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Cory Doctorow

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favorites/decade - "If it ain't loud . ." deeper cuts

You didn't think I would post just one list of hard rock/metal tunes from this decade, didja?

"Renegade" by hed (pe). Just primal.

"My Apocalypse" by Metallica. Check it out here.

"The Pretender" by Foo Fighters. The video matches the sonic moves of the song just about perfectly. By the last go around on the chorus, I'm usually bouncing around like a kid on a triple-espresso high.

"B.Y.O.B" by System of a Down. Why, indeed, do they always send the poor? Liberal minded and joyfully loud and screechy!

"Saku" by Dir en grey. Truly a unique act in the metal world. Parts emo, thrash, glam, punk with a vocal direct from the bowels of hell. Oh, and did I mention the band is from Japan? I guarantee this song will worm its way into your head in a most pleasant or a most vicious manner.

"Before I Forget" by Slipknot. Nine guys, face masks and a DJ. Could be a wild Saturday night in WeHo or one of the strongest rock bands to come from Iowa. This is easily their most commercial tune and, much like KISS, not all that willing to bare their faces to the world. Heading into their 15th year in 2010, I can't wait to see where they take their music in the next 10.

and, a quick peek at a song that's just becoming a hit and, with any luck, will make my official "favorites of the decade" list in late 2019:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Favorites/decade - "Hippie" music

Really, these are just favorites of mine from this decade that feature acoustic guitar. That, and whenever I play these, I get good and mellow. If you need to wind down, the songs on this list are a good place to start:

"Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine" by the White Stripes. It's the exception to the rule with this list. It's the fuzzy, bluesy, looped guitar licks that get me feeling kinda psychedelic.

"Drive" by Incubus. They have put out more mellow, trippy music (Morning View) and much rougher, crazier music (A Crow Left of the Murder), but this song is the one that stops me, begs me to sing along. I really love the lyric: "Would you choose water over wine/Hold the wheel and drive"

"Bad Education" by Tilly and the Wall. Flamenco-style tap dancing, folk song harmonies and brass instrument loops. It really stands out from the crowd of other songs on my "favorites/decade" list.

"Banana Pancakes" by Jack Johnson. It takes me all of 30 seconds to picture a King-sized bed with a giant comforter on top, big pillows all over the head of the bed, a gentle, tropical rain and Jack Johnson bringing banana pancakes with piping hot Kona coffee to me whilst I lie in bed. What Jack does from there is best left to your imagination . . .

"The Sound of Settling" and "Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie. This decade has been really great for this band and their unique blend of high-polish production and mellow, hippie style music.

"Do You Realize" by The Flaming Lips. I'll even add their movie "Christmas on Mars" to this list. Between these two contributions to our cultural society, Wayne and the boys really cannot top themselves. I still well up with tears trying to sing along and this past week's second screening of the movie made me fall in love with that movie even harder.

"Wild At Heart" by Gloriana. Best of the bunch as far as production goes - very slick sounding pop with country flairing. The vocal band is at its best when all four harmonize -- I can't help but evoke The Mamas and The Papas when I hear that harmony.

Try watching this video and I defy you not to tap your toes, slap your hands on something or otherwise groove along with this song.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Favorites/decade - Right songs, wrong place

The best music, as is the case with any art form, should evoke emotion that one was not prepared to feel. This decade had a few examples of this. I've even added an entire band to this list -- one whose songs continue to dominate my MP3 player

"Angels on the moon" by Thriving Ivory. Their debut album was released in the middle of last year and this song, as its first single, seemed to take its time in gaining popularity. The singer has a unique-sounding voice, the song was well produced and is a great representative of the rest of the tracks on the album. I cannot figure out why it was not more popular. On the other hand, the band appears to be back in the studio to record a follow-up album. The next decade should show whether Thriving Ivory becomes a (sort of) one-hit wonder or sticks around for a while.

