Friday, September 29, 2006

Take My Breath Away (Love Theme from "Top Gun")

Song: Take My Breath Away (Love Theme from "Top Gun")
Artist: Berlin
Album: Top Gun Soundtrack

There is a certain amount of pride, for reasons I can't really explain, that I have managed somehow to never see "Top Gun." I was a bit too young to see it in the theater, never rented it, and somehow have missed it on television. It always surprises me when people are shocked, SHOCKED! that I have somehow missed this touchstone of pop culture. I mean, it isn't exactly "Citizen Cane" right? And how many of you have never seen that? Hmmm?

I have not missed, however, Berlin's "Love Theme." "Take My Breath Away" is one of those songs, like Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or "True" by Spandau Ballet, that are a necessity for every collection. These songs define an era where overblown and cheesy were totally accepted, and considered like... art. "Take My Breath Away" is also positively cinematic. Since I haven't seen the movie I don't know where it's used in the movie, but I can almost picture it myself... the hero saves the day, realizes how he feels about the girl that he's been involved with throughout the story, they see each other, the music swells, they run to each other... embrace, kiss... I imagine Cruise in his flight uniform, McGillis' hair blows in the wind... "Dumm de-dumm de-dumm, dumm-dumm, dumm-dumm" Awesome.

This song also comes from an era where there were actually pop love "themes" from movies. It's just too perfect that (Love Theme from "Top Gun") follows the song. They don't really do that anymore do they? "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from the Woman in Red, "The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing, "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer And a Gentleman, these songs are tied to the images from the films they accompany. Sure it's cheesy in a lot of ways... but at least we CARED about romance then. Have we lost that?

So I end movie week with a love theme, as we all need a little lovin' and it's a perfect way to step into your weekend. I recommend putting this on loud, in your apartment, or heck... in your office. EVERYONE will know it and while they might laugh at first, let the synths sweep you off your feet with images of love both eternal and everlasting...

"Dumm de-dumm de-dumm, dumm-dumm, dumm-dumm"


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Twenty-Five Miles

Song: Twenty-Five Miles
Artist: Edwin Star
Album: Adventures in Babysitting Soundtrack

"Adventures in Babysitting" is one of my favorite films of the 80's. A silly teen comedy that you would expect to come from John Hughes (As it is a teen comedy from the 80's, set in Chicago) but it is written by David Simkins, who has almost strictly worked in TV since, and directed, his first feature, by Chris Columbus, who went on to direct monster comedy hits "Home Alone 1 & 2," "Mrs. Doubtfire," and the first two "Harry Potter" films. It was the first major role for Elizabeth Shue (after "The Karate Kid") who has, as mentioned on Monday, done better and worse since.

The soundtrack is mostly made up of modern (for the time) blues, by the likes of Koko Taylor, Robert Kraft, Percy Sledge, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, and Sam Cooke. "Twenty-Five Miles" by Edwin Starr is used in the climatic end scene when our heroin Chris (Shue) is trying to race home from downtown Chicago before the kids parents get there. The film uses the themes of the blues and how they correlate with Chris' plight with her no good boyfriend (a young Bradley Whitford) and no good girlfriend (then rising star Penelope Ann Miller.) The blues themselves almost become another character as Chris and the kids encounter situation after situation in the seedy dangerous downtown Chicago. "Twenty-Five Miles" is a great blues shuffle, perfect for the scene and perfect as an overview of tying the themes of the film alltogether.

The soundtrack is not commercially available here in the States, only in Japan. While it works where it is placed, one song that doesn't fit the blues feel in the film is the opening credits song, The Crystals "And Then He Kissed Me." It does work though, as it shows Chris as the love-struck teen, despite her responsible demeanor she is trying to convey and hold together throughout the rest of the movie.

