14 August 2010

Something in the Air: Best Seduction Songs

I am a huge fan of songs that make you feel something. A couple years ago I created a top 25 list of the sexiest songs out of frustration from looking on the internet and finding nothing. In the years that have passed, I've been lucky enough to amass an additional 20 songs on to the list of perfect songs to seduce your lover (or lovers) to. I can't say that it always works but add a glass of wine and a starry eyed glare in the right direction and you might have yourself a fantastic evening, courtesy of these touching tunes.

00The National - Lemonworld*
01 The Rolling Stones - Beast of Burden
02 Hall & Oates - One on One
03 Chicago - No Tell Lover
04 Sade - Sweetest Taboo
05 Michael Jackson - You Rock My World
06 Joseph Arthur - September Baby
07 Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine
08 Bon Iver - Skinny Love
09 Corinne Bailey Rae - Closer
10 Dwele - Weekend Love
11 Elvis Presley - One Night
12 Norah Jones - Sunrise
13 Paolo Nutini - Last Request
14 Mary Wells - You Beat Me to the Punch
15 Todd Rundgren - Hello, It's Me
16 Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats
17 Maroon 5 - Woman
18 Badly Drawn Boy - Silent Sigh
19 Sheryl Crow - My Favorite Mistake
20 The Shins - Sea Legs

*Lemonworld basically inspired this list. It is an otherworldy song.

13 August 2010

Video of the Day: The National - England

As usual, thank you Matt Berninger for writing some of the most beautiful lyrics on paper and singing them even more beautifully.

The National makes everything right.

England Lyrics

Summer sent a runner
Through the weather that I'm under
For the feeling that I lost today
Summer sent a runner
For the feeling that I lost today

Summer sent a runner
Through the weather that I'm under
For the feeling that I lost today
Summer sent a runner
For the feeling that I lost today

You must be somewhere in London
You must be loving your life in the rain
You must be somewhere in London
Walking Abbey Lane

I don't even think to make
I don't even think to make
I don't even think to make corrections

Famous angels never come through England
England gets the ones you never need
I'm in a Los Angeles cathedral
Minor singing airheads sing for me

Put an ocean and a river
Between everybody else,
Between everything, yourself, and home
Put an ocean and a river
Between everything, yourself, and home

You must be somewhere in London
You must be loving your life in the rain
You must be somewhere in London
Walking Abbey Lane

I don't even think to make
I don't even think to make
I don't even think to make corrections

Famous angels never come through England
England gets the ones you never need
I'm in a Los Angeles cathedral
Minor singing airheads sing for me

Afraid of the house, stay the night with the sinners
Afraid of the house, stay the night with the sinners
Afraid of the house, 'cause they're desperate to entertain

On Days Like These, It's Nice to Have Music

I'm clearly a sucker for music. My passion for sharing music with strangers has been a constant throughout my life. Sharing personal experiences with strangers has also been a strange coping mechanism I've had for awhile. I can't explain it without giving an example.

When I was in 7th grade, I got into the worst car accident of my life. My cousin was driving me to school in the morning - only a 10 minute drive - when a tiny, red sports car spun out of control on the other side of the road and collided head on with us. My cousin's car was totaled beyond repair and gas was leaking out of the front, leading us to believe that it could go on fire. I was horrified, my nose was fractured, and the seat belt had dug so far into my chest that I thought I was internally bleeding. My cousin had scraped her leg pretty badly on the dashboard and the driver side airbag had come out at her full force. The entire experience was just on the verge of life-threatening.

For some reason my first instinct when I got out of the car was to run to a stranger. A middle aged man had seen the entire incident happen from across the street and ran over immediately to see if we needed any help. I saw him running over and I just grabbed him. I was so scared and I knew my cousin was even more frightened than me so I took comfort in a total stranger. Since I was a little kid, he hugged me back and asked a thousand times if we were alright. I don't think he actually did anything to physically help us in the end because the ambulance came quickly and rushed us to the emergency room for x-rays but his support was something I'll never forget. He was just an average guy that might not even remember doing anything on that day but I think of him fondly.

ANYWAY, that story illustrates exactly how I feel about strangers in general. As long as I don't have a reason for having ill feelings towards someone, I usually figure they're the same as me: just a regular person struggling to fit in and find peace in a rather tumultuous world. My desire to share things with them stems from sharing the human experience with other people that are not friends or family. Sometimes the greatest connections happen out of not knowing someone at all.

My grandfather passed away yesterday evening and I didn't want to be around my family or friends. I didn't want to get a hug because a family member lost his life. It felt disingenuous. I know it's great to give and receive comfort at times like these but I can't deal as well with my own close relations as I can with strangers. When there are immense feelings involved it becomes overwhelming. I don't want to see my mother cry, I don't want someone to see me cry, I don't want to be a part of it at all. I wanted my grandfather to always be there and that's it. I don't know how to put this in perspective.