"The Fear" by Lily Allen. Nifty techno-pop with lyrics that don't sink in until after the song is done. I get stuck on the lyric that goes "And I'll take my clothes off and it will be shameless / 'Cuz everyone knows that's how you get famous" Unapologetic lyrics and seemingly more than happy to shock. NOTE: The music video includes a few curse words not bleeped out.

"Bodies" by Drowning Pool. An amazingly powerful, angry, mosh-pit instigating song which was released -- yikes -- a couple of months before September 11, 2001. Fearing that the images painted with the lyrics would alienate listeners, the song quickly disappeared from playlists. They spent the rest of the decade putting out albums, videos, etc. In spite of the poor timing and a tragic loss within the band less than 12 months later, they have managed to power through and are doing quite well these days. Anyone's guess how their career would look now if "Bodies" was permitted to continue its ascent in popularity.

A band which has purposefully pushed the envelope with every album it releases, Rammstein had a pretty darn good decade, ending in the release of their latest album "Liebe ist für alle da" (love is for everyone else) a few months ago. Three of their songs from this decade that I cannot play enough were "Ich will" (I want), "Benzin" (gasoline) and "Donaukinder" (Danube children). They go from loud and gruff to techno to children chorale backed slow tempo tunes with creepy lyrics.

"Not Ready to make Nice" by Dixie Chicks. A pretty clear steering toward pop music waters, this song and its video pack a pretty strong punch in response to the reaction they received when lead singer Natalie made an off-handed comment on stage in London, England regarding George W Bush.

For this lone comment, all manner of chaos reigned for the three women. Like carbon being turned into diamonds, the stress and strain of the fallout after the comments were made made for a terrific album and a stinging retort about the necessity of a true artist to express their feelings. If artists feel they cannot speak from their heart, any manner of art they produce is ultimately muted.

Nothing muted about this song. While they lost fans in the years leading up to the release of "Taking the long way " (a great title track, btw), they gained a whole new set of fans afterward -- myself included.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Favorites/decade - If it ain't loud, it ain't right

I love rock, hard rock and metal (even some of that with the "cookie monster" style vocals, though a little goes a long way). Where'd you think my moniker came from, anyway?

Here's some of the closer-to-pop rock tunes that never quite left my MP3 this decade:

"Headstrong" by Trapt. Good production, especially that roar leading into the chorus. Fun to roar along to the chorus in the car.

"Bring me to life" by Evanescence. So freakin' cool to hear a strong women's voice in rock. But only two albums this decade? The new one can't come soon enough!

"Take It Off" by The Donnas. I've posted this song on the blog before. 'Nuff said.

"Land of Confusion" by Disturbed. Yeah, it's a remake from the 80's. But, like Billy Idol did with "Mony, Mony", if you're going to remake a hit song, make it your own. Disturbed did just that with David nearly-trademarked growl punctuating the song throughout.

"Juicebox" by The Strokes. The last really big hit from the Strokes until singer Julian finishes up the whole solo project thing. Fun video, great production on the song and the song hasn't gotten old to me in all of these years.

"Slither" by Velvet Revolver. Scott Weiman's the reason to watch the video. Impossibly skinny but, like many a front man before him, impossible to ignore. A nice crossroads of 80's and 90's rock and roll royalty here.

"Nerve" by Soilwork. This band is my own "who the heck are those guys" band of this decade. The band/artists seemingly only you enjoy and no one else gets. It's not the singer or the guitar that grabbed me. Just tune out all of that and listen to the drums. That's what keeps me coming back to this song and this band over and over.

"Follow" and "The Diary of Jane" by Breaking Benjamin. I'm still getting caught up on this band's music in the last six months, but I'm loving them more and more as I keep listening. Very sharp production, just angry enough lyrics and ridiculously catchy. And the singer's easy on the eyes, too!