I found the open on YouTube:

And also found this funny fan re-creation by a guy in a blonde wig:

As "Lazydork" mentions, Disney is planning on remaking the film starring Raven Symone of "The Cosby Show" and The Disney Channel's "That's So Raven" fame. Please feel free to begin to discuss how Hollywood has run out of ideas. I'll stick with the original.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Holiday Road

Song: Holiday Road
Artist: Lindsay Buckingham
Album: National Lampoon's Vacation Soundtrack

The "Vacation" films are an interesting franchise as each one feels different from the one before. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo are consistent throughout as Clark and Ellen Griswald, but the kids are played by different actors (with completely different personalities)and different directors handle each film with very different tones.

I think there could be arguments for naming the first three, '83's "Vacation," '85's "European Vacation," and '89's "Christmas Vacation" as the best in the series. (I don't think anyone puts '97's "Vegas Vacation" anywhere... except the disappointment bin.) Personally I am most fond the Amy Heckerling directed "European Vacation." It's really all over the place, and the most sex obsessed of the bunch. But Heckerling knows comedy (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless)and I think that this batch of Russ and Audrey were the best. Pig in a poke, a French burglar... I could go on an on.

Unfortunately, "European Vacation" was the last time that Lindsay Buckingham's fun, silly, "Holiday Road" was used in the opening credits. It's a shame because it really sets the tone for these outrageous comedies. I suppose it didn't really make sense though, to use a song called "Holiday ROAD" for "Christmas Vacation" because they don't actually go anywhere for that film. Oh well, it still would have been fun.

Lindsay Buckingham is of course part of the influential and hugely successful 70's group Fleetwood Mac. He had a rough pop patch in the 80's, but has returned with some good Fleetwood albums in the recent decade and a half, and has a brand new solo record coming out later this year.

I often listen to "Holiday Road" while taking long drives out of town... not in the hopes to run across Christie Brinkley mind you, just because it puts a smile on my face and prepares me for... well vacation. Another song that everyone seems to know... because they've seen the movies over and over again on TNT no doubt.

I must also briefly note that the first three films were written by 80's teen comedy behemoth John Hughes, and "Vegas" was not. Surprised?


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

As the World Falls Down

Song: As the World Falls Down
Artist: David Bowie
Album: Labyrinth Soundtrack

I have no issue with revealing that I discovered rock icon David Bowie through the puppet fantasy film "Labyrinth." While the film came over a decade after Mr. Bowie had already established himself as rock royalty and one of the most influential figures in the world of music... it took this film directed by Muppet's creator Jim Henson, for me to have been introduced to this rock legend. What do you expect, my parents were much more "terrapin Station" than they were "Suffragette City," and I was, after all... ten.

But because of "Labyrinth" and its soundtrack I became very aware and immediately into Bowie and bought his latest "rock" albums at the time, "Let's Dance" and "Never Bring Me Down." While this is not by far considered Bowie's high career mark, I must say as a first introduction, he did sound like he was from another planet and the music was something new and exciting to me altogether. Since then I have devoured Bowie classics such as "Ziggy Stardust," "Heroes," and "Diamond Dogs." I also was very fond of his late 90's output including the concept record "Outside" and the amazing Trent Reznor inspired "Earthling." I haven't delved into his more recent records but he remains a challenging and deeply compelling figure in the lexicon of rock & roll.

It is interesting to note that nothing from the "Labyrinth" soundtrack has ever made it onto any greatest hits package or CD he has produced. (Just as Prince's #1 "Batdance" did not make it on his greatest hits, nor Cyndi Lauper's "(Goonies R) Good Enough" on hers.) While the majority of the music is definitely more "kiddy" and goes along with the fantasy elements of the film, there are a few songs that I think are classic Bowie, including "As The World Falls Down" a sweeping goth love song that truly stands up on its own. Listening to this song got me thinking about all the different stages of Bowie's career and just how varied it has been. He really is a true rock and roll visionary.

Despite how much I like this song, this is not the right place to start with Bowie. There are a couple great single and double disc greatest hits collections that give a nice overview of his amazing career, but Bowie is an album artist, and you might be best to start with his undisputed classic, "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars." There are more treasures within the Bowie catalog, with amazing albums stretching across the last four decades. Labyrinth is an interesting footnote to what will go down as on of the most important bodies of work in rock & roll history.


