Thursday, August 23, 2012

Best of 2012: Beautiful Girls edition

City and Colour - The Girl

I found myself listening to a lot of older songs in July, returning to some tried and true favorites.  So you don't get a July this year. Sorry. On the bright side, we can all musically block out a miserably hot and sweaty month.  Instead, here are a few songs that I found myself listening to on repeat play around the beginning of August, and they all have something in common.  Just listen to the toothachingly sweet lyrics from City and Colour: "You sacrifice so much of your life in order for this to work. While I'm off chasing my own dreams, sailing around the world, know that I'm yours to keep, my beautiful girl." The Canadian band, City and Colour, is fronted by Dallas Green (get it?).

Sara Bareilles - Beautiful Girl

Have you ever noticed how much I love Sara Bareilles? She makes perfect music.  This is a song she, according to concert banter, wrote for her younger, adolescent sister. Sara sometimes plays this song at concerts, but it's never been released on an album.

Missy Higgins - Everyone's Waiting

Just watch. You'll get the connection.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Best of 2012: Songs from June (Part 2)

Birdy - "1901"

The Lumineers - "Ho Hey"

Snow Patrol - "New York"

Milo Greene - "Silent Way"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Best of 2012: Songs from June (Part 1)

Wild Ones - Flo Rida and Sia

Three confessions: One: I freakin' love Flo Rida. Since I'm usually listening to, shall we say, softer music, some people are surprised by my undying love for Flo Rida. I bet you're less surprised that I'm a big Sia fan.  Two: Every time I write the word "wild," I write the word "Wilde" first. Three: For years, "Low" was the ringtone for when my mom called.

June already has a long songlist, and it's pretty eclectic, so the rest of it will be given in the order in which the songs were received.

Such Great Heights - The Section Quartet

This is a cover of a song by The Postal Service. Even if you're not a fan of the original (I am), you might still enjoy this version.  TSQ also does great covers of "Black Hole Sun" and Muse's "Time is Running Out."

Bad Romance - Vitamin String Quartet

If you like TSQ, you might also enjoy Vitamin String Quartet. Besides an entire album of Lady Gaga covers, VSQ also does covers of Viva La Vida, Bittersweet Symphony, Kids by MGMT.

More - Usher

I'm also an Usher fan...

Ljósið -  Ólafur Arnalds

Yeah, I don't know how you pronounce it either, but Arnalds is a pretty impressive 25 year old multi-instrumentalist from Iceland. 

 I Don't Love You Anymore, but I Don't Love You Any Less - Hungry Ghosts
This song reminds me of Miss Marple. I'm pretty sure I've seen it on a BBC mystery at some point.

Landline - Greg Laswell and Ingrid Michaelson

And then I finally got Greg Laswell's new album, which features this song with his wife, Ingrid Michaelson. You may remember I already posted videos of "Come Back Down" and "Back to You" in March when they were first released. But the whole album is fantastic and well worth the $7.99 on iTunes.

Here's another: 

Another Life to Lose


New Years' Eves

And just to wrap things up nicely...Good Feeling - Flo Rida ft. Etta James

Because I like to dance.

Best of 2012: Songs From May (and mostly Sara Bareilles)


Once Upon Another Time - Sara Bareilles

Since Sara Bareilles's new EP Once Upon Another Time came out on May 22nd, I've really listened to nothing else. With lines like "Highway curve/ The sun sank low/ Buckley on the radio," the title track is a perfect blend of poetic lyricism and MGM musical.

Bright Lights and Cityscapes - Sara Barielles

Does the US have a Songwriter Laureate?
"I'm the paper and you're the pen/ You fill me in/ You are permanent/ And you leave me to dry..."
"She will falter and gift her blame. And it starts all over again again again."
"She is bright lights and cityscapes./ And white lies and cavalcades."
"She'll take all you ever have, but I'm gonna love you. You say maybe it will last this time. But I'm gonna love you. Till You start looking back, I'm gonna love you. I wouldn't need a second chance."

Lie to Me - Sara Bareilles

And then things get edgy. "I wish the air would color red when you're breathing in, so I could've seen it coming."

