embarrassed so on to the next topic:

There are too many good songs I've been listening to lately. I was at another bar (I'm not the alcoholic I make myself out to be, I promise) the other night where the jukebox was ten times better than the usual one I frequent and it inspired me so much that I ran to the library the following day and actually PAID to download at least three of the songs I heard. On a side note, I have fully given up on free music networks like LimeWire that absolutely do not work anymore. If you're looking for a real gem, they are always impossible to find for free these days. I am so satisfied with the music I've been blasting from my headphones. I'll admit when I'm out in public, I get nervous about my music being heard by people sitting next to me on buses, at coffeehouses etc. through my headphones but when I'm listening to Edwin Starr and classic Bruce Springsteen I have nothing to fear. It's just those off days of Britney Spears' "Radar" that I have to worry about.

ANYWAY, it's these soul songs mixed with some other tunes I downloaded after people watching at an Urban Outfitters several months ago that have been reverberating off my eardrums in the past two weeks. I might have written about it at the time but the sound system was so good at UO that songs I've been hearing for the past decade finally started to take shape in my brain as really good material and I immediately dug into exploring them further. I'm talking about songs like "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "One Headlight" here. I don't know where some of this stuff comes from out of nowhere. One day I'm barely listening to something on the radio and the next I'm obsessed with it. It's absolutely all about timing and speakers. Listening to my same old music on my incredible speaker system at home always makes me get up from whatever I'm doing, go to the iTunes playlist, and check out what the amazing song playing is - I'll find it's something I've heard 5 times before that I didn't recognize as great until that very minute - then suddenly I can't get enough of it. While folding clothes the other day, a whole mess of Rhett Miller came on the speakers and I was dying. How did I forget about this guy?

I was also watching part one of The Beatles Anthology tonight on VH1 and felt happier than ever that I didn't go out of the house. This documentary captured my attention for the entire two hours to the point that I was waiting to even get up to go to the bathroom even though I have DVR and could've just paused it. As mentioned previously, I've been a huge fan of George Harrison for nearly a decade now but my immense love of the band collectively didn't reach its peak until maybe five years ago. I had many of their albums before then but didn't appreciate them the way I should have. Hearing their music on this show tonight really opened my mind. I seriously couldn't tear myself away and was really bummed when it was over. If you're any level of a Beatles fan, I highly suggest the cumulative cover story on this week's Rolling Stone that truly encompasses at least a paragraph for every phase of the band. Both the story and documentary got me in the mood to listen to all of my favorite Beatles song on a loop for the rest of the night.

And now for the best part of this post, the playlist. Let's add a dash of this post, a sprinkling of recent 'Songs to Love', and a large dollop of what I've been listening to lately:

01.Edwin Starr - 25 Miles
02.Bruce Springsteen - It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City
03.The Police - Don't Stand So Close to Me
04.Stevie Nicks - Stand Back
05.Sebastien Tellier - Divine
06.The Avett Brothers - Will You Return?
07.The Wallflowers - One Headlight
08.The Clash - Spanish Bombs
09.Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine
10.Sam Cooke - You Send Me
11.Beyonce - Ego (yes, I love it, actually - oh well)
12.Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose - Too Late to Turn Back Now
13.Paolo Nutini - These Streets
14.Phoenix - 1901 (probably on another list too but I still love it - MUST LISTEN)
15.Paul McCartney - My Love
16.The Beatles - You Can't Do That
17.Desi Arnaz - Babalu
18.Eddie Floyd - But It's Alright
19.Gene Vincent - Be-Bop-A-Lula
20.INXS - By My Side

I promise this would make an awesome - if not diverse and maybe even semi-impressive - cd mix for the car or office.

25 August 2009

Dailey Does it Again

Will Dailey is really working his magic on me. I have had a concert ticket for Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire burning a hole in my pocket for the past month when suddenly Will Dailey flies into town on the same evening - this Friday - and makes me reevaluate my plans.

Truth be told, Mr. Dailey is opening for Jonah Smith at the Bowery Ballroom and the reason I'm definitely going is because of my lovely friend who got us on the guest list after I dragged us to his show at Mercury Lounge last month and she took some incredible photographs of the band that got some rightful attention. We both became instant fans and of course, who can pass up free tickets to see a great musician with a great companion? It was difficult giving up those Chicago tickets as it has become an annual tradition for my cousin and I to keep the family spirit alive and see them, our favorite band, together but this seemed like more of a one-time opportunity. There is nothing greater I can support than the discovery and appreciation of new artists and Will Dailey tops that list.

As a quick reminder if this is your first time hearing of Dailey, he is an up and coming, extremely determined and rather extremely passionate, young musician from Boston who is not only reinventing a new way of delivering music to the masses with his Torrent collection but playing to audiences nationwide on tours either headlining or supporting other singer/songwriters. If you have yet to hear him, I would describe his sound somewhere between folksy rock and gutsy pop. There's a lot of power in these little tunes.

I have faith I made the right decision in choosing the hip young Dailey over a band I have seen over a dozen times. Perhaps I can catch another date on their tour?

24 August 2009


This is the kind of moment that I live for:

John Mayer has just announced that his latest album, Battle Studies, will be released November 17th with a single "Who Says" (that we posted about awhile ago) coming even sooner. I'm not sure what this single will do for his "Daughters", "Your Body is a Wonderland", "Say" (aka the worst singles artist ever) stigma but it is sort of about smoking pot and stays true to some of the themes in "Waiting on the World to Change" so it has definite potential.

I don't care who's reading: I am just thrilled! When a new John Mayer album comes out it's better than Christmas, a concert ticket, and a strong margarita combined - it is the greatest day of the year.

To take a look back on some footage fans have received awaiting the epic new album check out the videos below:

Battle Studies Videos 1-3

Half of My Heart - New song that hopefully made it on to the album because it takes my breath away. I could easily listen to this song alone for a month straight.

Latest song leak - "Friends, Lovers, or Nothing" with tambourine courtesy of the immensely talented Steve Jordan. Not as good as "Half of my Heart" for me but I was really impressed with the folksy/soul/'70s vibe I was getting from this song that I rarely feel in Mayer's usual sparse/modern/blues sound.


Rock Cats in Hats

I have a deep love of hats of all kinds. Hats do so much to make an outfit that much more stylish and unique - and atop the heads of these rock stars, they become iconic. While I think Tom Petty does it best, these other cats deserve many kudos as well as they have become as well known for what's on their heads as what's in their music.

From top to bottom: Jamiroquai, Esteban, Flava Flav, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Slash

Inspiration: ZZ Top with Slash and John Mayer at the House of Blues on Friday night. Plenty of superb head attire.