Monday, September 25, 2006

You're The Best

Song: You're The Best
Artist: Joe "Bean" Esposito
Album: The Karate Kid Soundtrack

Thought I would do another theme week, this time focusing on songs from movies. After highlighting "Goodbye Horses," I realized that there are many great songs from movies, some known better than others, that should be given a voice! Often times when I DJ I will put on one of these songs as many people know them, but rarely know who or what they are, or even what they kow them from.

"You're The Best" is a perfect example of a song that everyone seems to know (especially if you were a teenage boy in the early 80's) yet might leave you saying Joe Esposito who? This of course was used in classic 80's music montage style as our hero, Daniel "Danny" LaRusso, played by Ralph Macchio, sizes up his competition and also proves he is not the weakling he appears to be.

Seeing this is a reminder of simpler times for the movie industry... can you imagine if this movie came out now? Like most guys my age I have watched The Karate Kid roughly 50 times. Its simplistic wimp-ass kicks bully-ass, and gets the hot girl, is a crowd pleaser for sure, spawned multiple sequels, and earns a place among the best of the awful 80's movies we love. It's pretty much the crowning achievement for all involved (Except maybe Elizabeth Shue, who bounces between absolutely excellent ("Leaving Las Vegas") and absolutely awful (well... just about everything else, EXCEPT "Adventures in Babysitting," which is friggin' awesome.)

The sequels, like most, never really lived up to the original. I don't know why nobody has figured this out, but sequels to coming-of-age movies don't work because... THEY'VE ALREADY COME-OF-AGE! I mean what's left? Do we really care about his karate craft? Or that he'll use it to fight underworld figures in Okinawa? (Karate Kid II) No, we want him to learn to paint houses, wash cars, and kick ass. We want him catching flies with chopsticks (p.s. how ridiculous was that?) We want our Daniel-son to start out with a constant deer-in-the-headlights look, only to find the power within himself, despite a low blow from the annoying right hand man of the despicable Johnny Lawrence, to break out the WAY simple pelican move and win the tournament in the end. I mean, aren't there like three hundred movies like this or what?

I can't say that I knew of anything more from Joe "Bean" Esposito... he has one album listed on allmusic called "Treated & Released" which oddly doesn't even have "You're The Best" on it. I wonder what he's up to now.

The Karate Kid coasts on charm and the plucky underdog wonder of our boy Ralph Macchio and the obtuse wisdom of Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita.) "You're The Best" is a wonderful slice of cheesy 80's rock that fits perfect into the scene above.

Do yourself a favor and put this on and do a little wax on and wax off.

Ewww... you know on second thought, maybe you shouldn't... you wanna keep Elizabeth Shue don't you?


Friday, September 22, 2006

In The Future When All's Well

Song: In The Future When All's Well
Artist: Morrissey
Album: Ringleader of the Tormentors

Music fans can be broken up into two categories; those that adore and love Morrissey, and those that loathe him. That might be a little bit of an overstatement, but I certainly have had conversations with people that just can't handle the arrogant, self loathing, Manchester poet. Since I discovered him when he released his amazing glam-rock record "Your Arsenal" I have been a pretty big supporter. I went back and discovered his first band, The Smiths, and sought out everything they had ever done. Many hard core Smiths fans will tell you that his solo stuff has never matched their brilliance, but I really disagree.

It should be noted that Q Magazine, the U.K.'s Rolling Stone, rated The Smiths as the number one most influential band of all time, just above... THE BEATLES. (It should also be noted, despite my love for The Smiths, that I don't agree with this at all.) But this gives you an idea of the esteem they are regarded in.

"Ringleader of the Tormentors" his 8th solo record, came out early this year to much praise and success (at least in the U.K.) Produced by the legendary Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T-Rex) in Rome, "Tormentors" is Morrissey's second amazing record in a row. After the disappointing "Malajusted" in 1997 (Which P.S. I thought was pretty good) he took a long time off, moved to Los Angeles and made a triumphant return in 2004 with "You Are The Quarry." He garnered a slew of U.K. top ten hits, proceeded with a very successful world tour documented in the concert film "The Man Who Put the M in Manchester."

