19 December 2008

Austin Scaggs: Huh?

I must admit I wrote something much worse originally that I felt compelled to take down as my anger has subsided a little since I first read the following and I've really enjoyed some of this writer's previous articles. Austin Scaggs, a journalist for Rolling Stone, my favorite publication, and primary blogger on the Smoking Section (therefore a person who should know better) wrote this poorly analyzed piece about Jason Mraz:

Jason Mraz: Huh?
December 10, 2008 6:01 PM

"Jason Mraz's Grammy-nominated song, "I'm Yours," has reached the Number One slot at Top 40.

Now, first and foremost, we are music fans. We think it takes a lot of balls to get up and perform songs in front of crowds, and to put your lyrics and melodies out there for the whole world to hear. And we're sure Jason is a nice dude, but...

We just listened to "I'm Yours" really closely, and here are our thoughts, arranged chronologically:

"Wait, did we click on Jack Johnson by accident?"
"No, that's Mraz's voice. God damn he's been listening to Jack Johnson!"
"Maybe Jack Johnson wrote this song. And he gave it to Mraz?"
"Wait... maybe Colbie Caillat wrote this song."
"Record stores should have a section called Retarded Reggae, and this album should be the one on display."
"Did he just sing, 'We're just one big family?' Please say he didn't. We hate it when people say shit like that."
"He did."
"Let's see... When was scatting cool? Hmmm... Right! Like eighty years ago."
"Will somebody please take two ice-picks and drill them into our ears until all we hear is a faint scrape of metal."
"How, on God's sacred planet, did 'I'm Yours' get to Number One on Top 40?"

Here was my posted response to this interesting bit of work:

You clearly cannot be much of a music enthusiast if you can get yourself to write something so demeaning about one of the few pop artists that write their own songs and literally came from coffeehouses to mainstream while maintaining a very decent amount of integrity. Whether you personally like an artist or not, you should really watch the facts while insulting them. Jason Mraz has always written all his own songs and genuine fans know the song, "I'm Yours" has been around for years in different incarnations. I find it very sad that your musical knowledge is limited to Jack Johnson in this genre and that you clearly find exceptional artists like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald to be "uncool" since they're the masters of scat.

Please resign and let someone who genuinely loves music take your place for the sake of everyone involved. You'd probably have more luck as a cashier.

Much sympathy,

It was way over the top and ridiculous but I care! Loving music means at the very least respecting all genuine music - whether you approve of it or not.

18 December 2008

The Wonderful

This is the beginning of a long line of posts about the brilliance of The National, my favorite band in the world. There is not much I can write about them that would explain their magic so I just have to let them explain it to you themselves.

The National - Lit Up

The National - Mistaken for Strangers

The National - Slow Show

Fun Knees

17 December 2008

How Speakers Changed My Life

I was in a store today and that's how it all started. I walked in, directly headed to the speaker department, found a nice looking box and thought I had made a decision. At the last second I decided to ask for help from a friendly man in a blue shirt (he happened to work there). He escorted me to computer speakers and discussed something called "watts". Basically the more, the merrier where watts are concerned I soon learned. Thank god for that young man. My life is now complete. I am so in love with these speakers. For $70 I bought Best Buy brand (Insignia) speakers and they are phenomenal. I'm in such a state of bliss right now, I don't know what to do. I'm listening to a song I don't even like because I can't get myself to skip any song on this genius system. I think they call it surround sound. I think they also call it heaven.

Add this to my already incredible Sony subwoofer CD player and awesome Crosley record player and I am seriously in good shape. Now I just have to find friends who love music and want to hang out at my swinging pad. Unfortunately you can't buy those.

Fashion Rocks

These photographs speak for themselves.

Queen Latifah
Patti Smith
Jackson Browne
Tom Petty
Johnny Cash
John Mayer
Gram Parsons
Eric Clapton

Buffalo Springfield

16 December 2008

Top 25 Albums of 2008

Rolling Stone had a great Top 50 list that compelled me to create this, a knock off, but in my opinion even better.

1. The Way I See It - Raphael Saadiq

A genuine '60's throwback that cannot even be compared to other 2008 albums. This is in a league of its own. Saadiq is a recent discovery to me but I believe this to be his best album to date. If you love Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke - this will fit in perfectly.
Best Track: Sure Hope You Mean It

2. Modern Guilt - Beck

Mid-life crisis, scientology, the end of world: what else could you want? This album is brimming with catchy, almost electro songs that are too good for the radio to understand. This perfectly caters to my favorite mixture of sad songs set to happy beats.
Best Track: Gamma Ray

3. Volume One - She and Him

M. Ward has grown into one of my favorite artists over the last year and the combination of his guitar playing and Zooey Deschanel's beautiful, soft voice make this one of the most soothing records of 2008. Their undeniable charm glistens through every song, including classic covers of "You Really Got a Hold on Me" and "I Should Have Known Better".
Best Track: Change Is Hard

4. Evolver - John Legend

From songs about love to sex to politics, Legend's voice oozes honey all over the speakers. Sticking to a similar format as his previous two albums, Evolver dabbles in a range of genres but sticks to the smooth R&B beats that made songs like, "Heaven" and "Ordinary People" such big hits. Legend himself commented on his website that he wanted these songs to be more "radio friendly" but the first single, "Green Light", is the only one of its kind on the record.
Best Track: Quickly

5. Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch

Before the Heartbreakers, there was Mudcrutch, consisting of many of the same musicians but a style closer to country than rock. Tom Petty, the greatest lyricist alive in my biased opinion, is at the center of this southern jam parade and manages to separate this music entirely from anything else he's ever done although the trademark twangy voice is still in full force. A classic album from start to finish.
Best Track: Six Days on the Road

6. Firesight - Jessie Baylin

I first discovered there was a Jessie Baylin while seeing Matt Nathanson at the Nokia theatre in October. Her opening set blew me away. One song after another was catchy, witty, and genuinely captivating. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she has soul and humility that set her apart. With music that has more in common with early '60's psychedelic rock mixed with classic R&B than any sort of typical bubblegum pop, I expect Baylin to soon be a little more mainstream.
Best Track: Contradicting Words

7. The Age of the Understatement - The Last Shadow Puppets

Lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys, Alex Turner, has created another unique band that makes fantastically catchy songs while still keeping an experimental vibe. Although they have yet to fully catch on in the US, their albums has already gone #1 in the UK and the band is already planning new material for a 2009 release. These guys fit in perfectly with any band from The Rascals to The Kooks, just fun, indie pop rock.
Best Track: Standing Next to Me