22 August 2009

Jason Mraz: Breaks a Record and Makes a DVD

This is really celebratory news: Mr. Mraz, Mechanicsville, VA native, hippie extraordinare, has made Billboard history with his song "I'm Yours" that first climbed the charts in May 2008 and has managed to stay consistent for the past 70 weeks making it the longest-running single in Billboard's 51 year history. The last single to hold this record, LeAnn Rimes classic "How Do I Live", kept the title for 11 years prior.

"I'm Yours" is also the first song to reach number 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Top 40/Pop Songs, Adult Contemporary, Adult Top 40, and Triple A lists.

While I don't think it's his greatest song, Jason Mraz is the most worthy musician I can think of for this prestegious honor. Unbelievable.

Here's a little article I found on rollingstone.com where Mraz talks about the record breaking news, upcoming live DVD, and future albums:

Jason Mraz set a Billboard Hot 100 record this week with his hit single “I’m Yours” (which he calls his “happy little hippie song”), but confesses he can’t explain the song’s success: “I don’t know what’s behind it — if I knew, I would write more of it!”

Adds Mraz, “The song is about generosity — giving yourself or your time to someone else. What moves me about seeing the world take to ‘I’m Yours’ makes me think the world wants to give its time to other people. I’m really inspired thinking that this is the kind of song people want to hear.”

He tells RS he drew inspiration from elsewhere for the sensual “Butterfly,” also off last year’s We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. (Watch a special acoustic performance of the song, above.) “When I took a break to make this record, I joined my roommate Bushwalla’s band — I was the guitarist and background vocalist,” Mraz explains. “There was a young woman in the band who would also do a burlesque show and invited us to go see her. And I was watching this burlesque show thinking, ‘Man, I wonder if my music is played in any exotic clubs anywhere in the world? I sincerely doubt it.’ That challenged me: I went home, and I thought, ‘I’m going to see if I can’t write a song that a young woman would want to model her shoes to.’ I don’t know if the girl ever found out, but it’s definitely one of the more fun songs in the live show.”

“Butterfly” and the rest of Mraz’s current live set were captured for an upcoming DVD last week in Chicago and Colbie Caillat showed up to duet with Mraz on “Lucky.” Mraz says he wanted to write a classic duet, and had had the melody in his head before reaching out to Caillat via MySpace and working with her to craft the tune (which he calls “the sister song” to “I’m Yours”) via e-mail.

The DVD is being directed by Darren Doane, who helmed Mraz’s recent music videos and has an arsenal of extra footage to include. Unfortunately, the So You Think You Can Dance routine set to Mraz’s “Even If It Kills Me” didn’t make the Chicago show (Mraz told us he wanted it to happen), but he promises,”if you’re a fan of this record, or saw one show in the last two years, I think this will be a film that will be a memory of where we are now in our lives.”

After finishing his Café Gratitude tour at the Hollywood Bowl in October, Mraz continues his live dates in South America and has hopes to begin work on his next album after that. “I want to write optimistic material, and upbeat stuff — but I don’t want to leave out the beauty this time around,” Mraz says. “I want it to be lush, but it’s early in the process. Who knows? I could come out with some robotic hip-hop record.”

Song to Love: Covered in Rain

Appropriately, it is a rainy Saturday afternoon, I'm at work alone in a little box and was just asked by a customer if the building is haunted. I need my favorite song more than ever right now.

And this is it.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before - and it takes a lot for me to say this with complete assurance - but my favorite song is "Covered in Rain" by John Mayer. I guess if I was forced to give the full picture, this would be in a tight race with Chicago's "Beginnings" but that song doesn't do what this one does. "Covered in Rain" is literally everything a song should be - while breaking every rule I have when listening to songs.

Let me explain: When I turn on my iPod, I'm generally looking for a 2 to 3 minute song - upbeat, quick, catchy chorus, nothing too serious. With "Covered in Rain" there's a five minute guitar solo (depending on the version you're listening to, it has never been officially recorded for release), it's a ten minute song total, and it is slower than many of Mayer's other songs. It's not for the musical faint of heart. It is a commitment which might be why it leaves such an impression. I shouldn't even be discussing it for fear that it will make me sound like a larger geek than I already am but seeing Mayer play this live is like pure musical heaven. It transports the audience to a different level - the guitar solo is incendiary. It is a masterpiece. Before I understood anything about musicianship, I knew this was unlike any other basic singer/songwriter shtick. The song tells a story of a failing relationship on the most human level possible, reminiscing about the simple things that are always the hardest to forget.

And the lyrics:

In these days with the world gettin colder
She spends more time sleeping over
Than I’d planned
Tonight we're gonna order in
Drinkin' wine and watchin' CNN
It’s dark, I know
But then again, it's the brightest thing I've got

When I'm covered in rain, rain
When I'm covered in rain, rain, rain, rain

From fireworks to fireplaces
Summer stole what fall replaces
And now we're people watching
All the people, people watching us right back
Standing by the missing signs
At the CVS, by the checkout line
She puts her quiet hands in mine,
Cause she's the brightest thing I've got

When I’m covered in rain, rain
When I’m covered in rain, rain, rain, rain
Oh, I’m covered in rain
Oh, I’m covered in rain
Oh, I’m covered in rain

And come December, Lydia left.
She mentioned something ‘bout it being for the best,
And I can't say I disagree, and its killing me.
And now I’m standing facing west
Tracing my fingers round a silhouette
I haven’t gotten used to yet,
But it’s the brightest thing I’ve got

When I’m covered in rain

This is just one of those songs that can't be discussed in greater length - it must be heard. My favorite version can be found on the live dvd/cd Any Given Thursday but another great rendition is on As/Is available on iTunes and in some stores.


And some extra credit: "Hummingbird" - my second favorite Mayer song with the same eerie, bittersweet feeling that makes "Covered in Rain" so phenomenal. The John Mayer in this video is a completely different one than you're used to these days. It's nice to remember.

21 August 2009

I Need to Run My Fingers Through His Hair:

I don't know when John Mayer started looking like this but it's making me angry. I used to honestly be able to say that I didn't think he was attractive and now he's starting to look like an ideal outline of a guy I would draw on a placemat at the diner while waiting for food. He is gorgeous. This needs to stop immediately.

19 August 2009

A Rush of Blood to the Head

I haven't written a general entry in awhile and I have so much flowing through my mind right now that I just want to feel my fingers typing thoughts.

I'm at work and should really be doing mindless reports but I'm thinking of Queen Latifah's version of "Hello Stranger" (future post about that to come), great writing (thanks to a 600 word short story), and my fear of a brain tumor (courtesy of the top of my head feeling like it's dripping blood and aching so badly).