In My Veins - Andrew Belle (w/ Erin McCarley)
Fine, here's a song that isn't from Sara Bareilles's new EP. Happy now? Try listening to this super depressing song. But it's also gorgeous.

That Wasn't Me - Brandi Carlile

This is the first single off her new album Bear Creek, and the video stars country legend Kris Kristofferson.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Every Inch She's Royal Purple Pigment

NB: This is from 2007, I believe.

The Queen's Birthday Parade.

I have got to get a hat like Prince Philip's. Not only would it be fun for singing "Down at Fraggle Rock," but it would be so useful for dusting in those pesky, hard to reach corners.

Prince Harry, Prince Andrew, and the daughters of Andrew and Fergie

Horse Guards

All the Royal Family, except for William, who "couldn't" get leave.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Best of 2012: Songs from April

Drive Darling - BOY
The song, the artists, the video. I love it all. On a recent 4 hour drive up to Philly, I listened to this song a billion times. Add it to your road trip mix.

Youth - Daughter
Just listen. You'll get it by the time the drums roll in. Here's a bonus: Landfill.

Coming Down - Dum Dum Girls
I posted their song "Bedroom Eyes" back in October, but this song is a bit edgier.

New Ceremony - Dry the River
I want to cut their hair. But the song is fantastic.

Am I That Lonely Tonight and Unfortunately, Anna - Justin Townes Earle
It's kinda impossible to listen to "Am I That Lonely Tonight" without imagining yourself driving alone across the country in the middle of the night. Justin Townes Earle, who incidentally is named after Townes Van Zandt, has been around for years, but much more in the country arena.  These songs have just enough whiskey and twang in them to make me fall in love with JTE. Unfortunately, Anna is the other one on non-stop loop.

The River - Thomas J. Speight and Allie Moss
A really simple, beautiful love song.

Our Hearts Were on Fire - Firehorse
Weird ass video, but this is just a great indie song with a lot of interesting sounds in it...but in a good way.

Can't Stop - MoZella
The Detroit-based singer-songwriter that shares a name with a search engine is a favorite on TV shows and commercials. You've probably heard her song Magic on a Droid commercial. Most of her songs are too cheerfully poppy or snoozy for my ears, but Can't Stop is her best bluesy Goldilocks track.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Songs of March: Best of 2012 (Part 2)

The Song Most Likely to Say "Get Over Yourself." is... "Come Back Down" by Greg Laswell and Sara Bareilles

Just listen to it; you'll see what I mean.  The video is visual overload, but the harmonies will get you.  This is a track from Greg's new album Landlines, which will be out April 24th.  This has been my work song, my work out song, my cooking song, whatever.  And, when the world gets too much, just remember, all of your wallowing is unbecoming.

Here's another great song from the new album: Back to You, with Elizabeth from & the Catapult fame.  It's pretty great, and Greg made the video himself.

Song/Video Most Likely to Charm Your Socks Off - "Love Lost" by The Temper Trap

You know that these freckled, pasty boys are the most popular kids in school now. This is also a great song to run to. You just have to remember NOT TO DO THE DANCE.

Songs Most Likely to Sound Familiar - "Big Jet Plane" by Angus and Julia Stone, and...

"Take You Higher" by Goodwill & Hook N Sling

Yeah, so this is more of a remix, but with a brand new title too.  So which one do you like?

Honorable Mention for Familiar Song goes to...

"Can You Tell" by Ra Ra Riot, and...

"Can You Tell" by Rachael Cantu

Monday, April 2, 2012

Songs of March: Best of 2012 (part 1)

Song Most Likely to Make You Dance:  "We Found Love" - Rihanna (ft.Calvin Harris)

It is impossible to sit still while listening to this song. Go ahead, try it. Hit play.  The pulsating energy is irresistible. The electronic crescendos were made for strobing club lights that make the sea of bodies move in slow motion. The video plays like a four and a half minute episode of Skins, complete with the spoken word introduction in English accent. Perhaps that's part of the song's aesthetic appeal, that it's about crazy, manic-driven love. Or maybe the truth is less analytical than that. It's just damn fun.  But every song in March seemed to find some sort of niche in my playlist that set it off from the other songs that made it to repeat. The fact that this song is just now making my play list would make it a contender for Song Most Likely to Prove that I Don't Keep Up With Popular Music, if it weren't for....