"Tormentors" continues this upswing with some of the most memorable pop-rock he's ever done. "In The Future When All's Well" coasts on his trademark wit yet is a biting commentary on the state of the world today. The album is consistently good throughout, which was a bit of a surprise to me coming so soon after the new highmark of "Quarry." Love him or hate him, Morrissey has still managed to remain relevant while the majority of the music business has focused itself on empty headed pop.

Take a look at the very funny video for the first single from the album, "You Have Killed Me" another killer track:

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wolf Like Me

Song: Wolf Like Me
Artist: TV On The Radio
Album: Return to Cookie Mountain

Here is an odd one. TV On The Radio are a Brooklyn-based five piece that jumped onto the scene in 2004 with their debut record "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes." I missed the train on them back then but heard a lot of buzz about them, especially here in New York. They are lead by vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, a graduate from NYU's film school who directed the Yeah Yeah yeas video for "Pin" and multi-instrumentalist David Andrew Sitek, who produced the yeas Machine EP as well as their full length debut, "Fever to Tell."

"Return to Cookie Mountain," (which is not, as far as I know, a Super Mario Brothers game) came out early this month to almost universally positive praise. It's an odd record filled with time signature shifts in the middle of songs, chugging guitar riffs, and Beach Boys-like harmonies. (!?!) It is totally strange, but something that, with repeated listens, sounds better and better. Sometimes they sound like the Pixies, and sometimes thy just sound like something I've never heard before. "Wolf Like Me" is a great example of the record as a whole because at first it seems to crawl by, not very exciting. Repeated listens show that this is a pretty propulsive rock track, with a creepy predatory feel helped no doubt by having "wolf" in the title.

I'm going to seek out their debut, which is also supposed to be incredible.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It Keeps You Running

As a "shout-back" to my friend Josh, a running enthusiast and his running throng, I thought I'd post a few tunes that would be sure-fire home runs on your iPod as you try to reach that end goal... whatever that may be. While I am not much of a runner, I did use the treadmill at the gym (when I went) and found that music helped me stay on the death contraption.

Not necessarily strictly high-energy beat driven music works (although that helps) when running I found (as I am sure most pros know) that a particular song or group of songs need to have an arch, with spaces for a slower jog, to a flat out break-neck run. Anyhow, for those runners out there, here are 50 selections that will... keep you running:

Hyper-Ballad - Bjork
In Your Arms (We Gonna Make It) - Benjamin Diamond
We Run This - Missy Elliot
Forca - Nelly Furtado
Here it Goes Again - OK GO
Ca Plane Pour Moi - Plastic Bertrard
Comfortably Numb - Scissor Sisters
Hungry Like The Wolf - Duran Duran
Strut - Sheena Easton
Sweet Talkin' Woman - E.L.O.
Night On Fire - VHS or Beta
Hotel Yorba - White Stripes
Into Your Eyes - Armand Van Helden
Just Can't Get Enough - Depeche Mode
Ring The Alarm - Beyonce
Just Let Go (Thin White Duke Remix) - Fischerspooner
Song 2 - Blur
Comfort Eagle - Cake
Then He Kissed Me - The Crystals
All Through The Night - Cyndi Lauper
Ride It - Geri Halliwell
Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols
Runaway - Deee-Lite
Barracuda - Heart
Heat Wave - Linda Rondstadt
Dreams - Deep Dish
Connection - Elastica
Touch The Sky - Kanye West
I'm The Bomb - Electric Six
Do You Want To - Franz Ferdinand
Crazy (Richard Vission Remix) - Gnarls Barkley
I'm So Excited - Le Tigre
Ooh La La - Goldfrapp
Walking With the Ghost - Tegan & Sara
DARE - Gorillaz
Private Eyes - Hall & Oats
Over & Over - Hot Chip
New Sensation - INXS
Avalon (Jacques Lu Cont Remix) - Juliet
Tribulations - LCD Soundsystem
Holiday Road - Lindsay Buckingham
Hung Up - Madonna
Here Comes Your Man - Pixies
Down Down Down - Presets
Disco 2000 - Pulp
When You Wasn't Famous - The Streets
Uh-Oh, When Love Comes To Town - Talking Heads
The Future Of the Future - Everything But the Girl
You're The Best - Joe "Bean" Esposito (the song from The Karate Kid!)
Only You - Yaz (The cool down)

Of course, not a definative list. Tell me, what is YOUR favorite running/exercise song?