I am absolutely in love with writing. I want to write every second.

I feel incredibly stagnant and that's when my head starts to hurt the most. If I sit still for longer than a half hour I start to get this weird tingling sensation at the top and it filters down until it reaches my heart and I feel palpitations. It might be a disease or it might be my immense, immense, IMMENSE desire to do something more than I am now. I have so much crazy passion and energy inside me that I don't know what to do with. I sometimes feel like I could do a thousand things at once with all the built up excitement underneath my exterior.

This could be why I am addicted to concerts: they completely involve every aspect of my being at the same time. They allow me to concentrate on something I'm genuinely interested in, move my body to the music, think about the lyrics, analyze the performance, and take in the crowd through all my senses. They excite me in the way a new love makes someone feel or a winning lottery ticket. I feel emotions in a major way and they allow me to put that emotion towards something productive, positive, and exhilarating. I am shaking right now just thinking about it (or maybe that's another tumor symptom).

I want a drink.

Song to Love: It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City

I was listening to the greatest radio station in New Jersey, 101.9 RXP, the other day when this song came on that for some crazy reason I had never heard before. It was obviously Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band but it had this really strong Tom Petty flavor that I fell in love with instantly. I still don't have the internet at my new apartment yet which means I haven't been able to download this song so far but I am already obsessed with it. I immediately wrote down the name of it on an old receipt that day (a practice I love) and have listened to it on the work computer almost everyday I've been here since then.

This song, off Springsteen's debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., was the first to impress the guy, Mike Appel, that was to become his manager even though he wasn't yet with a label. From my reliable source (Wikipedia, naturally), it was also the first song Springsteen performed at his audition for CBS Records who eventually ended up signing him. The original demo of this song can be found on Tracks, a four disc box set released in 1998.

While I've always appreciated Springsteen's music and even had minor love affairs with some of his others songs, none have stuck in my head like this one. It is one of 'those' songs for me. The second I get around to downloading it, it's going to be on nonstop replay I'm sure.

...and I don't know if it's just me but Bruce Springsteen doesn't get enough credit for being rather attractive, right? He's my type at least.

Somebody to Love: Paolo Nutini

This guy: He's 22 years old(!), of Scottish and Italian descent but looks Spanish, was signed to Atlantic Records at age 18, writes gorgeous songs about older women and I would probably be in love with him if I knew him in real life.

He's opened for The Rolling Stones twice, played Carnegie Hall, performed all over the world from New Orleans to Barga, Tuscany where he was awarded a Golden St. Christopher medal for his contributions to the city, and just came out with his latest - self-produced - album, Sunny Side Up, in May of this year (featuring one of the best album covers I've seen in a long time). His single "Candy" continues to climb the charts on VH1's "Top 20 Countdown" and the UK Singles Chart.

While Nutini appears to be more popular in other countries, he frequently tours the US and has showcased his talents on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Austin City Limits along with some of his songs being featured in hit US shows such as Scrubs and One Tree Hill.

I first became aware of Nutini when I saw the video for "Last Request" on VH1 in 2006. I got his debut album, These Streets, two days after first hearing him and became a big fan of tracks like "Jenny Don't Be Hasty", "New Shoes", and of course "Last Request", all songs I continue to really enjoy. Although he has the same singer/songwriter vibe that I am constantly a sucker for, his accent, raspy phrasing, and worldly style form a much different type of performer than that title encompasses - some have referred to him as "blue eyed soul" or folk rock which seem more appropriate. He is ultimately wise beyond his years and creates the kind of smooth/adult contemporary rock that cannot be ignored. It's the kind of thing you might hear in a supermarket or department store and wonder why you hadn't noticed they were playing music in the store before. It opens your ears. Please take a listen to Paolo Nutini, you will not be disappointed.

17 August 2009

John Legend/India.Arie - August 12, 2009

I can't pretend that I knew much about India.Arie before attending this concert last Wednesday at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. Primarily I knew I was disappointed that I missed Raphael Saadiq as John Legend's opening act a few months ago and that Arie has one really good song I listen to semi-frequently ("I am Not My Hair").

Judging from this concert, Arie has considerable talent. Her voice sounded exceptional within the confines of a small theatre and her lyrics had a special spark to them that seemed to really resonate throughout the audience. And while I appreciate honesty and love to see a spectacle, Miss Arie managed to turn me off a little to both. As the lights dimmed for her set to begin, she appeared on stage, stood in front of the mike, walked off, and allowed her back-up singers to sing lead on two songs before she re-emerged and began her sobby explanation to an audience of concert goers that just spent around $50 a seat to see her during a recession. Apparently she was having a rough day, "could not be anything but herself", and wasn't sure if she could continue with the concert because she was not in the right mood to be singing these songs. While she did manage to get through most tunes, she continued to occasionally stop, mention how much she loathed the music industry, wipe her tears away with tissues someone brought out for her, and confuse her band by changing the set list every step of the way.

I'm sure I can't imagine what she was going through but I tend to have less sympathy for people who make much more money than me doing something they love for two hours a day when the rest of us common folk have to struggle to make $10 an hour. On the other hand, I found myself loudly applauding her sentiments because it's nice to actually see a musician connecting with their work on such a high level. Miss Arie clearly has so much respect for her songs that if she is unable to commit fully to their performance, she is incapable of completing them at all. She also continued to use the phrase "this is my jam right now" as she would go into a song, mostly uplifting, folksy be-true-to-yourself sort of tunes - ones in which she could connect. I'm greatly impressed with that type of musical commitment, though not so much with the self-proclaimed title of "this generation's Joni Mitchell". 50/50.

But of course Miss Arie was lucky enough to have John Legend as the headlining act to pick up the pieces in the most dynamic, sexy, stylish way possible. I have been lucky enough to see Mr. Legend several times prior but even in a small auditorium-like venue that left much to be desired as far as a concert atmosphere, he was the best I have ever seen him. I don't know how this guy could get any better. While he didn't play some of my favorite Legend songs like "Another Again", "Take Me Away", or "Each Day Gets Better", he is one of those artists that can't be judged by set list. Every song is better than the next and his excitement, professionalism, and genuine appreciation of the audience makes his performance exemplary. There is never anything I'm lacking or complaining about after a John Legend concert. He is IT.