Song Most Likely to Prove that I Don't Keep Up With Popular Music: "Give Me Everything" - Pitbull (ft. A Lot of Other People)

See everything about song above. With all fair warning, if this comes on in a club or bar or CVS, you will mostly likely grab somebody sexy tell'em 'hey'.

Song Most Likely to Make the Lights Dim All By Themselves: "Come Undone" by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

A friend (hi, Friend) sent me a text the other day saying that this is the sexiest song ever. And it kinda is... If this doesn't become our generation's Let's Get It On/These Arms of Mine, there's something wrong with our generation.

Runner-Up for Above: "Powerful Stuff' by Sean Hayes.

You probably heard this one on that Subaru commercial.

Best Song to Listen to with Bourbon: "In Front of You" by "The Quiet Kind

I don't really need to say more, do I?

Song That's Less Likely That You've Heard: "Boxer and Clover" by The Donnies the Amys

Or actually, you may have heard it since it's played in the background on Gray's, but you probably didn't realize how adorably dorky it is--I refuse "adorkable" as a viable portmanteau.  Let's face it, we all dance around and pretend we're in music videos when no one else is around.  And as cool as you think you look while breakin it down to Rihanna or Pitbull, you really look like this guy.  Another great song off this California band's album is "I Told a Lie." To hear the whole album, check out The Donnies and the Amys's website.

The Song Most Likely to Make You Listen for the Lyrics - "We Got it All" by Right The Stars

Sample lines: "I feel rhythm. You're all melodic." and "You ripped my worst day off of me, tried it on, threw it in the back seat. Keep on driving, never looked back." It's catchy in a very 80s-centric way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Horrified: Fear and the Female Body

At a theme park in central Florida there's a restaurant where the tables resemble '57 Chevys, and stars twinkle on a midnight blue ceiling.  Carhops serve diners as clips from classic horror movies flicker on a giant screen covering the far wall. A few years ago, I sat in the dark, eating salty french fries, drinking a chocolate malt, and feeling altogether nostalgic for the romantic drive-ins of a time and place I could never know.  Then I noticed a few scenes kept repeating on the screen--sometimes with different monsters, or red-heads instead of blondes, but the premise was always the same. Either a helpless virgin was being carried off by some blood-thirsty creature, or Earth was under attack by swarms of alien invaders from a planet inhabited entirely by voluptuousness vixens.  It wasn't the same old Eve or Ave, Saint or Sinner dichotomy.  The women in these horror films were either the ravaged victims or the vengeful monsters.  Most of these movies were made between the 1940s and 60s. Rosie may have been off rivitting duty, and June Cleaver was busy in the kitchen, but women were gaining some degree of autonomy. The first wave of feminism may have stalled, but a few new ripples were visible on the surface of a no-longer impervious ocean.  And I couldn't help thinking, as the 50 Foot Woman straddled the freeway and crushed cars between her naked thighs, that all these movies pointed to some overarching fear of women, particularly women's sexuality.

When President Obama was elected, a sense of optimism pervaded among liberals--Hope, Change, and all that. When the economy continued to plummet even further into the worst recession since the Great Depression, it was just partisan business as usual, with both sides pointing fingers, chanting, "Jobs! Economy! Jobs!" As things begin to slowly but surely improve, Republicans don't want to talk about the economy or its recovery.  And they definitely don't want to talk about Osama bin Laden.  Instead, the GOP wants to talk about vaginas, Obama's so called "war on religion," "the sanctity of marriage," and vaginas.  Over the past few months, Republican legislatures around the country have introduced bill after bill after ballot measure designed to wage an all-out culture war on women and turn back the clocks as far as the wheels will go.