"American Idiot" by Green Day. Every other music fan (even those classical/baroque music ones) have listed this album and/or song on their "best of the decade" lists, so why not join in with the gang on this one? If you were a fan of Green Day before "American Idiot" came out, this song built a nice bridge from their old material to the music on this album and their latest "21st Century Breakdown". I'm voting for a return to some of their older material for their next album, but there's no denying that your toes are tapping, your head is bobbing or your fist is shaking when this song starts up.

"What I've Done" by Linkin Park. Fans of the group may not think this song is their best of this past decade. There will be purists that will point back to "Hybrid Theory" and go "what the heck happened?" and plenty of 13 year-old girls that can't play "New Divide" enough on their own MP3s. As this is my list, I'm picking this one because, like "American Idiot", there is something to bridge the music from "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora" over into a more introspective and experimental side of this truly hybrid band. The song does a great job of expressing regret, frustration and a little bit of hope for the future. Whether you love "Minutes to Midnight" (I did) or not, this song represents what is possible from this band and an idea of what's to come in their new record next year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rays of sunshine on the Boulevard today

When I stepped out of my cubicle and onto Hollywood Boulevard late this morning to take one of three brisk-paced walks I take each day to clear the cobwebs out of my head, I was greeted at the corner by a young woman (who is hidden behind the folks standing at the sidewalk's edge) with a bright orange flyer full of talking points.
The photo I snapped of the 10 or so young people from across the street doesn't give the best view of all of their homemade signs. You might make out the partial phrase on a bright blue poster board saying "HoNK 4" or the green letters on black background to the far right reading "Stop Ha . .".

These folks had chosen a popular intersection to try raising awareness and to get some horns a-honking in support of defeating legislation pending in Uganda to make homosexuality a crime with much more severe penalties. The bright orange flyer I received pointed out on the bottom that the punishment of death for engaging in homosexual behavior had since been modified "..because of immense international disapproval."

Sadly, the bright orange flyer had no website referenced and, thanks to my superior(?) storage skills, the flyer just could not be scanned so I could post it here. However, one of our local papers did post a brief "story" about today's mini-rally, so I could tell that the students who gathered this morning made quite a trek to get to Hollywood this morning.

As horns from cars, trucks and tour buses blasted off in support of the student gathering and I continued on my quick walk after snapping the photo above, I had to bite the inside of my lip a bit to stop from crying a bit. It gets way too easy to sink into cynicism over how apathetic we as a country seem to others in need outside of the U.S. There are certainly plenty of places and people here which could use our attention, but it is far too easy to think that just one person cannot make any difference, so why bother?

I can tell you ten teenagers made a difference in my life. If only for today. Anyone's guess who else might have noticed this happening today as well.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Favorites/decade - Wrenching

After seeing this year's whoop-and-cheer, ooh-and-aah movie earlier today, I need to bring things down a couple of notches. When I've been in the mood for something sobering, here's what caught my ear this past 10 years:

"I've Seen It All" by Bjork. Whether I hear the version with Thom Yorke or see it in the movie "Dancer in the Dark", I always remember the scene in the movie at which this song is sung (it was also nominated for an award - remember Bjork's outfit that year?) as the "feel good" moment in a very dreary, sad musical. Definitely bucks the tradition of peppy tunes in a peppy musical show!

"Life is Beautiful" by Sixx:AM. One man's journey through and out of heroin abuse and this song tells of his arriving clean on the other side. Most of the other songs in the album are dark and, as a recovering alcoholic myself and a big fan of Nikki Sixx's original band, this song makes me glad to be alive.

"The Little Things Give You Away" by Linkin Park. The lyric which talks about being six feet under water and looking up to "you" is the most haunting in this uniquely dark song in an album full of well-produced rage.

"Laughing With" by Regina Spektor. A list of incidences where no one laughs at God with a light twist in her practically trademarked yodel/yelp and a slaying last line of lyric.

"Dirty Little Secret" by The All-American Rejects. One of my favorite types of pop tunes - a toe-tapping beat in an easy-to-miss sad and dark lyric. One of the coolest videos of the decade for this song, btw. Really, anything that steers people to postsecret.com is cool by me.