8. Last Days at the Lodge - Amos Lee

Lee is described as jazz (famously discovered by Norah Jones), folk, and R&B almost interchangably but "soul" is the only way to perfectly describe these songs. On this album specifically, songs vary from fast paced to slow jams but all keep that soft spirit that is almost palpable through the speakers. There are few musicians that can speak as eloquently about serious issues as Amos Lee.
Best Track: Streetcorner Preacher

9. Little Joy - Little Joy

This is the newest discovery for me. Just last week I came across this band on iTunes and as is proned to happen when I love something: I couldn't stop listening all night. Little Joy, which consists of Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, Moretti's girlfriend Binki Shapiro, and Devendra Barnhart collaborator Rodrigo Amarante, is pure and simple. There is nothing flashy or hi-tech or particularly memorable even. That is almost the best part. This music just sounds like the noise your brain would make as it clears out. Although that doesn't sound like the best description, I think you'd understand if you took a listen.
Best Track: The Next Time Around

10. We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. - Jason Mraz

Mraz is the greatest at making corny music with a message. From songs like, "Only Human", that describes the difference between people and squirrels to the kinky "Butterfly", comparing a woman to well... you get it, Mraz manages to be an extremely coherent stoner on all tracks. Unlike the over produced Mr. A-Z, this album brings along some great new Mraz classics that his die hard fans aren't ashamed to have on the radio. Great album art as well.
Best Track: Make It Mine

11. Furr - Blitzen Trapper

Neil Young and Beatles influenced, as mentioned on a couple other sites, this album is full of nostalgic sounding tunes that cater to several generations all at once. Although I haven't spent much time with this album, some of the lyrics impressed me more than any other record on this list: "And now my fur has turned to skin And I've been quickly ushered in To a world that, I confess, I do not know But I still dream of running careless through the snow Through the howling winds that blow Across the ancient distant flow To fill our bodies up like water till we know." I think that says it all.
Best Track: Gold For Bread

12. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Probably the breakout band of the year, Fleet Foxes have garnered much attention and thankfully it's well deserved. As one Amazon.com reader points out, "The Fleet Foxes are a rock band that sounds like no other -- imagine a pastoral choir overwhelming a sweeping folk-rock band, in the middle of a sunlit forest in the spring." And that is exactly how they sound, in the best way possible.
Best Track: Ragged Wood

13. Tell Tale Signs - The Bootleg Series - Vol. 8 - Bob Dylan

I have not always been a Bob Dylan fan. For a long time I have been resentful of people acting like Tom Petty bites off his style and didn't understand the mass appeal of his songs. Luckily for me there are acoustic versions of songs I previously didn't enjoy like "Most of the Time", that have turned me around. This album in particular has some of the best versions of Dylan songs I have ever heard. Without all the fake rock hoopla in the background, it's easier to understand why Bob Dylan is considered one of the greatest poets of all time. In my opinion, his words sound better with as little background music as possible and this record perfectly displays that.
Best Track: Most of the Time

14. Warpaint - The Black Crowes

I don't understand why this album wasn't better appreciated by the masses but I know without ever hearing these songs previously I fell in love with them live. The Black Crowes played the concert venue I work at on the day of their album release and it was phenomenal. In a two set concert that first catered to their new album (in its entirety) and then a heaping helping of all their older classics, Chris Robinson converted me to an eternal fan.
Best Track: Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution

15. Gossip in the Grain - Ray LaMontagne

Although Gossip is no Trouble, LaMontagne has proved that he not only has massive staying power in an industry that doesn't always welcome sensitive, husky voiced singer/songwriters but he has a growing audience as well. Not only did we learn from this album that he can sing a country song like nobody's business, he also has a crush on the female half of The White Stripes in an appropriately titled song, "Meg White". This album is fabulous even subtracting the fact that he poses on the cover with one of the best beards I've ever seen - that's talent.
Best Track: You Are the Best Thing

16. Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams - Solange

Beyonce's little sister brought forth a stronger effort than her sister no matter what the numbers say. This album, which is a complete interpretation of what the '6o's would sound like today, makes me want to dance regardless of my mood. It is undeniable. I'm a huge fan of hand claps and this is THE 2008 Hand Clap album. It makes me sick how good this is. Girl group sound, funky R&B, blah, blah, blah. Just listen.
Best Track: I Decided

17. In Rainbows - Radiohead

A collection of eclectic songs that have been analyzed and reviewed too much already this year. As a semi-Radiohead fan, I found this album to be fantastic. I've heard rumblings of the usual, "this isn't as good as the older stuff", but I disagree. What's wrong with shorter songs and hipper beats? So many of these tracks are sure to be constants on my iPod for a long time to come.
Best Track: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

18. Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends - Coldplay

Like In Rainbows, this is sure to be an album that doesn't just disappear after this year. Although I know it's tempting to dissect what makes this different from their other albums, I kind of feel like it's right on par with the previous ones. It's fantastic, true to its form, atmospheric-like rock that is lucky enough to have Chris Martin's haunting voice on every track (except the instrumental ones that remain haunting enough in and of themselves).
Best Track: Lost!

19. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver

Another genuine breakout star of 2008, Justin Vernon, sounds like way more than just one person. Holed up in a cabin in Wisconsin during winter time, Vernon managed to make the most texturally interesting album of the year. These songs sound like a winter's evening alone but manage to not be excrusiatingly depressing. Very acoustic and very soothing.
Best Track: Skinny Love

20. The Felice Brothers - The Felice Brothers

On a previous list I had forgotten completely about this album and although that doesn't sound very good, I was mortified when I realized it. The Felice Brothers are genuine country that do not compromise their sound in any way. With a sound not unlike The Band, this album is playable the whole way through.
Best Track: Frankie's Gun

21. Oracular Spectacular - MGMT
I can't pretend that I like this entire album but "Electric Feel" is one of my favorite songs I've ever heard and any band that could create a song like that has massive potential and extreme talent. They are unique, crazy, psychedelic, and undeniably catchy in a super hip way. "I'll move to Paris, shoot some heroin, and fuck with the stars". Aah, lovely.
Best Track: Electric Feel

22. Cardinology - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Once again, a reviewer on amazon.com manages to speak about this record better than I can find the words to: "It's obvious that Adams is a man who reveres the classics, as sounds of classic country, Elton John, and especially Neil Young are very prevalent in the music, working into a seamless blend which results in something greater than the sum of its parts." I haven't listened to this album as much as I'd like to yet but I've found this is one of those rare records that takes only one listen to understand its genius. I liked it instantly.
Best Track: Magick

23. Time the Conqueror - Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne never gets tired. His lyrics are as fresh today as they were in the '7o's. His exuberant energy to understand the world around him is compelling and inspiring. There are some wonderfully silly lines like, "Why is impeachment not on the table/We better stop them while we are able" but they are balanced out with the classic tales of love and loss. If there's any album to make one think this year, it's this one. It cannot be stressed enough what a brilliant writer Jackson Browne is.
Best Track: Time the Conqueror