I do know that I had a feeling it was going to happen from the first second he was admitted into the hospital this last time. His breathing had become shallow and he was immediately put on life support. My cousin and I rushed to the hospital to see him and in a strange fit of longing for normalcy, I brought a Benny Goodman record I had gotten for him on Father's Day. I kept forgetting to give it to him and I remembered on the day he is barely surviving. I carried it into the emergency room with me and put it in front of his face.

"Look! Benny Goodman! Greatest Hits! You'll be able to listen to this when you get out!"

He couldn't really move his head from the position it was in so when he even nodded slightly, I took it as a good sign. My mother wanted me to have a few minutes alone with him - I guess to say my goodbyes in case he didn't make it through the night - and although I didn't want to, I stayed in the room with him. Luckily, a nurse came in after only a couple minutes and saw I was having difficulty finding things to say.

"This is your grandfather?"

"Yes, I brought this record for him."

"Oh! He likes Benny Goodman? He looked like he might like that kind of music, that's why we have this station on."

She pointed to the television that had been set to one of those weird music channels in the 800's. Of course "Big Band Music" to her means elevator orchestra music that equates to the audible version of a dying emergency room.

"Yeah, I'm sure he likes this," I lied.

"YOU LIKE RECORDS??" she yelled at him upon seeing the record so he wouldn't have a chance of missing the question.

He nodded adamantly.

I don't know. After that I tried telling her that he used to be an award winning dancer and it was his favorite thing but she was more interested in talking about her great-uncle that used to play with Benny Goodman. She was nice though. Once again, a stranger saved me from myself.

Of course the real meaning behind that story is the music. My grandfather was dying and the one thing he was most receptive to was discussing music. The only rational thing in my brain, despite the irrationality of it, was bringing that record to the emergency room. My mother seemed skeptical when I walked in holding it but I couldn't help it. My grandfather and I shared a massive love of music. He passed it on to my mom who passed it on to me.

Every Christmas we would buy my grandfather blank cassette tapes. He loved to transfer vinyl on to cassette but never got into the whole cd wave - and certainly not mp3's. As cassette tapes became harder to find, we'd still scour out stores to buy them, particularly my cousin. And when we'd hand them to him, he'd always say, "Just what I needed!"

As he got older and couldn't hear as well, he'd blast his music louder and louder from his room. I lived across the hall from him for years so I had the good fortune of listening to Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and all the other legendary performers - all through really good speakers. Sometimes he would dance to it alone, sometimes he would just lay on his bed and take it all in. I can understand.

He had thousands of records. Thousands of cassettes. and hundreds of shoes (our other shared passion). He was a collector.

My grandfather got me into classic movies, Gene Kelly, musicals, stereos, fashion - everything - and yet we never had the closest relationship. I remember my grandmother always had to fold his pants a certain way so the crease was down the middle. When I was younger I always tried to mimic  that with my own silly clothes because I thought it just looked so cool. My grandfather was a snappy guy. I can't believe he's gone.

With all my heart I hope he's in a better place. He was suffering a lot near the end. I hope he's with my grandmother and they're dancing in some version of "heaven". Musical Heaven.

I love you, Grandpa.

10 August 2010

Picture of the Day: Matt Berninger

The absolute best magazine cover I have ever seen in my life.

06 August 2010

The National, Terminal 5 - July 29, 2010

Since I've written a lot of reviews of The National over the past few months and there's still one more to come for the year, I'll do this review in a list format. Here are ten facts from The National's concert at Terminal 5 that seem most important:

01. Suckers, one of two opening bands, was phenomenal. They managed to be both entertaining and talented. Kurt Vile (other opening act) was the opposite.

02. Matt Berninger has never looked better. His outfit, consisting of fitted black jeans cuffed at the bottom, worn in black boots, tucked in button down shirt, vest, and black blazer, was utterly perfect. He is my choice for best dressed person in music today.

03. The concert was way too short. At around an hour and a half, the time element was disappointing and very unlike The National who usually give their audience at least 30 minutes more.

04. I'm not the biggest fan of Terminal 5, particuarly their strange routine of lining everyone up against the wall of the roof like cattle until the doors officially open for the show. I had never experienced that before and it made me feel sticky and stupid - not a good combination.

05. Bryan Devendorf is my favorite drummer. His t-shirt that read "The Ultimate is Here" is not a joke. He IS the ultimate. He adds so much to the caliber of The National that I can't imagine another drummer doing what he can. There's so much personality and unique performance style mixed in to his playing. He came out on stage early to set up his drums and people in the front row immediately started snapping pictures. When I see him, I know great things are about to happen.

06. The sophistication and elegance of a National concert is never lost on anyone. The hush that comes over the audience when Matt steps on stage never fails to amaze me. It's a magical feeling.

07. I was disappointed by the lack of "Daughters of the Soho Riots" and "About Today" which have become frequent in recent set lists. There were no surprises whatsoever. 

08. Although the band joked that it's the hardest song to perform, "Lemonworld" has never sounded better and gorgeous lemon/lime lighting only added to the eerie feeling of the song.