"Rehab" and "You Know That I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse. She has become the epitome of sad and dark in the lead-up to the award-winning album and her life in the years following that sudden fame. While "Rehab" is hook-filled 60's Motown-style pop, the other song of hers sounds the most to me like self-examination.

"Hurt" by Johnny Cash. If, indeed, there was a musical category called "wrenching", this version of Nine Inch Nails' morose ballad would be the godfather of this genre. Knowing Mr. Cash was so very close to the end of his life and career makes this song all the more . . uh . . wrenching. Cash, like the writer of this song, went through his own struggles with substance abuse. It's hard to think of any other perfect marriage of singer and songwriter, though both are all at once quite different and remarkably the same.

Obama hails 60th Senate vote for health care

While I hold my nose with the passage of the Senate's version of health care reform, I'm just trying to repeat the mantra "Social Security started out shaky, too":

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On the boulevard today

Starting, I'm sure, before dawn today and continuing up to and through the time I post this, Hollywood Boulevard was shut down between Highland Ave and Orange Ave for a premiere screening of a much anticipated new movie being released everywhere on Friday. Perhaps you can see what the movie is from my pics?

Late this morning, a new star was officially unveiled on the Boulevard as well, timed to match with the release this Friday of a new movie in which this actress stars. Glitz, glamor and business meet and swirl like soft-serve ice cream around here.

Meanwhile today, tempers flared a bit with the health care/insurance reform bill process. As someone who isn't a politician, I am well past the temper and am content to just grumble to myself over all of the . . well, politicking . . over something which directly affects people's lives -- no hyperbole here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

So much in political news these days, and yet

I just don't have a unique perspective on any of it. Not the mixed message of the President accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo and giving a speech justifying the continuation of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

It was just odd. Perhaps the Nobel folks, going forward, will offer an "opt out" to their winners, should the winner not feel deserving of the medal, prize money, honor, etc.? I can't even find a matching set of circumstances in my own life so that I can at least say something like "I understand, to some degree, why things happened the way they did".

I cannot even find words to talk about the legislative situation in Uganda. Besides, Rachel Maddow tied it all up nicely earlier this week by having on her show a man who, indirectly, led to what looks like legislation through proselytising. And, this guy looks like he's getting all the validation he was seeking through all of this.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Laws written to jail people who don't tell the Ugandan government that someone they know may or may not be gay. Never mind what the law proposes to do with the alleged "gays" themselves.

I can't find the words. But, if it comes to it, I'll do what I can to find room to harbor as many refugees as this law will create. And, barring something miraculous happening, the law is all but assured to pass. If I am able to do what I've just written, then I couldn't say a word to anyone about what I'm doing. I wish I was being hyperbolic.

Then, there's the whole Sarah Palin, Al Gore, iceberg headed for Australia, global warming scientist e-mail disaster. The best I can come up with?

Perhaps then I'll have something to say. Daily.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Favorites/decade - Hip-Hop 'hood

I've occasionally dipped my toe into hip-hop. Like rock, there are a few original voices and a lot of interchangeable imitators. These are some of the original voices from this genre this decade:

"I'm Like a Bird" by Nelly Furtado. Her first hit and the only one with which I've connected. Her voice still stands out, even when the music she made the rest of the decade started to sound like everything else. She definitely has the talent to try moving in another direction.

"In da club" by 50 Cent. Can't imagine me liking something like this? It's more of a soft-spot for most anything Dr. Dre produced/written/backed, etc. Like a few others in the genre, he's starting to parlay his rapping into other forays. It gets pretty tough to do just one thing in the entertainment business, so good for 50!

"Who's gonna save my soul" by Gnarls Barkley (though the video is not the "official" video). Yeah, everyone and their brothers knows their more popular song, "Crazy". But this is where you get the full blast of vocal talent and everything else about this duo that really makes them great. Check out this song, add it to "Crazy" and the other act this decade that Danger Mouse had a hand in producing and it's easy to understand why a lot of music lovers really like them.