Last November, the Personhood Amendment showed up on the ballot in Mississippi.  The amendment, had it passed, was meant to establish fertilization as the beginning of human life.  There was a tremendous amount of support for the measure for months leading up to the election.  Mississippi is a land where state's rights are supreme, and it notoriously doesn't like to be told what to do.  If "outsiders" and "instigators" interfered in voter registration, peopled disappeared. If the federal government tried to enforce regulations, Mississippi would just secede.  That's essentially what the Personhood Amendment was doing all over again.  It would have declared state's rights independent and supreme over federal rulings, such as Roe v. Wade, establishing a dangerous precedent for the future of the state.  But, Mississippi voters could have rallied behind that kind of bill; they would have passed the hell out of an anti-abortion bill.  There's only one abortion clinic in Mississippi.  It's small, costly, and requires waiting periods and counselling sessions designed to shame vulnerable women (and it is now essentially shut down by House Bill 1390). But the Personhood Amendment went a step too far, opening the door for the ban of birth control and even in vitro fertilization.  And, at the time, even Mississippians couldn't get behind that. 

Since November, Personhood USA has taken steps to get similar amendments on the ballots in Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas this year, and back on the Mississippi ballot as early as next year.  Furthermore, all of the GOP candidates for President have signed the "Personhood Pledge." At the core, these ballot measures are about more than state's rights or so-called pro-life ideology; it's about the war over women's rights to make decisions about their own lives, their own bodies, and their own welfare.  Women are told by leaders on the Right that instead of contraception, they should just hold asprin between their knees, rather than using actual contraception, which makes women "sluts" and "prostitutes" who should set up webcams for the sexual gratification of cigar-smoking, illegal-Viagra-popping, prescription-drug addicts. Limbaugh apologized for his poor use of words, of course, but his message was clear--as clear as the message sent by Congress when it initially denied Sandra Fluke's testimony--women must be silenced. And now things are getting really crazy. A new bill in Arizona would allow employers to question women about their sex lives before covering contraception, and a bill in Georgia would require women to carry a dead fetus inside of her until it was expelled naturally, rather than perform a procedure to remove it. A bill introduced in Tennessee would make the names of women who seek abortions publicly available, exposing them to threats of violence that took Dr. George Tiller's life. And if women do not benefit from the asprin-between-knees method, and find themselves needing an abortion, the state of Virginia will still comply, but not until she's had an invasive, painful, costly and entirely unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound, which was repeatedly referred to on the floor of the state legislature as "trans-V" because VAGINA is such a dirty word. Similar bills are approved or on the verge of approval throughout the country.

But the fear is aimed not just at women who take contraception or seek abortion. Even pregnant women are a danger to the fabric of our society.  Radio hosts and right-wing commentators have been doing what they do best--fearmongering at the expense of women's bodies--and spreading the urban legends of terrorists who hide bombs in baby diapers or transport Islamic Extremists in their very wombs. Representative Gohmert's remarks on the House floor are not only unfounded accusations about terrorists crossing the Arizona border, but they also label any pregnant woman of color as a terrorist, "coddling" the next generation of unborn terrorists. Republicans across the country are ignoring their own established paradox--is the fetus something to be protected? Or is it something to be feared?  Would they abort a brown fetus they suspected of being a terrorist?  It sounds absurd, but then, what part of Republican reasoning on women's health doesn't?  It's not a long stretch to say that if a gay gene is ever discovered, abortion will be available free and on demand at many local churches.  

We live in a society where women are told and taught to look a certain way, to behave a certain way.  Wear make-up and high heals, diet perpetually, and then no one will think you're ugly or a lesbian.  If you're raped, however, that's your own fault for looking easy.  They say you were asking for it.  Even in the United States military, the rape of a servicewoman can be brushed aside because she was wearing makeup or skirts. When the fight isn't about abortion or contraceptive, when it isn't about how the victim behaved or dressed, the threat remains.  Even when a woman can sacrifice and put her life on the line for the country, performing every duty that earns praise for male soldiers, the Department of Defense still estimates that at least 20% of all women serving in the United States Armed Forces have been raped by a fellow soldier or commanding officer, with little to no recourse or punishment for the perpetrators. These are not the weak damsels carried into the jungle by King Kong or the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  These are strong, brave, skilled, and armed women. According to RAINN, a sexual assault occurs every 2 minutes. From the moment we become aware of our bodies as female, we know that danger.  We live in that constant fear, and now, within a culture that constantly fears us, silencing our voices and policing our bodies.  If we are not controlled, they seem to believe, the human race will find itself in the middle of Queen from Outer Space, where the monarch of Venus has banished all men.  Women, pregnant or not, fertile or not, are depicted as terrorists destroying American life, and the American way of life, a life in which only white men have a voice. I am not suggesting that the Republican party is responsible for rape; but it certainly does instigate the political, cultural, and even physical violation of women. And that violation, and the constant fear of that violation, is more than partisan bickering, it's more than a cultural war; it is a threat to our safety, to our way of life, and--to draw upon the discourse and vocabulary of fear bandied about by the far right--it's tantamount to terrorism.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Best of 2012: Songs from February



Free (edit) - Graffiti6
It was around the middle of February, and I still hadn't heard a single song all month that really caught me.  I guess I downloaded the free iTunes song of the week just because, but had never listened to it. So I'm sitting on the Metro, stuck, because I always am, wishing I had new music to keep me company when this song came on. I had no idea what it was, I didn't remember downloading it, and I'm still pretty sure that Jesus or magical fairies put it on my iPhone.

The lead singer of the London-based duo Graffiti6 looks like he's the pretty one from a boy band, but the sound is much more complex. It's one part Black Keys, one part, "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher." (It's there. You just have to listen to it--past the Of Monsters and Men-esque horn section.) A lot of people are comparing their sound to Gnarls Barkley, who I really like, even though his Rorschach video always makes me think of Brad Pitt (That's not Brad Pitt.) because that's the way my mind works.

Only for You - The Heartless Bastards

The Heartless Bastards have been around since 2003, playing clubs and putting out three albums before their latest record Arrow was released in February.  If Erika Wennerstrom's lead vocals sound familiar, you may have heard their track "Sway" a couple of times on Friday Night Lights. It's that memorable voice that gives the four-member, Austin-based band their distinctively southern rock, Americana sound. Tracks like "Skin and Bones" "The Arrow that Killed the Beast" are a little too Americana for my ears. But the other song on the album I really love is "Parted Ways," which they're offering as a free download on their website.

Sidewalk Ends - Jesse Thomas

Speaking of distinctive voices, Jesse Thomas is a Kentucky-born singer-songwriter, whose new album War Dancer is getting her a little well-deserved attention.  Her voice easily moves between the low hum of a fifties songstress to the rough growl of a 90s garage band.  One of the song's best tracks, "Madeline," isn't available on soundcloud or youtube, but you can listen (and even buy!) at iTunes. There's also a free download of her cover of Dolly Parton's Jolene over at her website. Here's another song, "Fire," from her new album, and "Stay" a short, quiet, earlier release.  And, yeah, she looks like Sara Gilbert to me too.

We Are Young - Fun. ft. Janelle Monàe

Everybody has been talking about this song since it was featured on a commercial for the new Chevy Stunt Super Bowl ad. The internets had been buzzing for a while before then, but any search attempts for "We are Young" only turned up "Love is a Battlefield" or Supergrass's "Alright". Now everybody in the world knows it. (Though I'm probably the only one bothered by that scar line.)

I do miss the drums from the original version, and the video is pretty cool too, but it's over four minutes long, but with less than 30 seconds total of Janelle Monae. If she's around, why waste her? If I'm ever in a bar fight, I hope she comes gliding out of the chaos to sing.  The acoustic version has more of her velvet vocals, bright smile, flawless skin, impeccable style, and towering pompadour. But I'll let you decide for yourself. Let me know what you think.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Best of 2012: Music from January

This song showed up as a free iTunes single the last week of December. The six piece Icelandic folk band sneaked onto my playlist on New Year's Eve and hasn't budged. Just try being grumpy after all that trumpet blaring and chorus of "Hey!"s. The single version has a lot of ambient noise that's missing from the live versions, including the eerie creaking of ropes, presumably the rigging of the ship that caries our bodies safe to shore.

This song is a few years old now, from Gregory Alan Isakov's 2009 album The Empty Northern Hemisphere.  It's just a mellow, acoustic love song that begs to be on a dozen soundtracks, yet it isn't.

Last week when I wrote about Ingrid Michaelson's new album Human Again, I barely mentioned "How We Love" in passing, but since then this quiet little song, tucked into a record full of big sounds, has won me over, heart and soul.  Listen closely or you'll miss gems like, "felt the sharpness deep inside, the kind of ache that can't be satisfied" and "she smelled like cinnamon and winter clove, and sparked like firewood inside a stove."

I've also become (re)obsessed with Australian rocker Butterfly Boucher. Yes, that's her real name. Moving on.  "I'm Not Fooling Around" is a song about denying that you're trying to win someone back.  That's not my analysis. It's right there in the song. Go ahead, listen. This song is one-third techno, one-third disco, one-third Bach. You have to listen now.  The album isn't out until April, but you can get a free download from Butterfly's official site.

And for a completely different sound, "5,6,7,8" is part tango, part girl power rock, especially in this live version where Butterfly is on stage with fellow-Aussie Missy Higgins and Nashville alt-country, and Butterfly's Ten Out of Tennessee bandmate Katie Herzig.  There's so much pretty on stage, the eye hardly knows where to look. That is, until around 1:50, where, if you're more, shall we say, inclined towards the female form, it'll blow your mind.  Butterfly Boucher is the hottest thing since Joan Jett.


Butterfly Boucher performs with Sarah McLachlan @ The Paramount Theater, Seattle 2-4-11
(from Kirk Stauffer's Flickr page.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Human Again

There are no discernible ukuleles.  If that's what you're looking for from Ingrid Michaelson's new record Human Again, you'll have to go back to 2008's Be OK.  For this album, they've been largely replaced by the more mature-sounding strings. That's not to say there's not plenty here for the more traditional (read: crazy internet) fans. Tracks like "Ribbons," "Palm of Your Hand," and "How We Love" have that trademark quirkiness and tight ladies-sounding-like-angels harmonies.

The thing Ingrid fans love, though, is that her sound tends to fluctuate, from experimental techno-beats to ukuleles to fake trumpet mouth sounds (3:09). Her personality is always audible, but maybe her personality is growing up a little bit.  The first single off Human Again  is the emotion-leaden "Ghost," about feeling lost, alone, and disembodied by love.  Michaelson always has a way of taking themes that sound overly sentimental, and stabbing at the part of your heart you didn't know still had feelings. In "Ghost," amid strings and piano, she sings, "Do you know that I went down to the ground, landed on both my broken hearted knees? I didn't even cry." And later, "It's like living in a bad dream. I keep trying to scream, but my tongue has finally lost it's sound." See what I'm saying? Feeeelings.

There are some weaker points to the album, as Human Again seems to take a panoramic tour of musical history. "Fire," which after "Ghost" is probably the strongest track on the album, starts, again, with an orchestral arrangement, and quickly speeds into a tempo from the 80s. "This is War" has a similar late 80s sound. You can imagine it playing as the credits role after a 13-year-old Joaquin Pheonix has saved the world Cold War annihilation.  "Black and Blue" sounds like the 90s, "Blood Brothers"--definitely the 70s, can't we all just get along and smoke peyote?  But the most obviously retro-influenced song is "End of the World," which may as well be a cover of Bread's "If."

Now back to feelings. The song voted most likely to punch you in the gut is "I'm Through," about moving on with someone new, but feeling the aching distance between the promise of happiness and the comfort of a familiar touch.  The song, set to a soft, lonely piano, highlights Michaelson's vocal dexterity while crooning mournful lines like "I know there'll come a time again when everything will fit right in, and I won't have to see your face in strangers on the street."  If you'd like a more cheerful version of this song, the iTunes version includes a bonus track called "Always You," which is exactly that. Spoiler alert: They stay together in this one!

Like Michaelson's other albums, there will be a few duds that will be skipped on a fairly regular basis, but that's a good sign that the other tracks are still in rotation.  Ingrid always brings something new to every album; here there's lyricism with less quirkiness, but something deeper, darker perhaps, more mournful. This record sounds like, for the first time, she wasn't just making music to have fun with fellow uke-strumming friends, but to produce a serious musical project.