24. AC/DC - Black Ice

I love this album and I don't even own much of it. One of the downfalls of iTunes is their lack of AC/DC. This band simply rocks and makes endless classic songs. Granted, many of their songs sound quite similar but if it ain't broke don't fix it, right? They're still number one.
Best Track: Big Jack

25. Loyalty to Loyalty - Cold War Kids

It was a toss up between this album and Jazmine Sullivan's Fearless for the final spot but Cold War Kids have the upper hand as I believe this to just be the start of their really interesting musical contributions to us. On thier first album, Robbers and Cowards, they had the tremendous "Hang Me Out to Dry" that I am still playing all the time and on this record they strum up a new collection of catchy, dark songs. I'm fascinated along with countless others. PS. The only thing I dislike are comparisons to The National, the greatest band to ever live.
Best Track: I've Seen Enough

15 December 2008

Top 25 Sexiest Songs - November 19, 2008

I was inspired tonight to go searching for the "sexiest songs" online and found very few I even knew let alone thought were sexy enough to make it on to anyone's list. I also found people rephrase "sexy" as "romantic", "slow jams" or "mood songs". I prefer a little more dirt. "Your Body Is a Wonderland"? No...No. And PS: If you're going to get down to any of John Mayer's songs let it be "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" (believe me, it's the hottest). I want to hear something right now that will make the hairs on my neck tingle and make me want to call one of those hotlines they advertise late at night on E. No Marvin Gaye or Barry White allowed either - way too obvious. John Cusack didn't make a Top Five list like this in High Fidelity, did he? Here's my working list right now...

I wish everyone much beautiful love to these songs. They. are. Goood.

Sexiest Songs: A Work in Progress

Electric Feel - MGMT
Everybody Here Wants You - Jeff Buckley
Speak Low - Billie Holiday
Slow Dance - John Legend
Lovesong - The Cure
Everywhere - Fleetwood Mac
Need You Tonight - INXS
Everlong - Foo Fighters
Sway - Dean Martin
Let's Stay Together - Al Green
You Send Me - Sam Cooke
Call on Me - Chicago
All I Want - Toad the Wet Sprocket
My Funny Valentine - Chet Baker
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi - Radiohead
Echo - Incubus
I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) - Hall and Oates
I Only Have Eyes For You - The Flamingos
Hello Stranger - Queen Latifah
Lost Without You - Robin Thicke
Miss You - Rolling Stones
I Wanna Be Loved - Etta James
Sexy Love - Ne-Yo
Take My Breath Away - Berlin
D'yer Mak'er - Led Zeppelin

Strong Addition: Waiting in Vain - Bob Marley

Just Like Riding a Bike - Upside Down.

I haven't done this in awhile but I'm more than prepared to come back and type my fingers off. Things have changed since September. Naturally, I'm more miserable than ever but thankfully the music is ever flowing. Time and time again music has proven to be the only reliable friend I have. Not to sound too depressing but I have a strong feeling a lot of people would agree with me. There's always a new, exciting, I-can't-believe-I-lived-without-this song that pops up out of nowhere and yet there's also those tried and true companions that are there for a good pick-me-up anytime you need them. I cannot for the life of me think of a single friend that is dependable in that context. It can't just be the voices either: my mom's voice is soothing but there are plenty of times I press ignore on my phone when I'm listening to Amos Lee or someone instead. Music talks back but it's always in a good way.

Not to second guess myself but I'm not entirely sure what I'm talking about. I just feel like writing and I always feel like talking about music. Let's see... oh! I am currently in love with Raphael Saddiq. I should just dedicate this entire entry to him right now. His album, The Way I See It, is so good I haven't been able to stop listening to it for the past week. It must be said that I stole this primarily from Rolling Stone's Top 50 Albums of 2008 article, where it landed at #48, but I had interest before that as well. Tracks like, "Sure Hope You Mean It" and "100 Yard Dash" are such throwbacks to '60's R&B that I would 100% believe these were exact duplicates of lesser known Marvin Gaye songs.
I'm also certain that these would've been tremendous hits if Saadiq was either more well known or simply in another era. I want to compare it to Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson but that's too easy. Saadiq is so delicious. So delicious. I'm in love. I remember texting my ex-boyfriend (when he was already my ex) when Winehouse's album came out because I couldn't contain my excitement and thought he would be the only one to understand. This time around I don't have anyone to voice my happiness to that would understand but I don't even need it. This album is totally something I can appreciate solo. If any random person is reading this: check it out! There is no chance you will be sorry.

I guess something else I've been wanting to discuss is the vinyl comeback going on. I was in a Virgin Megastore a couple weeks ago and almost bought at least three albums I didn't even know existed on vinyl. Suddenly there are these huge displays of top 20 albums in vinyl form right on the main floor. John Legend's latest album, Evolver, was on sale for $20 in this format along with a complete download of every song.
Needless to say I was really impressed. Although it's important for me to point out that this is not snobbery as my lover would like to think it is. I listened to the most vinyl in my life between the ages of 3 and 10. I'm not trying to fool anyone into thinking I listen to tons of music on my record player. I only wish I did. I listen to Eddy Arnold and live Tom Petty albums on record because that's the only format I have them in but I'm not a maniac like some wonderful, truly impressive people are. I lust after $400 record players all the time (at this price range I think they call them "turntables" - HAHA) but I never intend on getting one. Although I know the sound quality would be amazing on one of these (and most musicians agree that records allow the songs to be listened to in their true form), my all time favorite part about records is the packaging. You don't see Urban Outfitters selling CD frames. They sell record frames - even Target got in on this trend. Look in the background of Knocked Up when Katherine Heigl is on the phone with Seth Rogen for the first time: Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedoes all framed up! It's a beautiful sight to see. I am desperately in love with iTunes and all of its features that keep me up at night but there is nothing like a large cardboard cutout with the lyrics to every song on the album PLUS a two foot poster. What the hell could beat that? Records need to become even hipper than they already are so my kids (if they one day exist) will still be listening to them. I dream of walking into my kid's room and seeing them flat on the floor completely enthralled in the liner notes of some crazy new band, completely ignoring their algebra homework. That's the day I'll agree to put my name on their birth certificate. I'm just kidding. I've been seeing some really cute baby headphones around so they'll be cool long before they're able to read...

PS. Classic R&B music is the best around. I'm convinced it's the basis for all music in the universe.

and... I'm seeing The National at Carnegie Hall with Patti Smith and Vampire Weekend. Kind of exciting... no. Just EXCITING.


10 September 2008

Mr. Zappa Sings of Cocaine Decisions, I Sing of Motrin Confusion

I went to the hospital Monday night. I was having severe heart pains and trouble breathing. I hate doctors and hospitals. I am practically a Christian Scientist when it comes to medical care. While I was there I couldn't help noticing how much music is in an emergency room. This is not to say I was sitting there thinking of music the entire time - I was practically hyperventilating and suffering from a panic attack - but some curious thoughts and coincidences crept in my mind without me consciously realizing it.

--As I was getting a chest x-ray for the first time in my life the song "I Melt With You" was blasting from the doctor's station. Coincidence or morbid humor?

--I managed to probably be the first person in the history of Raritan Bay Hospital to get an x-ray done with a John Mayer Trio shirt on. Later on, a doctor told me that occassionally if you're wearing a shirt with lettering on it, it may show up in your scan. Was John Mayer's face in my x-ray?

--While I was waiting in the ER (the first time - I actually made two emergency trips that evening), they put the television on for me and a curious program entitled, "High School Musical: In the Picture" was on. I was too weak to change the channel so I watched. Former 98 Degrees singer and Jessica Simpson husband Nick Lachey hosts it and as an added bonus, reads minds. The entire time I was watching this very upsetting, emotionally crippling show I couldn't stop thinking that Nick looked miserable. He should be singing, I thought for the first time in my life. Suddenly I was thinking about how people do things because they have to and how life is a waste when out of nowhere Mr. Lachey decides to do a ten minute song himself, complete with fireworks, balloons, and what seemed like a dragon to far stage right. In my Motrin-induced stupor, I was certain he did this just for me.

--If you're wondering for some messed up reason what they play in the hospital at 1am, it's elevator music. Instrumental versions of Bon Jovi and Toni Braxton songs. "Living on a Prayer" with a saxaphone pretending to be Richie Sambora. They had given me drugs at this point but truthfully I think the music was enough to make my heart slow down.

--I wore my Johnny Cash shirt later on, in my second visit, and no one made any mention. I guess music isn't the first thing on Dr. Ali's mind when she's checking that I don't have a pulmonary embolism.

So, all in all, it was a more musical evening than I expected. It also proves the point that music is probably the most universal, diverse sound ever created. I could be in a convenience store, a gas station, or a hospital and hear the same songs. Interesting, right? Now excuse me while I take some more medication and ease back to the groovy sounds of "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones. No coincidences here.

05 September 2008

We're All Fever Dogs with Bloody Noses of Pride

I work at a concert venue. At this concert venue we have a staff of our very own EMTs. I never actually thought about it until I just saw a young man pass by my little window with a bloody nose and a case of the whimpers. It's interesting. Is music powerful enough to inflict bodily harm on someone?

The answer is obviously yes and even more than that it must be said that music is probably powerful enough to do anything. I'd be first in line if there were ever a book entitled, "World Leaders: Their Personal Playlists". I would be obsessed with it and download every single song Vladimir Putin was currently listening to. If you are what you eat, you must be what you listen to as well. How many people dress to impress... their fellow music followers? Please don't even try to tell me you see a young man with a beard, thick black glasses, and skinny jeans and think he loves Rob Zombie. And don't tell me you see a girl with dyed purple hair, cat-eye contacts, and baggy jeans and assume she's clearly heading to the Belle and Sebastian show. For some reason it typically does not work that way. I'm a firm believer that the type of music you follow, in most cases, automatically enters you into a cult-like community. Suddenly your entire way of thinking - from how you dress to maybe even what you eat (Vegetarianism, etc.) - is dependent upon what the "guru" is doing, or in this case, the musician.

It's easily understandable too - which is a little scary. There's so much music that feels so personal. You take it with you to work, school, your car, your bedroom and don't think too much about the idea that millions of other people might be listening to it as well. For those important moments it is yours. You feel as though you can relate to the artist and their words move you in a way that few other things do in everyday life. Their music is an escape. Then you might see a photograph of the musician, let's say. Then you go to their concerts. You start to see a certain demographic of the population flocking to these events and a certain style their "followers" seem to maintain. "Well!" you unconsciously say to yourself, "I don't want to be left out!!"

So I'm exaggerating. Maybe.

Although it's the easiest thing in the world to understand, it's difficult to explain. The power of music is like a disease: it spreads to every facet of one's life. And that's just music in general. GOOD music is so delicious it's sometimes too much to handle and I have the perfect example: Lately I've had to wake up much earlier than I'm used to. I'm listening to music by 7am on some days and my choice of songs is far different than say, 7pm. At first I thought this was due to my sleepiness - you don't want to hear Alien Ant Farm blasting in your ear first thing in the morning - but I've realized there are many more subdued songs I don't feel comfortable with in the morning either. I used to sleep with VH1 Nocturnal State on (the only time they play music videos) and wake up to a song like "Burn" by Usher or "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys and cry my eyes out. Emotional songs, whether you like them or not, hit you hard when you're off guard. I would never listen to that Usher song on my own but it's certainly comparable to the fact that I can't get myself to listen to "Anything, Anything" by Dramarama in the early hours of the day either. It makes me too sad. I have no good reason for this other than music is absorbing. Music is a time machine, a therapist, a shoulder to lean on, an amusement park - anything you want it to be.

But getting back to the kid with the bloody nose. I'm pretty sure if he were at the movies he wouldn't have gotten injured. I'd even venture that if he were at a concert he didn't like very much he wouldn't have gotten worked up enough to get hurt. His injury is a boy scout patch of music honor. His soul was stolen by the music gods for a little while and in that time he managed to get his nose clunked up by some hooligan that was probably equally entranced by the experience. Now although he looked like a fool being carried away by the men in uniforms, he should stand proud and be respected for his unfettered love of the music.

I mean what were Billy Crudup's "dying" words in Almost Famous? After all that "I'm on DRUGS!!!" business?

"I love Music."

03 September 2008

The Felice Brothers

I haven't been in the best mood lately but the one thing that can keep me from knotting up a bedsheet and trying to head off to rock 'n roll heaven, ala Britney Spears, is The Felice Brothers, a four man band that absolutely sounds better than anything I've heard all year. There are so many young bands copying The Clash, Michael Jackson, The Kinks, etc so it's refreshing to hear one inspired by a more, well, inspired choice: The Band. And I'll be honest, it doesn't hurt that they're the first alt-country band I've heard of hailing from within a 100 mile radius of my hometown. Feeling like I live near some soul soothes my own a little bit. I cannot stop listening to "Frankie's Gun", a recent single off the band's self titled album, with its Southern style beats and cheeky lyrics including one about my place of residence:

"I saw a man hit my mom one time, really
I hurt him so damn bad I had to hide in Jersey."

Yes, Felice Brothers, you have described the only time one should come to Jersey - if one is hiding out.

Bottom line: While you're driving far, far away from the Garden State, blast The Felice Brothers on your stereo.

31 August 2008

1997 or 2007? I Don't Know!

Update to my last entry. I figured I'd take a look at iTunes 2007 Essentials list in comparison to 1997. First: If you have never seen an iTunes Essentials list - get off this and download iTunes right away and be prepared to never see the light of day again. It is that absorbing. But in reality: the iTunes essential lists are broken down into three catgeories per list. For the annual lists, the categories are The Basics, Next Step, and Deep Cuts. I'm sure you can figure out that The Basics consist of the obvious Top 40 hits, Next Step is basically a continuation of that list, and Deep Cuts are smaller tunes that aren't so full of themselves.

For 2007 Deep Cuts they have The National, The Shins, Sharon Jones, Arcade Fire, Spoon, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, and Band of Horses. Extremely decent!

For 2007 Next Step they include John Mayer, Gym Class Heroes, Alicia Keys, and The White Stripes. Not bad at all.

For 2007 Basics... Avril Lavigne, Plain White T's, Fergie (twice!), The Fray, and two American Idol winners. Hmm..

But I will get behind the other basics: Robin Thicke (although I've never thought of him as mainstream), Maroon 5, and Beyonce. I don't have a problem with sexy R&B at all.

I don't know. Maybe things aren't so bad. Maybe?

I'd Like to Take You on a Trip: All the Way Back to the Year 1997

Is anyone aware of how many good songs there were in 1997? Although I've been around music since the day I was born, the first year I clearly recall becoming obsessed with specific modern songs was 1997 and it was definitely the coolest year to wake up to these crazy sounds. I have an ecclectic taste in music and I'm almost certain it must've come from being an impressionable 11 year old in 1997. Every song I remember loving as a child was a hit in this wonderful, ridiculous year... take a look.

Barely Breathing - Duncan Sheik (number one for a reason!)
You Make Me Wanna - Usher
Lovefool - The Cardigans
One Headlight - The Wallflowers
The Freshman - The Verve Pipe
How Bizarre - OMC
If You Could Only See - Tonic
Crash Into Me - Dave Matthews Band (I remember feeling embarassed when this song was on)
The Impression That I Get - The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) - Missy Elliott
All By Myself - Celine Dion (even then I was a sappy loser)
Mo Money Mo Problems - Notorious B.I.G.
All For You - Sister Hazel
Barbie Girl - Aqua
Fly - Sugar Ray
Tubthumping - Chumbawamba
Walking on the Sun - Smash Mouth
Semi-Charmed Life - Third Eye Blind
Everyday is a Winding Road - Sheryl Crow
Song 2 - Blur
Un-Break My Heart - Toni Braxton
Don't Let Go - En Vogue
Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? - Paula Cole

and of course..

You Were Meant for Me - Jewel

A song I still love or possibly love more than ever. It's my theme song.

So bottom line is: How lucky am I to have been brought up in a time when these songs were on the radio? I don't even want to start naming songs that 11 year olds hear nowadays on Z100 and the like. These are classic songs that sound as good today as they did in '97. What an excellent year for music. I never realized..

27 August 2008

The Billboard Charts are Hungry

I'm concerned with the state of music. All day I get music related emails at work so I know it's not completely downhill - and I do get paid because music exists - but let's not get ahead of ourselves, I don't get paid very much. That could be a metaphor for the music itself: it's there but not in a big way. And then there's this idea - sorry if it's really out there: Compared to a third world country, I do get paid a lot, it's just in the United States that it would be deemed not much compared to the extreme price hikes. Music is the same way. There's some amazing independent music out there that to the few who know about it is phenomenal. These people will tell you the state of music, artistically at least, is thriving. It's just the mainstream (in my aforementioned metaphor: the US) that's going downhill.

Katy Perry, Chris Brown, David Archuleta, and Rihanna top the Billboard music chart this week. Really? NONE OF THOSE ARTISTS ARE OVER 23 YEARS OLD! This worries me. In order for the music industry to make money (and have credibility) they need artists that are going to have some longevity. One of my co-workers just called, "I Kissed a Girl" a 'throwaway song' and they're absolutely right. It's a semi-catchy, nonsensical song that will last through a couple changing seasons and that's it. No one is going to be 45 years old and still enjoying that song unless they're looking through old high school yearbooks and throwing on some cheesy songs to remind them of the younger years. I appreciate silly songs almost as much as anyone else, especially considering the "Monster Mash" is a song I listen to year round, but when it's not balanced out by any reputable music, it becomes unbearable. I would say out of those four top artists this week, Rihanna has the most chance of lasting. Why? Because her songs are unique in a way that keep you coming back for more. She has had so many catchy hits now that clearly she's not a flash in the pan the way one might have expected when "Don't Stop the Music", her first single, came out.

Judging from my own experience with music, I tend to have several categories:

Die hard Favorites
Constant Companions
Very Enjoyable Acquaintances (that sometimes I try to pass off as a favorite)
Nice Friends (this is where it starts to get iffy)
Mediocre Listens
The Awfuls

In 2004, I probably bought Cd's from every artist in the first three, maybe even four categories. In 2008, I only buy from the first category. On my iPod I have a bunch from all categories but most of it wasn't paid for in any conventional sense. Since getting a full time job (especially considering what that job is) I have made a stronger effort to pay for everything I listen to but even so, one song for $0.99 isn't the same as $14.99 for an entire record. I know there are some wonderful, crazy, beautiful die hard music listeners out there that will spend a ton of money for all things beat infested but the truth is, even considering myself an obsessive music lover, I would never do that! Maybe I enjoyed that Katy Perry song for two seconds, maybe even that is pushing it, but I would never buy it knowing that I'll be sick of it in a week and embarrassed to even have it on my artists list.

Even more than price, I care about the space on my iPod. Although it seems like an oxymoron, space doesn't matter as much with Cds. Yes, you need a place to store them and that task can sometimes be overwhelming but as long as you have a sturdy CD holder with 500 spots, the space is taken care of. I have an iPod mini that holds only 2000 songs on a very, very good day. Unfortunately what the Apple creeps don't broadcast is that on those gorgeous microscopic machines you can put as many music videos as you want as well and each one takes up 50 songs! That means if I take full advantage of the video aspect I will have less room for the main component of the machine to begin with: music. Now they've added those game applications and movies and rentals! I blame Facebook for the disaster that iTunes has become - and Myspace. Facebook, with their slimy international applications, has made every website from here to China a state fair. But that's for another entry.

The real situation here is the lack of acknowledgement for the artists with lasting potential and the pedestals we hand out to novice artists with decent producers that sign them so they can bang them in the bathroom. It's so sad. The only upside is that perhaps people are catching on to this. Most music magazines and websites now have at least a small section catering to Independent artists and unsigned talent. I think the people in charge are even getting tired of listening to Hannah Montana - although that girl is a performance magician. It's funny because I am not cut from the 'Indie' cloth by any means. I love Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash - artists that maybe struggled on day one but certainly not most of their careers. The only difference is that this mainstream is from back in the day. "The Day" being the '70s or earlier, not "The Day" we used to have good music. Good music is all around. Good music is even in supermarkets nowadays, it's the little boy from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids yelling to you from the ground - hear it, love it, support it! Let's get some meat on these Billboard bones. And if you like Katy Perry or any of her minions, don't tell me.

26 August 2008

Picture Party

With all the beautiful photography that goes along with music, from the publicity shots to album covers to magazine spreads, I thought it smart to create an entry I'll try to do two or three times a month specifically dedicated to photographs of a particular theme involving music. I have a few ideas but since this is an especially slow day at work I'll start with the one most fun to look at: attractive male singers. The images below capture different forms of intensity on the faces of some of the more uniquely appealing musicians. Enjoy.

James Mercer

John Legend


Jamie Lidell

John Frusciante Shooter Jennings
John Mayer
Justin Vernon
Ray LaMontagne
Matt Costa

22 August 2008

The Ballad of Mraz

It's the end of summer, I had a few nice glasses of Chardonnay last night, and I'm at work with a fan blowing and lots of thoughts running through my head. To me, this screams Jason Mraz. Unfortunately, the bagel and fake sugared up coffee I'm having right now do not. Going from Mechanicsville, VA to singer/songwriter stardom, Mr. Mraz has come to represent an entire generation of surfing, raw foodist slackers that do nothing better with their time than smoke weed and trade philosophical musings. Although, what better time is there?

I've often wished I could live inside a song. There have been so many throughout the years that I want to be a part of in a bigger way than merely through my ears. Jason Mraz has several of these. Lately, I've been enthralled with "The Dynamo of Volition" off his latest album, We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. although I wouldn't be able to tell you what the words meant at all. It's a mixture of rap, pop, surf, rock, and maybe smooth jazz, CD101.9 style. Mraz himself likes the "yacht rock" music of Christopher Cross and Hall & Oates so it's no wonder his style almost mirrors that but in a younger package. He's done very slinky covers of "I Melt With You" and "Summer Breeze", he has song titles like "Live High" and "Curbside Prophet", and lyrics such as "And I can keep you eating out the palm of my hand, because the dope that we smoked was grown on my land, the words I burn they don't come from a can, the movie in my mind will be the winner at Cannes"... He seems a little crazy, which personally, I love.

Typically I have a problem with musicians being too corny. I think R.E.M. does this, the Talking Heads, etc but Mraz's corniness comes across a little more simplistic and honest than the others. Although I appreciate Michael Stipe as a person, particularly his affinity for the afterlife and the end of the world, I'm not sure I understand his music. It's probably my fault - music like that doesn't translate into anything I'm familiar with and like all people who are scared of what they don't understand, I prefer music that falls into my favorite, little categories. Of course, rock music in any fashion is probably far less corny than some of these singer/songwriters on par with Jason Mraz. People like Colton Graham, James Morrison, Brett Dennen - these characters need to tone it down dramatically or more precisely: tone it up. I have seen both Morrison and Dennen open for John Mayer (the master of finding cheesy artists) and they were almost non-music. How many times can one possibly say things like, "Oh Love, beautiful love, you are my happy day, you are my sunshine"? Corniness burrows in musicians copying one another to cash in on a flash in the pan moment or better yet, ones trying to make nothing into something, i.e. one single line repeating twelve times in order to form a catchy chorus.

Something that must be appreciated about Jason Mraz is his eccletic nature and lack of the obvious. He probably wouldn't even know how to copy someone else's style, regardless of the Jack Johnson comparisons. On his sophmore release, Mr. A-Z, Mr. Mraz decided to go wild with the production values and maybe took some things overboard but still managed to create a couple sublime songs ("Clockwatching" and "Bella Luna" specifically). Mraz messing up a song is like having a beautiful living room with an ugly air conditioner out the window: it may seem out of place but you still have a lot of positives to balance it out. The positives on Mraz's side begin with his angelic voice. When a 30 year old man can sing "At Last" and have it come off just as sweet as Etta James' version, you know there's something special.

An added bonus is that I believe Jason Mraz is a nice guy. When I was sixteen or so, I met him at the Stone Pony and gave him a stuffed cat. Strange, I know, but he has several songs about cats... Anyway, he took the cat and was petting its head for a little while and kept thanking me for it. He posed for a picture with my best friend and me and chatted for a couple minutes. Things like that mean a lot to a young girl and they are never forgotten. My friend and I had waited hours in the sweltering heat with our general admission tickets that night and couldn't even buy a soft drink later on because we had spent all our money on the tickets and merchandise. This being the day after I went four hours away to see him in Providence, RI. I have an overwhelming appreciation for music I enjoy apparently.

Jason Mraz is a genre of his own. For further proof take a listen to the following songs or watch my highly suggested video of him singing the Hall & Oates classic, "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" from Dick Clark's New Year's Eve special. He's a dynamo.

21 August 2008

The National know

It Never Happened

We look younger than we feel
and older than we are
now nobody's funny
no god, they took our fashion week
that's a real bad thing
cause we have scars to cover

now I forget how to think
so crack my skull
rearrange me

lover put me in your beautiful bed
and cover me
lover put me in your beautiful bed

Nothing made a sound in Williamstown that night
and all the air was empty
then what to my wondering eyes should appear
nothing, cause nothing ever happens here

now I forget how to think
so crack my skull
rearrange me

lover put me in your beautiful bed
and cover me
lover put me in your beautiful bed

nothing ever happened here
nothing ever happened here
bad things never happen to the beautiful

Guest Room

They’re gonna send us to prison for jerks
for having vague ideas of the way to turn each other on again
they’re gonna send us to prison for jerks

They’ll find us here here here in the guest room
where we throw money at each other and cry, oh my

We miss being ruffians, going wild and bright
in the corners of front yards
getting in and out of cars
we miss being deviants

They’ll find us here here here in the guest room
where we throw money at each other and cry, oh my

We can’t stay here
we’re starting to stay the same
we can’t stay here
we can’t stay this way

Just tie your woman to your wrist
give her room to tie the other

They’ll find us here here here in the guest room
where we throw money at each other and cry, oh my

Lucky You

Every time you get a drink
and every time you go to sleep
are those dreams inside your head
is there sunlight on your bed
and every time you're driving home
way outside your safety zone
wherever you will ever be
you're never getting rid of me

you own me
there's nothing you can do
you own me

you coulda made a safer bet
but what you break is what you get
you wake up in the bed you make
I think you made a big mistake

you own me
there's nothing you can do
you own me
lucky you

you own me
there's nothing you can do

you clean yourself to meet
the man who isn't me
you're putting on a shirt
a shirt I'll never see
the letter's in your coat
but no one's in your head
cause you're too smart to remember
you're too smart
lucky you

Apartment Story

Be still for a second while I try and try to pin your flowers on
Can you carry my drink I have everything else
I can tie my tie all by myself
I’m getting tied, I’m forgetting why

Oh we’re so disarming darling, everything we did believe
is diving diving diving diving off the balcony
Tired and wired we ruin too easy
sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave

Hold ourselves together with our arms around the stereo for hours
While it sings to itself or whatever it does
when it sings to itself of its long lost loves
I’m getting tied, I’m forgetting why

Tired and wired we ruin too easy
sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave
but I’ll be with you behind the couch when they come
on a different day just like this one

We’ll stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz for days
We’ll stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz

so worry not
all things are well
we’ll be alright
we have our looks and perfume

stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz

so worry not
all things are well
we’ll be alright
we have our looks and perfume on

Californication: The Most Rock 'n Roll Show on Television

Unless you like aliens, David Duchovny is the best kept secret on television - or in all of Hollywood for that matter. Californication not only proves how dumb America is getting (in more ways than one) but it also delivers one of the best casts I've had the fortune of seeing since Six Feet Under. In a strange way I feel like they're similar. Both focus on a man in his thirties grappling with mortality, father issues, and difficult women. Both also take the phrase 'sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll' to an extreme. Screenwriters, most of whom I would assume are in fact in their thirties, really fancy themselves the laid back rock stars capable of picking up the hottest chick in the club. That alone is interesting - or as Rachel Miner's character Dani California (whose father taught me acting) would say, "It's not anything - It's a fantasy."

All of the characters in this series are brutally injured emotionally by things normal people have to go on accepting in their daily lives. David Duchovny's character, Hank Moody, literally wrecks his entire life because he doesn't understand how he destroyed the one relationship that meant anything to him. To numb the pain, he has meaningless sex with random women, chain smokes, drinks every night, and begs his ex every chance he gets to come home. Like the first heroin fix of a drug addict, he's looking for the same high he once had with the unbelievably gorgeous Natascha McElhone (Karen). He tries to balance this with being a semi-successful writer and father to his exceptionally mature 12 year old daughter, Becca.

But here's why the show is really great: The writers have completely captured what it feels like to be doing one thing on a normal basis while wanting to do something else the entire time. They clearly depict the pitfalls of pretending to be normal while secretly knowing it's totally impossible. They show a man waking up each day, reading the newspaper, going about the errands of the afternoon as if he were like everyone else but underneath this man is so ruined from how good he once had it that there's no way for him to carry on regularly. He has to soak his sorrows in the form of addictive behavior and bad habits. He has a strong taste for records and music but what happens in one of the episodes? He has sex with a hippie and she steals them all! It's the one time we see Hank Moody care for any material possessions throughout the entire series - albeit only slightly. Everything seems to fall apart for him.

The key moment for me that enables perfect understanding of Hank's character is when he purchases a new convertible with the bonus he recieves from one of his novels. His agent tells him to go buy something nice and although he's completely uninterested, he finds himself looking at his car (which he says has 'character') and being too lazy to clean it - so hey, get a new one instead! Obviously, disaster ensues and the car is stolen from him at gunpoint. What does he do? Takes out a cigarette and forgets about the car. I know this sounds far from reality but to me, I understand completely. All he really wants to do with that money is buy an antique ring for Karen who is engaged to another man -which he does. He never cared about the car, it was just something to bide time with, something that would make him appear normal. He just wants her love.

Karen, on the other hand, tries hard to be normal. It's clear from the first episode that she still loves Hank but she had to move on. Although they look perfect together, have similar interests, and hold on to each other's hands a little too long in public, she is with someone else and insists to Hank that she doesn't care for him anymore. It's sometimes painful to watch how much he loves her without open reciprocation. It makes the audience wonder why she would hold back so much - until the flashbacks. These clips, in high contrast to signify the past, show Hank getting so wrapped up in his work he can barely talk to her. She stays cool and mentions it only when she has to. It gets to the point where he can't even look at her and finally she tells him that to her, "fucking and talking go hand in hand". Basically admitting that she's having an affair with someone who gives her attention. Hank is devastated, she walks out, and he pulls her into a passionate kiss as if that will save something. He's not even mad at her - more at himself. She pulls away and runs out. It's pretty heartbreaking.

The strangest thing about this show has nothing to do with plot: it's the audience. I definitely thought, based on reviews and friends who have watched it, that it would be all sex, all the time. I thought the nudity was intense and the scenes were graphic. It seemed like that's all anyone mentioned. How could so many people miss the point? Look at Hank's face in the middle of it - sometimes he's rolling his eyes, sometimes he's even literally sighing like, "Get off of me, already." This isn't some playboy that wants a hot piece of ass. This is a broken man who wants the love of his life back and has to fill in the "meantime".

The end of season one left me on the floor at 5am silently thinking about it for more than an hour. If you've ever felt like you'd take up every bad habit known to man to get away from your head for a minute or you've ever felt like the people around you think of love like a disease, than this is the show you have to watch.

20 August 2008

Autumn Rocks

Some special photographs that remind me of autumn, rock, or a combination of the two - a few took my breath away.

Johnny Cash
James Mercer of The Shins
Bruce Springsteen
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver
Frank Sinatra

Van Morrison

Keith Richards

Jimi Hendrix

Ray Charles

The Beatles

19 August 2008

The Wheel of Music

NOTE: The following entries are a couple months old (except the John Mayer Letter)...

I'm obsessed with iTunes and when I have a free second going on their little website and picking out new songs is the thing I like to do best. I get thrilled over finding not so much "new" songs but new old songs that I remember from when I was a kid or a specific memory from back in the old high school days. I know I listened to some garbage but I also liked some quality stuff that I let go of somewhere along the way. I recently got into a discussion about American Hi-Fi: the early 2000's (?) band that had songs like "Flavor of the Weak" and "The Art of Losing" with great lyrics like, "hey ho, we're gonna start a riot, you don't want to fight iiiittt!!" So I guess it wasn't the greatest of my musical exploits back in the day but I remember being crushed when their cd got loose in my backpack and was scratched beyond repair. I don't remember why I didn't just go out and buy another one but I did get their follow up album which I also don't have anymore.. the point being I checked them out again on iTunes. I was expecting to be pleasantly surprised and ended up really bummed out. This music belongs to someone else still in 2002- not me. I still like the catchy beats and I remember all the lyrics but there's no way I could listen to this stuff again. It's like wearing the same clothes I wore sophmore year of high school - and it's really not because the music is dated in any way. It's just that the opening chords of these songs bring back so much nostalgia it's not even worth it. I think that's insane - and proof of the power of music.

I recently got "Rock 'n Roll Woman" by Buffalo Springfield and although I've heard this song a million times before I personally have no connection to it. I just thought it was a cool song but when I have it up in my brain (aka in headphones) - it takes on a whole new meaning. It sounds sad, distant, lonely.. creepy. I can picture a beautiful girl dancing slowly in front of the band at one of their concerts all decked out in '70s gear being IT, you know? And then she's suddenly 51 years old sitting in my living room with newspapers all over watching Deal or No Deal - my mom? She loved this song and it creeps me out beyond belief to think that she once looked very different, she once went to concerts all the time, and now - she's not going to anymore. People grow up, yeah, but is that just another way of saying they slow down? Sometimes. It's all or nothing in my head - and probably in reality too. That's what "Rock 'n Roll Woman" by Buffalo Springfield means to me. Wild.

I've heard murmurings that people don't like Vampire Weekend. It's funny because a band like that is so fresh it's physically impossible to think of any attachments to a song. I'm sure a lot of people will say that it's the arrangement of a song or the musicians that determine whether or not it will be great but think of all the number one songs here in the US over the course of time. I'd have to say a lot of those weren't amazing musicianship. Some songs just grab you by the throat every time you hear them - and that makes a great song. A band like Vampire Weekend is fun if you're taking some time to enjoy that kind of thing. I'm definitely not looking for my wedding song when I put them on. I just dig funky beats sometimes and that's what they're good for.

So I guess my point was that sometimes you have to let a song go like a relationship or an old tv show you watched as a kid. I watched Zoobalee Zoo a few months ago and at age 22 it's not nearly the same as age 5. Bummer. But you know, you take the good with the bad: I guess I wouldn't have liked Annie Hall when I was 5 so it was a compromise. I'm a HUGE nostalgia person as is my entire family. My boss at work even mentioned that I seem to like "old" things. I guess so. I guess I have the belief that if it ain't broke, don't fix it but the only thing that gets in the way is time. I definitely have a mental disorder when it comes to that - and that's why some things have to be buried in the ground and for me some of that stuff is American Hi-Fi and Zoobalee Zoo. For my mother it might be Buffalo Springfield but then it gets passed on to a new generation - and that's me right now. But later on it won't be..

and that's the way this wheel keeps turning.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - June 19, 2008

So far in concert this year I've seen the Stone Temple Pilots, Everclear, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, and The Black Crowes to name a few. In my life I've seen many more than that. Almost all of these concerts were incredibly good, sometimes amazing (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss singing "Killing the Blues"? Unbelievable!) but there has been nothing more stunning than seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Prudential Center last night.

For the past week I had been prepared to see something spectacular. The Heartbreakers are my all time favorite band and I have yet to hear a song that's not up to par with the stellar classics in the Tom Petty collection. Everything from their self-titled first album to the latest Petty solo venture, "Highway Companion" has been uniquely powerful in some way. For the past two years I have been aware of Tom Petty's absolute brilliance to a maximum degree. I'm sorry to say it's been so short, my loss, but once I caught on to what I was missing out on - well I think it's safe to say I caught on in a big way.

I'm more than proud to say that I think Tom Petty is the best lyricist of his generation and the most interesting singer I've ever heard. Amazingly, those things are not even the highest points of his versatile talent. Mr. Tom Petty can command a stage like nobody's business. He is a master. I will tell you this much, my super all time favorite, John Mayer, was absolutely put to shame by what I saw last night. I was 15 rows back in an insanely large arena but even being that close to Tom Petty felt like an honor and an experience. Any time this guy would even get relatively close to one side of the stage that side of the audience would go beserk. It was wild. He would sing one line of a song and people would be giving him a standing ovation - just for opening his mouth. And I have to say, I might've been one of the loudest. I like to feel young but I felt like a 10 year old with a crush on that Sanjaya guy from American Idol, weeping in the audience. I don't want to say he's a god but I don't want to rule it out either.

Not only does his mere presence practically incite hysterics from men and women alike but the Heartbreakers set list was near perfection. Although they didn't sing either of my favorite songs ("I Need to Know" and "Honey Bee"), the rest of the list was so flawless I think I could recite every song back right now, in order, with massive excitement - starting with "You Wreck Me" off the best album ever recorded, "Wildflowers", and ending with "American Girl" - but not before Mr. Petty got in a joke about smelling like marijuana and telling a girl, "you just don't understand, I'm in a rock and roll band".

Wearing a velvet blazer, purple shirt, and black vest - with the requisite cowboy boots - he looked smashing. I don't want to focus on the fact that I think he's unbearably gorgeous, especially with the beard, but it does require a mention. Tom Petty is obviously just a regular guy but his aura surpasses that. The entire time I couldn't get over the fact that I was in the same room as "Tom Petty". Luckily the crowd was so intensely loud that I got to scream at the top of my lungs and not appear freaky. Everyone was screaming like that.

So, Steve Winwood opened up by the way. The guy from The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and Blind Faith. I was expecting excellence. I'm not sure what it was exactly. The person I went with thought it was boring and I thought his voice was beautiful. I think that generally sums it up. I've seen the band Chicago do the song "I'm a Man" so many times that seeing Winwood do it was odd, even though I guess it's his song.

Mike Campbell, the "co-captain" of the Heartbreakers was also phenomenal. Once again, just seeing Mike Campbell in person - like Petty - was unreal. He had some awesome guitar solos that had people freaking out and seemed so absorbed in the music - really intense. Ron Blair, the original bassist that's back again, looked adorable and even hugged Tom Petty at one point which was really fun to see. Steve Ferrone, the drummer, looked just like he does in The Last DJ video - all spiffy and happy - and Scott Thurston, multi-instrumentalist, was.. interesting. My friend liked him best mostly because he was always on the little video screens making funny faces. He did an awesome impression of Jeff Lynne's vocals for a "cover" of the Traveling Wilbury's tune "End of the Line". Of course Benmont Tench, a founding Heartbreaker and genius pianist, was superb. He was on the opposite of the stage from where I was sitting but the crowd erupted when Petty called out his name.

Overall, I'd have to say one of the best parts of the entire concert was Petty's solo acoustic rendition of "Learning to Fly". It was heartbreaking - no pun intended. The crowd that had been on their feet for the whole show all sat down and got silent to hear him sing those lines so beautifully. I'm not even sure what else to say about it. That concert was a force. It could not have been better and I feel lucky to have been a part of it.