"Naughty Girl" by Beyoncé. She's had a ton of hits this decade and this one just rattles around my brain and hasn't left my iPod since the song was released.

"Feel Good, Inc." by Gorillaz. Only two albums released in their career and the two men behind this cartoon band are in no particular hurry to get album #3 out the door. Like Linkin Park, I'm happy that they are taking their time to put something new out.

The video is just cool looking and the song is simply infectious. The album, "Demon Days", has a few other equally infections dance/hip-hop style tunes, but largely goes where it wants. As weird as it sounds, I'm not a big fan of the band from which Gorillaz originates, but if it takes many years of Blur-music to get one Gorillaz album together, it's a small price to pay to get this kind of interesting, genre-blurring music out.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Favorites/decade - "Contest"ed music

It's been the decade of the reality/contest genre on TV. I will admit to only watching two reality/contest shows: Rock Star: Supernova (I didn't catch the only other season of "Rock Star" when a new lead singer for INXS was chosen. That season found a Michael Hutchence sound-a-like, a new record, a tour and the new singer winding up back where he started) and The Amazing Race.

I am now admitting to enjoying music from a select few "contestants" (it's the best word I know to describe the people who participate in these sorts of shows). There it is. I can no longer claim to be any sort of music snob, I suppose.

"Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. The first American Idol winner has had, in my opinion, the most interesting career since winning. I can't help but loving that she has a look that defies the standard mindset of a pop diva and has let her sound change throughout this decade. This song found her a rock-n-roll following to match her AI following.

Plus, I can't help singing along, banging my head a bit and stomping my feet. Bet you can't help it, either!

"Razorblade". The original version by Blue October (the video has some brief disturbing images a curse word or two) is a great, let the blood boil angry rant with some pretty disturbing lyrics. Since this is the reality/contest favorites post, it was this performance of the song by Zayra Alvarez on Rock Star: Supernova that made my jaw drop and immediate search the original out. I continue to encourage rock's youngest fans that love new covers to seek out the original version of the cover and to check out the new artist's influences to start broadening their musical palette. Zayra's performance, in a way, foreshadows the last half of this decade's growing love of outrageous looking performances with talent to match. Feels like a return to early 70's glam-rock, at least style-wise, is well underway.

. . . and, from this past year:

It only took me until this past season of American Idol to find a 2nd singer from this show that I can't stop watching: Adam Lambert. This guy has an amazing set of pipes and has the chops to sing bubble-gum pop in one moment, then roar out glam/theatrical rock-n-roll the next. His debut CD takes a stab at capturing his range and, from the few listens I've given it, is kind of hit and miss. I'm not much of a fan of what tops the pop music charts in the last few years because a lot of it sounds mass-produced with interchangeable voices, so I cannot fault Adam for covering the ground into which a typical AI teen fan would hook. My favorite track on the album is one written by Justin Hawkins from The Darkness called "Music Again". It's great to hear him easily soar in and out of falsetto and rock the bejesus out of this one.

Finally, I now self-identify as a fan of Susan Boyle.

Like a few million others in the past 6 months or so, I watched the viral video of her first performance on Britain's Got Talent and was very moved. The months since that first performance have been worthy of conversation as to how she handled the knockout punch of fame she received. The album she released a few weeks ago has, hopefully, silenced those who may have thought her fame would overwhelm her.

I rolled my eyes a bit at on-line chatter about the huge number of albums sold versus the level of promotion over the release of a much-anticipated album from a much beloved artist. Selling over 700,000 albums in the first week these days is quite an accomplishment. If most of the folks who bought the album wind up giving the CDs to relatives, it doesn't decrease album sales nor is it any sort of bellwether of the type of fans she will have in the years to come.

The original versions of "Wild Horses" from the early 70's by both Gram Parsons and the Rolling Stones pretty much stand untouched. Ms. Boyle's version works for me because it's her choice of song and, compared to many of the other songs on the album, her voice is most expressive here.

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