09. "Conversation 16" was the other highlight of the set for me and has seemingly become an anthem among crowds at recent shows. "Squalor Victoria" and "Mr. November" were also standouts in a louder fashion. Unfortunately no stage diving or running across bars for the drunken Mr. Berninger though.

10. Every concert The National puts on is destined to be great. This one was no exception. It wasn't the all time greatest but I'd see Matt Berninger perform in a McDonald's wearing a Ronald McDonald costume if it meant I got to hear these songs live. They can do no wrong.


All photographs courtesty of ME.

A Concert in Pictures: John Mayer, PNC Bank Arts Center - August 3, 2010

The great Train, a headliner, in their own right, opened for Mayer with an incredible 50 minute set that completely blew every other John Mayer opener in previous years away. Train is the kind of commercial rock band that I wish I didn't like but they're irresistable..
...particularly because of frontman and songwriter Pat Monahan who is one of the best live singers I have ever heard. His voice gives me chills when I least expect it and although it's slightly difficult to get past his showy stage demeanor and strange Ed Hardy-ish style, his music and specifically unusual lyrical phrasing, really makes it worth it.
This is my third and final time seeing part of John Mayer's summer tour and while I didn't think he could get better than his Jones Beach concert on July 21, this topped it by far. Consistently Mayer surprised the audience with his candid honesty and silly behavior (trading bracelets with a girl in the audience and telling the crowd how much he loves to sleep alone).
Wearing a black headband, fully buttoned plaid shirt, and rolled up khaki pants, Mayer didn't necessarily look the part of a rock star guitarist but during the always astounding cover of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine", his skills were front and center.
It's no surprise to anyone who has seen Mayer live before that he makes absurd faces.
And he looked a little high...
But managed to bring a new spin to every song he performed. Standouts included a gorgeous rendition of "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)", "Clarity", and "Heartbreak Warfare".
For the underappreciated final track on "Battle Studies" entitled "Do You Know Me?", Mayer brought out the harmonica and teased the audience with a small sampling of the hit "Say" near the end.
Another classic Mayer technique: ending the show with some guitar playing on the ground. People go completely nuts and as you can see, run up to the stage and block my view. It's one of the most incredible things I've seen at a concert though. Anyone who says John Mayer is talentless has clearly not seen him play live.
Mayer's playfulness on stage definitely helps to make the audience feel a connection to him as not just a musician but a friend in some way. After seeing him over 30 times in the past nine years, I can tell you that his banter only enhances the concert experience.

More incredible guitar playing (if you're still unfamiliar with his style, check out the unbelievable "Gravity" as evidence of his genius).
John Mayer will probably be on tour for the next three months at least so make sure you check him out. Lawn seats are cheap!

John Mayer Setlist  - August 3, 2010

Chest Fever -> Bigger Than My Body

                                                                       No Such Thing
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
Perfectly Lonely
Ain’t No Sunshine
Who Says
Waiting on the World to Change
War Of My Life
Heartbreak Warfare
Do You Know Me
The Boys of Summer (w/ Patrick Monahan)
Half of My Heart

Edge of Desire

All photographs courtesy of ME.

01 August 2010

Music Video to Love: Clap Your Hands - Sia


I'm not even sure what else to say. I can't picture some "macho" guy in boots and a bandana liking this so I know it's not for everyone. You should know that I read perezhilton.com religiously and have no problem with tabloids. I'm a little bit of a cheesy, Cher-loving, neon-colored person. That's what this song reminds me of.

Sia is brilliant though and she can go from fluff like this to "Breathe Me", the song that closed the series Six Feet Under. She is not to be underestimated. This music video proves that - one of the most creative I've seen in a long time.

Twenty Songs For August 2010 Playlist

I feel like it's been awhile since we had a simple playlist post so here it is.

On a muggy summer day with a tiny purple fan and a hot cup of raspberry coffee (for some reason), I sit here hoping you will enjoy this music as much as I do. Some songs are old, some new, some corny, some blue, but all will have you moving your feet to the interesting beat.

That was stupid and these songs are not. Enjoy.

01 Janelle Monae - Tightrope
02 Sia - Clap Your Hands
03 Jack Johnson - At or With Me
04 The Doobie Brothers - You Belong to Me
05 The Bird and the Bee - I Can't Go For That (cover)
06 The National - You've Done it Again, Virginia
07 Beyonce - Why Don't You Love Me
08 Josh Ritter - Southern Pacifica
09 Usher - There Goes My Baby
10 Hall & Oates - It's Uncanny
11 Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs - Beg Steal or Borrow
12 Norah Jones - Back to Manhattan
13 The Rolling Stones - Beast of Burden
14 The Black Keys - Howlin' For You
15 Leela James - Tell Me You Love Me
16 Kanye West - Flashing Lights
17 James Hunter - Carina
18 Eli "Paperboy" Reed - Take My Love With You
19 Raul Midon - About You
20 Darondo - Legs

Some listening samples: