Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Yayahoni

March 25, 2007

My brother sent me a strange MP3 about a year ago of some cat named Yayahoni singing the old Ronettes song “Be My Baby” with just a plucked ukulele as accompaniment. The spare, awkward recording instantly irritated me. But then grew on me. And then continued to grow. I sought out more, and found Yayahoni is one of the guys from Herman Dune, an only-slightly-less-awkward Swedish band I’d heard a few times, and that the Ronettes cover was one of an EP’s worth of recordings called “Yayahoni Sings His Favorite Tunes in the Morning.” It’s available for free download on the Herman Dune website (click on “media”), and is really wonderful. Highly recommended for those who love anti-folk, ukuleles, or singers who waver out of tune but somehow never quite lose the melody.

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Ever been brought to tears by music?

February 19, 2007

I have. 3 times that I can remember. (have i written about this?)

Once by Jeff Buckey’s “Hallelujah,” once by Yo La Tengo’s “Last Days of Disco,” once by Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack” (very much in the context of Kid A as an album, coming at the end as it does). Oddly, all in major keys.

Anyone else?

last.fm

February 18, 2007

As of February 17th, I’ve been a last.fm member for a year.  In that time I logged around 8,000 songs.  This is considerably lower than I would have expected, although it works out to nearly 22 songs a day, and I guess that sounds about right.

My most listened-to artist of last year was Yo La Tengo with 259 plays.  This is appropriate because a) they’re one of my favorite bands and b) I discovered them only a couple years ago and have been going through their extensive back catalog, as well as listening to their most recent release.  Interestingly, they’re perhaps the most underrepresented band on the list, since I own all their music on disc not mp3, and while last.fm does track CDs when they’re played through the computer, it does not count the inordinate number of hours I spend wandering the streets of LA at night with a Discman in my pocket (or the time I spent driving around aimlessly to music before my car stereo broke).

The Beatles clock in at number 2 with 242 plays.  Again, understandable, since I obtained a great many of their albums this year, and again, they’re a top 5 favorite band.

After that there’s a pretty big drop off to #3, Bob Dylan with 145 plays.  I wouldn’t have expected him to rank quite so high, but he did have a new album I listened to quite a bit, and I also picked up Blood on the Tracks for the first time a few months ago.

After that is Sam Phillips, who I was introduced to by the The Gilmore Girls.  She’s the throaty-voiced woman who sings “la la” a lot in the background over an acoustic guitar.  She ranks so high in great part because I found a bunch of her CDs at the Hunterdon County Library in New Jersey and ripped them all to my computer.  Her earlier psychedelic pop stuff isn’t so great, but her newer low-key albums are fantastic.

Rounding out the top 5 is Elliott Smith, a perpetual favorite who never tops my weekly charts, but usually manages a few plays a week.

Buoyed by the fact that I was still familiarizing myself with their work this year are Elvis Costello, at #9, the pillows at #12, Tom Waits at #27, and Bruce Springsteen at #30.  (Had I signed up a year earlier, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Clash, and The Feelies would have ranked quite a bit higher).

Underrepresented because I tend to walk around (or drive) to faster-paced, shorter songs are David Bowie, Weezer, Radiohead and Violent Femmes.  Mellower acts like Nick Drake and The Shins had the majority of their plays counted.

And because last.fm tracks the number of plays, rather than the amount of time listened to, a few artists ended up further down the list than they perhaps ought to have, namely Godspeed You! Black Emperor and a few classical composers (or performers … that’s another thing that’s always a little wonky).

I’m curious to see what the list looks like a year from now.

Communists are red and pointy

January 16, 2007

I remember getting quite excited about an ad, ostensibly from the RIAA, meant to dissuade people from downloading MP3s.  This was about six years ago and I hadn’t really thought of it since.  But something triggered the memory and I looked it up and, yes, still funny:

communism

Best music of the year

December 18, 2006

I like year end lists. They appeal to my desire to canonize things before anyone else has a chance to, and to engage in nostalgia for things that are still happening.

Remember that time I wrote that post about year end lists? Yeah. That was cool.

But music lists are wacky. There are magazines, and even bloggers, who have named their Top 50 of 2006. 50? Even if I weren’t constantly combing through music’s back pages (I heard for the first time this year 1967’s Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Rolling Stones and 1997’s Zaireeka by The Flaming Lips, among many others), I still wouldn’t have near enough time to process 50 new albums unless I gave up listening to all my old ones. And I love music. And I have lots of time because I’ve been unemployed most of the year. Who are these people who have listened to so many new records that they have 50 favorites? Even when I was a part-time music critic I had difficulty coming up with much more than 10 albums worth honoring at the end of the year.

And so, in no particular order, the only albums I can really recommend from 2006:

Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (discussed here)
Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped (discussed here)
Bob Dylan – Modern Times (now with more plagiarism!)
The Starlight Mints – Drowaton (they’re getting progressively less weird, and the departure of their string section hurts, but their latest has better energy than 2003’s Built on Squares.)

Missing the cut are four pretty good but problematic records: The Flaming Lips’ At War with the Mystics, The Strokes’ First Impressions of Earth, Belle and Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit and The Pillows’ My Foot.

Los Angeles radio

September 21, 2006

Because God hates me, my car tape player — through which my CD player runs — broke three days after I entered LA, four days after my warranty ran out. Now I love driving. But that’s mostly because I like singing in the car. Without my CD player, without my tunes, I become aware that driving is a most unpleasant and dangerous experience. This is especially true in Los Angeles County, where people don’t so much drive as sit in traffic, narrowly avoid accidents, and finally search for parking for several hours.

The one upside of this is that I got a chance to thorougly explore LA radio. Turns out there’s not much to get excited about.

The world famous KROQ is nothing more than a slightly above average modern rock station, playing a mix of crummy new stuff and classics from the past 15 years.

91X is more enjoyable, playing a bit more Rancoteurs and a bit less My Chemical Romance, with their classics more along the lines of the Violent Femmes than the more obvious Nirvana and Alice in Chains. However, 91X is also a San Diego station, meaning it’s just a tease, fading in and out in my neighborhood.

KBAQ and KCRW are my local NPR affiliates. In their non-NPR time, one plays classical music and the other whatever the hell the college DJs feel like. Unfortunately, the students/old-crazy-guys of Santa Monica College don’t seem to have as varied or interesting a musical taste as the Princeton DJs I’m used to.

Indie 103.1 doesn’t seem to have a format, with blocks of punk, new wave, reggae and a two hour weekly show hosted by Henry Rollins that I’m sorta curious about. It’s worthy of a car preset, but barely.

A few other random thoughts:

People really like Nirvana out here.

There’s only one classic rock station in the county, KLOS, which is strange because they’re inescapable back east.

I’d been so disgruntled by recent Weezer releases, I forgot how good they were in the grand scheme of things. After being forced to listen to so much modern rock garbage, I’m relieved every time “Perfect Situation” comes on.

The Offspring’s “All I Want” should be outlawed from public use. It was on the soundtrack for the Sega Dreamcast game “Crazy Taxi” back in 1999, which means when I hear it on the radio in the car I have the uncontrollable desire to careen recklessly through the streets of Los Feliz. Thankfully, I couldn’t find a fare.

Yo La Tengo’s new album…

September 16, 2006

…is called I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.

That’s an excellent title, which is only appropriate, because it’s an excellent album.  After two underrated collections of subdued material, the band turns their amps back up for a varied, almost psychotically restless album in the vein of their 1997 fan favorite, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.

Things kick off with “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind,” a messy, 11-minute guitar freakout that annoys me because I know it will please all those tasteless fans who didn’t enjoy the last two records because they didn’t have enough guitars, but which can’t annoy me too much because it’s also a pretty good song.

It’s followed by “Beanbag Chair,” a bouncy, horn-heavy, piano-driven pop number that couldn’t be more different stylistically from the album’s opener unless it were Japanese gangsta rap.  From there we have the sad, Daniel Johnston-with-strings folk of “I Feel Like Going Home,” the psychedelic “The Race is On Again,” the 50s-beach-party-on-drugs “Watch Out for Me Ronnie,” and everything in between.  But because Yo La Tengo always sound like Yo La Tengo, no matter what genres they attempt, the transitions work.  At an hour and 17 minutes, the album’s running time will be a turn off for some, but at no point does it drag, in great part because it never stays in one place too long.

For me, Yo La Tengo’s best record is, and probably always will be, 2000’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, their pretty, romantic, nostalgia-tinged collection of rhythmic tunes for summer nights.  But most people seem to prefer the try-anything jukebox shuffle of I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, and I can’t blame them.  For those people, they’ll soon have quite the debate as to which is better: I Can Hear the Heart or I Am Not Afraid of You.  We’ll probably need a bit more distance to give an informed opinion.  But either is a great introduction to a great band, and I’d recommend picking up one or the other today.

Ticketmaster

August 21, 2006

One of my favorite bands, Yo La Tengo, is playing Los Angeles in October.  I’m moving out there on Thursday, so I figured my first, preemptive act as an LA resident would be to buy tickets.  Because I want my new life in LA to have at least as much Yo La Tengo as my life in New Jersey (both the band and I are from NJ, but I’ve only managed to see them once, and that was in New York).

Anyway, the tickets cost $20 each.  I tried to buy two.  Even though I’ve grown accustomed to Ticketmaster’s gouging, I was shocked at the total: $66.35.  That includes a building facility charge, an order processing charge, a convenience charge, and a delivery charge (in which I pay for them to send an email so that I can print the tickets out using my own ink and paper; to have real tickets actually mailed costs at least $15.00).  The building charge I can accept, even though it should be wrapped up in the initial price and not tacked on.  The latter three fees clearly have some overlap though.  Which part is convenient?  Isn’t the emailed delivery the convenient part?  If it’s so convenient why am I paying for it twice?  Maybe the fact that I’m getting to order the tickets while sitting on my ass is convenient.  But then “processing charge” would cover that.  Is the phrase “convenience charge” actually an admission that they aren’t really doing anything?  Couldn’t they be bothered to make something up to make me feel better?  Like “bandwidth charge” or “licensing fee.”  That at least sounds like I’m paying for something specific.