On a personal note, I cannot get over his wardrobe. He has to be one of the best dressed musicians I've ever seen - absolutely dashing. Stylistically, this show was a stand out. From the lighting to the pre-taped music videos playing overhead to the gorgeous back-up singers wearing tight shiny leggings and sparkly short black tops, this was the type of concert that people should expect when shelling tons of money on a mezzanine seat and "service" fees. It was a highly charged, highly fashionable night of excellent music - the kind people don't make anymore. John Legend has found a niche that no one else is digging out for themselves, one complete with an old soul vibe mixed with a fresh spin on sultry R&B. Mr. Legend is everything an artist should be in 2009 and a fantastic showman. I highly recommend checking out this tour.

Highlights: "Slow Dance", "Green Light", "Live it Up"

Pictures found on Google - not from concert.

11 August 2009

Jason Mraz - August 8, 2009

I've been a Mraz fan for almost a decade. It's a little crazy to think of where I was in my life when I first heard his beautiful voice and silly lyrics. Although he was talking about some rather serious themes going on in his own mid-twenties life at the time as a young teenager I could still relate, a sign of overall good music. To think that I'm still creating goofy dances to his music so many years later proves that he has stood the test of time and is worthy of all the praise I can hand out.

Unfortunately, with that said, I was not as impressed with his concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center last Saturday night as I should have been. His set - not including encore - was a mere 60 minutes and while I typically refrain from opinions on set lists, I couldn't help but notice that his was lacking in terms of the better songs. While Jason Mraz is getting bigger as a name I sometimes wonder if his songs are getting a little weaker. It's difficult to say that for two big reasons - I love his new album and he's one of my favorite artists - but comparing this new, highly produced Mraz to the Mraz of yore there's really no comparison at all. I understand musicians striving to reach large audiences and play stadiums but to me, Mraz has never been one of those types. His music is greatest in small nightclubs with an acoustic guitar and a small backing band.

Seeing Jason Mraz on the lawn at the very large arts center sounded exciting at first but the reality was a little dimmer. There were many very young Caucasian, upper middle class, FM radio high school girls filling the crowd. By many I mean 99.9%. When he got on stage (after one of the openers K'Naan was completely ignored - partially because no one cared and partially because he was boring), his music catered to this audience, one that doesn't fill the full quota of his fans. I'm of two minds with this: I LOVE that Mraz is finally getting the recognition he rightfully deserves and is able to play these great venues but what about the veterans of his music? What do we get? Not everyone who enjoys his music is a 17 year old hippie wannabe with a deep love of Hollister (not that there's anything wrong with that). I don't want him to be one of those artists that completely forgets they have a great catalog of music to choose from for their live act in order to satisfy a new breed of fan. Mraz has been making music for a huge portion of his life not just the last two years. The very commercial "I'm Yours" song doesn't encompass Mraz's whole talent. This was of course the only song everyone in the audience sang along to. What about "Sleeping to Dream", "After an Afternoon", or my favorite "Childlike Wildlife"? There wasn't even much of his signature scatting as far as I can remember.

On a positive note, the arts center sound system, of which I have always been a huge fan, made Mraz's voice sound better than ever. It is this angelic voice that sets him so far apart from the rest of his contemporaries. Whether the music moves you or not, Jason Mraz is one of those vocalists that could sing anything and make it sound beautiful. He has a natural, peaceful aura to him that jives well with the hippie resurrection that's happening right now within the youth culture but also this old-soul vibe that allows him to cover songs like "At Last" and not make a fool out of himself along the way. There is no denying Mr. Mraz is one of the best live vocalists I have ever heard. I genuinely wish he would've sang more songs that displayed this beautiful talent.

Huge standout songs: "Coyotes", "Butterfly", "The Dynamo of Volition", and host Bushwalla's fantastic "Fall Through Glass". Overall, very good not great but I had a lot of fun anyhow and will surely see him many more times to come.

(photo courtesy of Flickr member)

07 August 2009

Guilty Pleasures

I'm at the college library, steaming hot, downloading a Britney Spears song ("Radar"), and thinking about guilty pleasures. Unfortunately I have a load of friends who believe music should be judged upon certain criteria and if a song or artist doesn't live up to these "rules", it is inappropriate to like said artist.

I don't understand that rationale whatsoever. Why would it ever be wrong to like an artist whose music you find enjoyable? It makes absolutely no sense in any context I can think of.

To play devil's advocate here, I do find myself prefacing certain musical tastes I have as if I must prepare someone to hear a dreaded name or defend a song I'm secretly obsessed with but if it came down to it, I would gladly give away all of my guilty pleasure secrets and admit that I wouldn't know to be ashamed of them if someone hadn't told me.

When I'm in the car and choosing my own music with other people, very often I will listen to Beyonce, Jay-Z, Common, John Mayer, etc. These are the worst names I can think of - but why is that bad? Because they're not on an independent label? Because they don't sound depressed or overly experimental? Because there's a hook and a beat? What is so wrong with that?

I cannot stand the secret cry for approval that some people seek with musical taste that is not their own. I have a friend who has mentioned he likes The Ting Tings. Would he tell anyone but me? Probably not. Maybe because they're not Nirvana, The Meat Puppets, or Captain Beefheart. Sorry but Nirvana is just as commercialized as Beyonce and The Meat Puppets sound just like a lot of other bands as much as John Mayer sounds like some other singer/songwriters. If you're being critical you can find flaws and failures in every musical pursuit any artist on earth has taken on - why worry though? Music for me is definitely not about finding the coolest thing to like to impress other people or getting all snooty about some band your friend on acid mentioned was hip - at the end of the day it's just you and the headphones and no one else around - what makes you happy then? Would you let someone pick out your clothes for you or tell you what to eat? So why do you let them tell you what to listen to?

It's a cause for concern.

Love what you listen to, no matter what you have to "listen" to people say about it.

05 August 2009

A Good Celebrity Playlist For a Change

I didn't catch John Mayer's online radio programs these past few days but judging by the playlists, he has some excellent taste in music. Even as the biggest JM fan around, I'm a little surprised. I needed to share them with my favorite songs off each list highlighted.

August 1

Aretha Franklin - Eleanor Rigby
The Four Tops - Rach Out I'll Be There
Alan Parson Project - Eye In The Sky
John Lennon - Jealous Guy
Supertramp - Breakfast In America
Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson - Say Say Say
Albert Collins - Thaw Out
Michael Jackson - Working Day And Night
Spank Rock - What It Look Like
Some jazz music
Christopher Cross - Ride Like The Wind
Jackson 5 - ABC
Mash: Santigold - L.E.S. Artistes with Tegan & Sarah - Walking With A Ghost
J Dilla - The Rock Hard Times
Pete Rock - Warzone
Erykah Badu - The Cell
J Dilla - Nothing Like This
Johnny Guitar Watson - Ain't That A Bitch
AC/DC - Back In Black
Aha - Take On Me
D'Angelo & the Soultronics - Chicken Grease (live in Atlanta)
Prince - When Doves Cry (live)
John Mayer - Inner City Blues (rough demo)
John Mayer - Bonus Track
John Mayer - Can't Take This Plane (demo)
John Mayer - Can't Take This Plane
Wham! - Everything She Wants
John Mayer - Level (mixed with Ray Charles' I Got A Woman & Kayne West's Golddigger)
Donny Hathaway - The Ghetto (live)
Jackson 5 - I Wanna Be Where You Are (live)
The Impressions - Fool For You
Darondo - Legs
John Mayer teaches guitar part of "Say" live on air
Billy Preston - That's The Way God Planned it
James Brown - Make It Funky
John plays some jazz guitar
Wes Montgomery - Four On Six
Frank Sinatra - Only The Lonely
Frank Sinatra - Deep In A Dream
Bill Evans - Waltz For Debby
Billy Joel - New York State Of Mind

August 2

Bob Dylan - Most Of The Time
Hall & Oates - Rich Girl
Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes
Johnston Freedy - Can't Sink This Town
Minus The Bear - Pachuca Sunrise
Richard Hawley - You Don't Miss Your Water (Til Your River Runds Dry)
D'Angelo - Left & Right featuring Method Man and Redman
J Dilla - So Far To Go featuring Common and D'Angelo
Marvin Gaye - Pretty Little Baby
Stevie Wonder - Creeping
Jeff Buckley - I Want Someone Badly

August 3

Ray Charles - The Long & Winding Road
Frank Sinatra - Pennies From Heaven
Frank Sinatra - Chicago
Dinah Shore - You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit
Ella Fitzgerald - But Not For Me
Flamingos - I Only Have Eyes For You

August 5

Neil Young - After the Gold Rush - Tell Me WhyThe Flamingos - Doo Wop Classics - I Only Have Eyes For You Acoustic
Arcade Fire - Funeral - Wake Up
Stevie Wonder - In Square Circle - Part Time Lover
Craig Armstrong f/ Bono - As If To Nothing - Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
Tom Petty - Full Moon Fever - Won't Back Down
Toto - Toto IV - Africa
Mos Def - The Ecstatic - Quiet Dog
Jaylib f/ Frank-n-Dank - Champion Sound - McNasty Filth
Kid Cudi - Man on the Moon: The End of Day - Day N' Night
David Gray - Draw the Line - Fugutive
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell - Maps
Al Green - Greatest Hits - Love and Happiness
Bobby Brown - Dance... Ya Know It! - On Our Own
Max Priest - Close to You
Survivor - Rocky - Eye of the Tiger
Kenny Loggins - Top Gun - Danger Zone
Van Halen - 1984 - Jump

There are also a lot of songs I'm interested to check out. Seems like it would make a great playlist.

04 August 2009

25 Albums That Shaped My Life

I got 'tagged' on a facebook note asking me to name the top 25 albums that "shaped my life" as the directions stated. While I don't usually partake in those things, I like the girl who tagged me and I thought it could be really interesting. I haven't proofread my response but I wanted to share it on the blog to chronicle my thoughts.

This is what they say:

Think of 25 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that, no matter what they were thought of musically, shaped your world. Don't just name your 25 favorite albums. When you finish, tag 25 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good.

This is what I say:

It's difficult to make a list without explaining the meaning behind the selections. Since I have a little time, I need to write a brief explanation to go with these choices otherwise they won't make sense to even me.

1. Chicago - The Chicago Transit Authority

Not only is my all time favorite song "Beginnings" on it, but this album was also the 'beginning' of Chicago's jazz/rock sound that became the soundtrack of my childhood. Chicago was my first concert at age 4 and has become an annual event for my cousin and me to keep the tradition alive for my entire family. I'm lucky that the band who started my love for music also happened to be one of the greatest out there overall.

2. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

This self-titled album was a miracle for me. My mother played this for me in its entirety the night before I moved out on my own for the first time. This first time also happened to be to West Virginia with a guy I had only met once prior during a rather dark period in my life so I was holding back a lot of tears when songs like "Luna" and "Breakdown" started playing on the turntable - these songs with so much emotion already bottled inside that it was overwhelming. "Breakdown" is still one of my favorite Petty songs.

3. Melissa Etheridge - Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled

When Mr. West Virgina didn't work out, I took to hard female singer/songwriters for the first time in my life - not by choice but by need. I needed to hear a tough chick singing about how their ex-lover will never find someone as good as them. I don't listen to Etheridge much anymore but during that time this album and "Breakdown" were my pacifiers. Her covers of "Refugee" and "Piece of My Heart" are so good I have no words.

4. John Legend - Once Again

This is the key album for me in terms of emotional dependency on music. I seriously think I would've gone insane during this time if it weren't for Legend's smooth vocals and soulful beats. I am obsessed with John Legend - he's one of those top ten artists for me and this album helped once again with that WV trip. Finding a great love (and then deep heartache) is the real way I was able to finally understand so much amazing music like this.

5. Pete Yorn - musicforthemorningafter

Pete Yorn started my love of acoustic singer/songwriters that has just continued to grow since this album came out. I bought this at The Wiz - long before an iPod was even a twinkle in my eye. It was just me and this cd everywhere, every minute. It remains a favorite.

6. George Harrison - All Things Must Pass

Mr. Harrison is the greatest Beatle - also the first one to come out with a solo record after the Beatles breakup AND made it a double because, well, he had enough insanely great material stored up for three times that. I'm a little embarassed to say I actually purchased this after his passing and truly fell in love with it some time after that but it hasn't left my thoughts since.

7. Everclear - Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile

I've haven't listened to this album in a long time but when I first bought it, I couldn't stop listening. Everclear was the first 'hard' rock band I ever fully enjoyed and something about Art Alexakis's voice sunk into me. I like his personal story and these songs could not sound better live. It's a shame Everclear doesn't get the respect they deserve - every album has been impressive.

8. The National - Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers

This is my favorite band. I am in love with everything about them from Matt Berninger's voice to their melancholy lyrics to the fact that they found the greatest drummer on the planet. While Boxer was the album they had out when I first discovered them, this was the album that solidified my obsession. You MUST check out "Fashion Coat". It says it all in about 2 minutes.

9. Nina Gordon - Tonight and the Rest of My Life

This is a dusty one. I love singing and when I was younger I would force people to listen to me sing or have singing competitions, etc. with friends and I would always choose to sing Nina Gordon off this album. Even at age 14 or so I knew she had it going on. She's another artist that didn't get the right amount of praise but this is one of those timeless-young-women-coming-of-age-I-think-I'm-in-love sort of albums that are undeniably catchy and angsty all at once.

10. Jason Mraz - Waiting for My Rocket to Come

I bought a Sony discman in white and orange one day many years ago. I was with my mother and stepdad on the way to work with them and realized: I didn't bring any cds to play in my new cd player. Since they're nice folks we stopped by a Borders in South Jersey and I picked out this album by a guy people had been comparing to John Mayer. I got in the car, opened the package, and to my surprise the disc was the same shade of orange as my discman. For some reason, that memory has always stayed with me and I cannot really express my love for Mraz in the right way. Mraz was a way of life for awhile (Lauren knows). Of course now he's famous and everyone loves "I'm Yours" but check out his live album at Java Joe's from way back in 2000 or something and you'll see why we waited four hours in the back of The Stone Pony to give him a stuffed cat in the blistering heat.

11. Incubus - Make Yourself

This is me being a product of my generation - and another one only Lauren could relate to. This was THE album in like 9th grade. You'd go to a party, hear "Pardon Me", see the cute senior hanging out with a wine cooler and think 'if only I could be like that too'. In reality it was more like, 'if only I could see myself in 5 years and realize that I'm way cooler than that' but of course you don't know that in high school. Unlike some other really bad bands we all enjoyed back in the day, Incubus has remained relevant and some of those songs sound so good today that it's hard to imagine we've been hearing them for so long.

12. Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything

I have a crazy relationship with this album. I wrote about it in my application for the journalism major at Rutgers (saying with one listen it might change the course of the war) and I have gone to great lenghts to learn about each song on it. Todd Rundgren is a genius. "I Saw the Light" is so deliciously eerie that I get chills even thinking about it. And "Hello, It's Me"? Oh my God. This album kills me. I would marry the first person to mention their love of this album without me mentioning it first. Even the title is amazing.

13. Paula Abdul - Forever Your Girl

This was the first music I ever consciously chose to enjoy. I was about 3 years old and I would try to copy her dance moves off the tv screen. I just thought she was the most beautiful, fun, high-spirited girl I had ever seen and I wanted to be just like her. My cousin and I still listen to songs like "Straight Up", "Cold Hearted Snake" and "Opposites Attract". Those are classics! I had a button of her on my winter coat for many early elementary school years.

14. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

It doesn't get anymore cliche but this album completely changed my outlook stylistically - in terms of both music and fashion. This was the first jazz record I purchased with my own money and I remember feeling so proud of it (this was also at the now defunct Circuit City) . The cover of the album, in all its simplicity and stylish fonts, inspired me to think differently about everything. Later on when I found John Coltrane's "Blue Train" and "A Love Supreme" then Miles' "Bitches Brew" and "Sketches of Spain" - the cement had been laid for my love of jazz. Clearly, it was like nothing I had ever heard before. I still have trouble wrapping my mind around their incredible sounds.

15. Chet Baker - My Funny Valentine

I don't know what led me to pick up Chet Baker's biography at the library one day but I do know that I couldn't stop reading it and fell in love with this deeply troubled man that reminded me of my father and totally blew my mind. Since I read his entire life story before hearing his music, I always feel like he's more of an old friend than a musician. His voice is slow and sad and his trumpet playing is otherworldly. You must listen to Chet Baker right away. I'd never be able to explain.

16. Howie Day - Australia

I guess there's no getting around this guy. I didn't want to add him because when I met him, he was a jerk, but before that incident this album was on heavy rotation in my cd player - this was back in 2002/2003 - and it had that great feeling that only certain albums do. There was this feeling that every song was written just for me or at least I was the only person who could completely understand the message. I was an idiot, sorry, but I know if I put it on right this minute I would burst into tears like an even bigger idiot. Songs like "She Says", "Secret", and my favorite, "Morning After", are rather intense especially when you have a history with them.

17. Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy

Although the album is older than me, this is one that recently affected me and it all started with "D'yer Mak'er", my favorite Led Zeppelin song. I realized I had been listening to it for so long on my iPod that it became one of those cases of ignoring the rest of the album. When I finally got around to listening to the entire thing I knew without a doubt that I had stumbled onto the most obviously great album in rock history. That's a hefty statement but I can't think of another album that even comes close to the greatness of Houses of the Holy. Not that I have to list them but: "Over the Hills and Far Away", "Dancing Days", "The Ocean", and my other personal favorite "The Crunge" all on one record. Insane.

18. Fleetwood Mac - Greatest Hits

When I was younger I thought of this as the "green album". I didn't really worry about differentiating one song from the next and just enjoyed the entire experience of Fleetwood Mac. My cousin Wendy was the first to play them for me and her constant rotation of "Gypsy" did me in. I was a fanatic. We would listen to this album in the car all the time then it'd start to skip, she'd take it out of the cd player, lose it somewhere then re-buy it and the process would begin again. For christmas two years ago she finally bought me my own copy of the more complete dual disc "The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac" but that green album still haunts my memories.

19. Bright Eyes - Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

I hate Bright Eyes. I used to own this album but only because I got a good deal on it and Mr. West Virginia was obsessed with them. I only put this album on the list because I strongly believe Bright Eyes was responsible for much that was wrong with him. He so desperately loved them (and music in general) to the point that I believe he became just as depressed as Conor Oberst sounds in these stupid, pitiful songs and couldn't sustain a decent relationship because of it. He was young and I'm sure that he's changed by now but I'm lucky to have an incredible boyfriend currently who has questionable music taste but a great love of humanity. This band is disturbingly depressing but was a large part of my life for a couple years.

20. Eric Clapton - Unplugged

For many years I loved Cream and appreciated some of Eric Clapton's solo work but it wasn't until I read Pattie Boyd's autobiography and Clapton's back to back that I started becoming really interested in everything about him. About six months into my Clapton craze I took an autobiography class at Rutgers where I chose his book as a term paper subject and gave a 20 minute oral presentation on him complete with a "Layla" listening party. Watching the unplugged special was the highlight of all my research though and his blues covers became my favorite parts of his repertoire.

21. Alien Ant Farm - ANThology

I love Dryden Mitchell! His voice still knocks me out every time I hear it. I don't care if it's stupid to love Alien Ant Farm because they are great. Yeah, "Smooth Criminal" is nice but "Movies" and particularly "Attitude" are above par. I've been listening to them for so long now that I 've probably had twenty different hairstyles, three completely different wardrobes, moved twice, and still can't shake my love of this band. I don't even know if they plan to make any new music but their old stuff is good enough for me and if they ever plan a comeback tour I'll be first in line.

22. Sondre Lerche - Phantom Punch

One time, long ago, I wanted to be an actor and got a scholarship to an acting school in Manhattan. Accepting the offer to attend this school changed the entire course of my life and ironically helped me to realize I maybe didn't want to be a professional actor but set me on the road to writing even more about music. Sondre Lerche had just come out with this album which I had bought at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square (R.I.P. you amazing store) on a lonely day and sat in Bryant Park listening to until the sun went down. This was also pre-iPod so I continued this cycle for almost the entire semester: going to the park in my bright red coat, whimpering into my discman - the orange one - and hoping Sondre would help me understand my stupid life. Maybe he did help. Please listen to him.

23. Johnny Cash - The Legend of Johnny Cash

I was working at FYE during the Christmas rush of 2005 when I began heavily listening to older country music. I knew I was never going to get into Faith Hill, Brad Paisley, etc. but I took an instant liking to the classic stuff and wanted to learn more. I didn't own any country cds at the time so I used my employee discount and picked this cd up. As you could guess, I haven't stopped listening to it since and Johnny Cash has become one of my favorite musicians of all time. Loving him has led me to amazing musicians like Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton, Ernest Tubb, Kris Kristofferson, Eddy Arnold, etc. and his autobiography "Cash" is seriously one of the best books I've ever read, it's not just something they say in High Fidelity.

24. John Mayer - Room For Squares

This is it. This defines everything. Believe me, I wish it was some other, more impressive artist that changed my life but I was 15 (which sounds so freakishly young now) on a birthday trip with one of my favorite people, Melissa, and her mom to New York and we walked into the Virgin Megastore and there sat the album that was destined to be in my hands: Room For Squares. This was 2001, mind you. There was no buzz, no Jessica Simpson scandals, no stupid "Daughters" song - nothing. John Mayer was just John Mayer, an up-and-coming singer/songwriter discovered by Columbia at South by Southwest. If I told someone back then that I loved John Mayer it wouldn't have been a big deal. Now when I admit my favorite artist I cringe and wait for them to say a variety of negative comments. He did that to himself I guess but as long as the music hasn't changed, I don't mind. I used to sit in class writing out the lyrics to all his songs because the words were too good to forget. They still are.

25. John Mayer - Continuum

I end with this because I guess it's my favorite album and the one I listen to almost everyday. I can't imagine getting sick of it and I would defend it with my last breath. It's not The Clash or Joy Division (although I like those bands too) but it's what struck a deep enough chord with me that I will continue loving it for a long time. I see it's flaws and love it regardless. I see John Mayer's flaws and love him regardless. He is a brilliant guitar player and rather than being embarassed that if you google "Angelica Diamond John Mayer" more entries come up that are actually me than if you google my name alone, I am proud. Take that for what it's worth.

So if you're bored, listen and enjoy.

Coldplay - August 2, 2009

So.. Coldplay.

This is a band I've had a love/disinterest thing going on with for awhile. When I heard they were closing out All Points West and I'd have a chance to see them from a VIP seat, I figured why not? Might as well take advantage of one of the few perks I had.

Now before I lose your attention I'm just going to get to the good stuff. I'm not a real reviewer, I don't have to speak chronologically. Chris Martin pulled such a stupid stunt that it not only ruined part of the concert for me but proved he's a egotistical jerk.

Throughout the first half of the concert he was jumping all over the stage like a maniac. I know a lot of people appreciate the enthusiasm on behalf of the performer but this was like too much. It's Coldplay for God's sake, it's not The Ramones. It's a step faster than Phil Collins. I don't want to be too critical but from a basic concertgoer's perspective - someone who is not a huge Coldplay fan - this guy looked ridiculous. Yeah, his little colorful costume was nice and if I were talking to him in person I'd probably tell him it was a great show but on the inside I feel like I missed out on MGMT, who was playing on a different stage at the same time, for nothing. I was disappointed. Even though the entire band sounded spectacular, I almost attributed it more to the sound technicans than Chris Martin.

ANYWAY, at the end of "Viva La Vida" (the first time they played it - there was also a strange dance version in the middle - not that I didn't enjoy it, it was just strange..), Chris Martin decides to fall to the floor of the stage. At first everyone in the audience started cheering because clearly that's what he expects them to do but then he starts rolling on the floor in a dazed sort of way. He starts reaching for the microphone several times and moaning into it. The audience stops cheering and starts to think that something is seriously wrong with this guy. In my head at this point I'm thinking that I'm witnessing something really bad like he's having a drug seizure and emts are going to start rushing the stage. Seriously! I was really scared, my heart started racing. I was worried about the stupid idiot.

Then the intro to "Lost!" starts playing and he jumps back up like a jackrabbit and clearly he was just 'joking around'. Okay, Chris Martin. You don't have enough faith in your music? You have to pull dumb stunts like that to get us to pay attention to you? Or maybe you're just unaware of how already frail and drug-ridden you look when you're acting normal. That must be it. I have never seen a well respected musician act in such a way before and it made me angry. I wanted to leave.

Of course I'm a pro and will stick it out at a concert no matter what the circumstances are even if the lead singer thinks he's a dog and decides to play dead. I'll still watch. And overall, the concert turned out well despite the unlikable frontman. The rest of the band seemed confident and professional. At one point their drummer Will had the opportunity to sing an acoustic song, "Death Will Never Conquer", and it sounded fantastic. Even their covers of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Beastie Boys' "You Gotta Fight" were really top notch. I definitely see why Coldplay is regarded as one of the biggest, most successful bands in the world. I get their U2 style, stadium soft rock niche, and I do like some of their songs a lot but they are still too much for me.

The highlights of the concert were "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" - my favorite Coldplay song, "Politik", and "Green Eyes" that sounded so beautiful with the gorgeous New York skyline in the background and this amazing light-up balloon display highlighting the moonlit sky. There were some moments in this concert that made me feel like all my mixed feelings about this festival were worth it. Any concert is a special event and seeing a band as renowned as Coldplay really touched me regardless of my personal feelings towards their wacky leader.

I wouldn't pay to see them again but I'll continue to buy their songs on iTunes.

The complete setlist:

Life In Technicolor
Violet Hill
In My Place
Fix You
Strawberry Swing
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
You Gotta Fight (Beastie Boys cover)
Viva La Vida
Green Eyes
Death Will Never Conquer
Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover)
Viva La Vida Remix
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends

The Scientist
Life In Technicolor ii
The Escapist

01 August 2009

All Points West: My Perspective

I've been to a couple music festivals in my day, most memorably the little-recognized Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, TN, but none can compare in scale or spectacle to All Points West, AEG's indie-rock/hip-hop infused strangely anointed tribute to Woodstock - except way smaller (if any of that makes sense).

Yesterday I had the "pleasure" of working at the box office on day one of this three day event with a different headliner each night ranging from Jay-Z, last night, to Coldplay closing out the festival on Sunday. The day started out well enough with a good clustering of folks buying tickets at the door and a hefty amount scrambling to pick up will-call tickets (my job) but the rest of my time in Jersey City left much to be desired.

Of course, I am leaving out the best part: THE NATIONAL.

Any and all things can be made instantly better with the contribution of the greatest band on the planet, the band that surprises me with every live performance and kills me with every new song. I don't know what other way to say it: I'll tell you I can't love The National more and then immediately love them more than I love my own family the next day. I'm quietly obsessed most days and overly crazed the next. There is nothing wrong with this band. They are perfection. (I'm sorry that this gushing is doing nothing but making me sound like an idiot but I swear - I cannot help it!)

Hudson County was entirely washed out last night. With the mixture of torrential rains, electricity in the air, lightning striking the ground, and thunder roaring overhead, Friday's edition of this lovely hipster festival was almost cancelled several times as the man wearing the "Stinky's Fish" shirt explained to all of us box office personnel over and over again.

"When the 50 to 60 mph winds arrive here in about 30 minutes, this trailer won't be safe. We'll have to evacuate both you and the concertgoers so be prepared."

Me: "Well, won't it be unsafe to walk on the wet grass if there's a tornado as well?"

Him: "Pick your poison."

Wrong thing to say to me. We were sitting in a wooden trailer full of electrical equipment that was leaking before the rain even started. I get scared of minor thunderstorms when I'm sitting in the comfort of my own home, never mind the idea of walking through a field right next to a large river with 14,000 other people during a violent tornado. I was obviously freaking out - and one of my only thoughts? The National comes on in 25 minutes!

I had been harassing every person I could email within AEG during the past two weeks forcing them to assure me that regardless of my duties to the box office and any other requirements they might see fit, I could definitely see The National's set at 4:50pm. This was my only goal for the entire day. The measly $100 they were paying me be damned. I need to see my favorite band. Isn't that how they're making so much money on all these concerts? They're feeding off people like me that feel more passionately about their favorite music than they do about their own relationships. They need to feel that drumbeat in their chest whether it means spending $107 for a day in 4 foot mud puddles and freezing raindrops or not.

It was crucial that if I had enough brainpower to withstand the winds and lightning that I would be able to get a break and make it over to the other side of Liberty State Park to the main stage where The National would be performing. I finally got up enough courage to ask the festival ticketing manager if I could take my break as he had promised in three emails prior.

"Um, yeah, sure. Wait until 5 though, I'm sure you'll be able to catch a couple songs."

Okay. I tried to stay calm. I was anticipating seeing the entire set in a day of beautiful sun and happy, clean people. The fact that the day had now turned into a nightmare complete with heart palpitations, disgusting outdoor bathroom facilities, thoughts of hurricanes, and NOW only seeing a portion of The National made my morning egg and cheese sandwich almost vomit out of my mouth. (Also: I will not even give the most horrible person alive a mention within my lovely blog but I will say she has no brains, works at the artist sign-in at APW, and made my life a living hell yesterday - worse than any of the other things I'm discussing.)

I sat in my fold-up seat within the trailer that could fall down at any second, tapping my feet in anticipation, biting my nails, and dreaming of a day better than this one when suddenly:

"Angelica, you can go on break now. I think you can still catch a few songs. Take 45 minutes or so."

Thank God!

With my ungrateful, uninterested boyfriend in tow, I tried to walk/run the mile or so to the main stage and take my place with the other die hard National fans underneath the pouring rain and thundering sky. A few hundred feet away, I heard it. "Abel" was playing and it could not have sounded more beautiful. I mean really - it has never sounded better. We had run through so much mud I couldn't see the skin on my feet anymore and gotten so wet that it wasn't even comparable to a shower but it was so worth it. I got a spot in the middle of the crowd and watched Matt Berninger work his magic on the soaked yet completely fulfilled audience. The huge amounts of rain falling in front of him gave the illusion of a sheer curtain over the stage but it only added to the eerie magic contained in every National song.

The first full song I was able to hear was the new "Blood Buzz Ohio" and it was like I had never heard it before today. The sound was seriously unbelievable. Major congratulations are in order for the sound technicians at APW because they clearly have mastered their art. You know I don't even remember the next song and I knew in the moment that looking back I wouldn't because the incredibly silly feeling of giddiness I had took over by this point. I was standing in mud, getting soaked, thinking I was going to be electrocuted and listening to The National live. No other band can do that.

A beautiful rendition of "Fake Empire" was next and then the closer: "Mr. November" complete with Mr. Berninger freaking the security detail out by trying to jump off the stage, while falling/slipping, with his microphone into the awaiting audience. He would miss a few lines of the song, then get back on track, and sing right into people's faces. It was almost as if he was deliberately trying to get wetter than the crowd. During the line "I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders" he was picked up by the audience in the front and ushered back on stage. I guess it could sound a little 'cliche' but the moment was fantastic and knowing what National lovers know about Matt Berninger, it was so special. When people were starting to get worried about the performers getting on stage on time and wanting to go on, I knew The National would be there no questions asked. I knew they'd make it amazing.

With my sparkly production bracelet, I was able to get backstage after the performance and see the little trailer labeled "The Nati-onal" in childlike letters and catch a glimpse of Bryan Devendorf, the most talented drummer I have ever heard. Matt Berninger was nowhere to be found but what would I say to him anyway? I've thought of things but none could really convey anything and even if they could - why the hell would it matter to him? He knows he has some major fans, I don't need to tell him that.

Later on in the night someone came to will call wearing the same National shirt I was wearing only a few days earlier. I made a little comment about how they're my favorite band to which he replied, "really? they're my cousins."

Such a silly thing but it was Eric Dessner, cousin of National members Aaron and Bryce (also co-founders of Brassland Records). And he was just like they appear to be: quiet, reserved, and well dressed. Once again, I didn't say anything to him either.

So after the last person was done paying $100 just to see Jay-Z at 9:30, we packed up and went home. I'm still a little disappointed my boyfriend didn't want to stick around for the last act as I heard he was awesome but there's always another time I guess.

Overall I enjoyed The National but strongly disliked the event from my box office perspective. It was unorganized and over ambitious. Maybe if I were a concertgoer I would've felt differently.

We'll see how Sunday goes.