Lost Tonight

Song: Lost Tonight
Artist: Liz Phair
Album: Somebody's Miracle

It is widely known that depending on how much money is spent advertising and marketing an album, the better it will do. Also, the artists image, street cred, etc. plays into how well a song or album will perform. For the most part, you have to believe that where the artist is coming from is genuine. Back in the early 90's Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer had much success with their pop-rap (hip-hop) records, sold millions and traveled the world. Then came gangster rap, Suge Knight held Vanilla out a window when he started talking about his (questionable) street cred, and once the pop-rap thing wasn't working MC Hammer dropped the "MC," went gangster, and soon EVERYONE was laughing at him. Sometimes you have to change with the times, yet you have to keep grounded with your audience and be sure to not let them start thinking that you've lost your mind.

In 1993 Liz Phair's debut independent release on Matador records, "Exile in Guyville," a song by song response to the Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street" took the indie rock world by storm, ultimately sold over 400,000 copies (unheard of for an indie release,) and topped tha majority of critics "best of" lists at the end of the year. It was a lo-fi emotional tour-de-force that matched catchy guitar rock with brazen shock-slut lyrics. She appeared in a slip on the cover of Rolling Stone and started the path that was taken by diverse female singer songwriters such as Julianna Hatfield, Hole, and the Breeders. Her follow up, "Whip-Smart" was distributed by Atlantic Records and was greeted with an overwhelming amount of hype. She scored a top ten Modern Rock hit with first single "Supernova" but the album underperformed, was ultimately considered a disappointment, and Phair retreated from music to get married and have a child.

I got "Whip-Smart" in my Senior year of High School and immediately fell in love. I was starting to move away from pop music and Liz filled my number one slot for female singer-songwriters. She was edgy, different, and yet the music was catchy with sing-a-long choruses that my pop loving self couldn't get enough of. Afterward I got "Exile" and was again blown away with her off-color lyrics but also her very flat-toned voice which wrapped her words around off beat arrangements. While not pretty by American Idol standards, her voice seemed real, and helped connect the emotional content of the lyrics. Songs like "Divorce Song," "Nashville," "Never Said," and "Fuck and Run" burned with emotional honestly. She was up-front, direct, and it felt like she was sitting in my room on my bed having a conversation with me. I was in love.

In 1988 her much delayed third album , "Whitechocolatespaceegg" was released and once again she was ushered back by the indie world, topped a bunch of critic lists, and again... didn't sell very well. Personally, while I liked much of the record, I found it hard since I was in college, to connect with these story-songs about childbirth, marriage, and how hard the two can be together. The melodies were there, and I played a ton out of it... but I always thought that someday, down the line as I got older, that I would play the record and it would be an emotional revelation. It's a record about a very specific moment and time in life... and I just wasn't there.

For Liz, everything soon would change. She toured with Lilith Fair and famous female musician friends like Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow were selling millions and making a ton of money. The Lilith generation came and went and the pop landscape was something altogether different. Alanis Morissette, who took Phair's blueprint for "confessional female rock" and saw the most sales was even having trouble getting people to buy her records. Teen actors were finding success as pop-rock queens (Hillary Duff/Avril Levine) So Liz decided to change things up a bit. In 2003 Liz released her forth album, the self titled "Liz Phair" on Capitol. The subsequent media blitz was a shock to me personally, and I suppose Liz herself as she watched her fans who had stuck with her, turn on her and call her a sell out. For the album she enlisted the help of songwriting team The Matrix who had had huge success with the aforementioned Levine, and Duff. The new record was a slick pop-rock affair with lighter lyrics and hooks to spare. The indie world was angry and I read article after article of how Liz had done the worst thing an indie rock chick could possibly do... try to be successful.

Based on the mild success of lead single "Why Can't I" "Liz Phair" was a moderate success, not matching "Exile" but beating "Whip-Smart." She toured relentlessly, did just about every promotional concert she was asked to do and yet her sales just couldn't compete with the young pop stars whose audience she was hoping to borrow for a bit. A huge section of her current fan-base walked out on her and subsequently, last year's follow up "Somebody's Miracle" made almost zero sales impression, selling just over 60,000 copies.

Now I am a guy that takes things as they come. I've watched my old favorite band R.E.M. make three disappointing albums in a row. I bought all of them, wanted to like them, yet multiple listens proved that the old magic had faded, and they went back on the shelf. As it is evident from this blog, I am not opposed to pop music, and while I saw the definite shift in her music, I really dug Liz's new music... and liked the self titled album better than "Whitechocolatespaceegg." I also really like "Somebody Miracle" and thought it was one of the better records of 2005. According to Liz, "Miracle" is a response to Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life." I don't quite get it... but then again I don't know that album very well.

So what happened here? Why had the indie audience turned on her so hard? Well... I think people are robots. They listen to what they are told, and as soon as their hipster-indie blogs started writing scathing reviews of Liz's new sound, the throng listened, despite the fact that they hadn't actually listened to the record. So yes, she went with a pop sound that wasn't as lyrically complex as earlier material, and the production was brought up a notch... much more polished. But my argument has always been that Liz is an artist whose music has always been about what her life is about at that point. So yes she was young and navigating relationships during "Exile" and dealing with motherhood and marriage on "Whitechocolatespaceegg," so for "Liz Phair" she was newly divorced, dating a younger man, and living in glam-glam Los Angeles. OF COURSE the music is going to be different.

"Lost Tonight" is great example of what Liz's music is now. It's a sweet rock ballad written about love by a woman who has seen it, done it, and understands it. Old Liz might pour her entire self into a big dumb guy only to have him cast her off, yet new Liz... who's just as direct as old Liz says "I want to get lost tonight with you" but yet cautiously follows that with "Let me know if it's alright that I do." The album is filled with more knowing ruminations on love and it's aftermath.

I feel like Liz Phair is some sort of indie-rock cautionary tale and an example of how fickle people are in general. The new music holds up to the old and if people could look past all the inane blog posts (ha-ha) and the marketing or lack of, they will find some killer female singer-songwriter rock music. I feel like Liz is at the top of her game, she just needs the audience to follow her.


As there wasn't one video made for a song on "Somebody's Miracle" I want to highlight the very fun clip for "Why Can't I," her biggest hit. The concept was recently used by Morningwood for their single "Nth Degree," and had also been done by Cornershop for their "Brimful of Asha" video.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Good Boys (Scissor Sisters' Gyad Byas Myax Ya Mix Extended)

Song: Good Boys (Scissor Sisters' Gyad Byas Myax Ya Mix Extended)
Artist: Blondie
Album: Good Boys Single

With the release of the Scissor Sister's sophomore album coming up next week, I am pretty much on a full tilt Scissor bender. While they haven't done much remixing as of late (due to writing the new album no doubt) they did manage, just before they got HUGE in the U.K., to make some press by doing what I would consider some high profile remixes. First was this mix for the lead single off Blondie latest comeback album 2004's "The Curse of Blondie," which they followed up with a remix of the Pet Shop Boys single "Flamboyant."

Both Blondie and the Pet Shop Boys haven't seen success to match their heyday in the 80's, but both have been still working it and releasing new material (in between what could only be described as a deluge of reissues of the 80's material, either in full album form or greatest hits re-packaged.) The Pet Shop Boys released an album this year to their best reviews since their benchmark "Behavior." Personally I was a bit disappointed in this year's "Fundamental," preferring the straight up dance-pop of 1999's "Nightlife" or the folktronica of 2002's "Release." But it did have it's share of killer tunes.

Blondie haven't been as consistent with making records, but I was pretty bummed when "Curse of Blondie" was all but ignored. While Blondie is still grouped together with the great art-pop-punk acts of the 80's (Talking Heads, Clash, etc.) it was a surprise when this album was so ignored, both commercially and critically. While I do like the Scissor Sisters remix just slightly better than the original, "Good Boys" blew their last comeback single "Maria" out of the water, and the album is filled with should-have-been-hits like "Undone" and "End to End" as well as honestly beautiful ballads "Background Melody" and "Magic." (A different mix of "Good Boys" and "End to End" did happen to make it on this years latest CD/DVD greatest hits re-issue.)

If you are a Blondie fan, but have for some reason avoided the recent material I highly recommend this album. The songs do hold up to their 80's output and lose none of the spunk and fire that the band made their name on. Now of course Debbie Harry has aged (we all do... like every day) and all I can think is that this album and single were not promoted as such because it had been determined a no win as she isn't young or willing to take off her top. I got to see Blondie perform for A & E's Live By Request just after this album was released, I thought Debbie looked amazing, the band rocked, and older immediately recognizable material, as well as the new tunes sounded great. Oh well, I guess that's the business.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Double Shadow

Song: Double Shadow
Artist: Junior Boys
Album: So This is Goodbye

The Junior Boys are a Canadian duo who manage to make electronic bleeps and noodlings sexy. "So This is Goodbye" their sophmore album, which came out last week, sounds similar to their critical smash debut "Last Exit." Both are mood records that are designed for early mornings, late nights, or the bedroom.

I have been listening to this for almost a week now and what is surprising me is how memorable the songs are separately. Sometimes a "mood" record isn't so much about each individual song (see like EVERY Sigur Ros record) but the whole, the journey. Junior Boys are a bit different because while this seems meant for a listen from start to finish (which is becoming more rare in this new singles easy download era) the songs do work on their own.

Don't know if I am really making much sense here, other than I like this record, if you like this song you should look into the Junior Boys. Sexy.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Yours To Keep (again)

Song: Yours To Keep
Artist: Annie
Album: N/A

A couple weeks ago I highlighted a song called "Yours To Keep" by a band called the Teddybears on recommendation from a reader. I really liked the song and since then have played it multiple times, can't get enough. A friend at work told me that while they were pretty big in homeland Sweden, they were not going to try to break into the U.S. and just license their songs for TV, movies, and commercials. (Their song "Cobrastyle" was used in HBO's "Entourage" and a car commercial.)

Well it turns out there is more to this song and band. Yesterday I came across this cover by Euro-pop sensation Annie. (Whose debut album "Anniemal" was one of my favorites of last year.) This is a more dancy punk-dance version than the original, I like it... but it is definitely different. (And not totally in line with what Annie sounds like on her debut.)

But the story doesn't end there. Also yesterday, by chance, I notice that the free single of the week on iTunes is none other than "Yours To Keep" by the Teddybears. But, it says (With Neneh Cherry.) I love Neneh Cherry, and consider her second record "Homebrew" one of the best records I own. She is the distinct voice behind late 80's pop smashes "Buffalo Stance" and "Kisses on the Wind." So distinct is her voice that I KNEW the version I had was with different vocals. So I downloaded it from the iTunes Music Store and surprise... ANOTHER version of the song.

After some research I found out the story:

The Teddybears Sthlm, were a punk collective from Sweden who used guerilla self-marketing techniques to build a rabid fanbase and chose the cuddly name as it didn't fit their punk rock tunes. Back in 2000, they released the album "Rock & Roll High School" which featured the original "Yours To Keep" with vocals by Paola. I found the video, which you can watch here:

Though yet again, it's a SLIGHTLY different dancy-er version.

With their new album, "Soft Machine" the Teddybears (dropping the Sthlm)have re-recorded "Yours To Keep" with vocals by Neneh Cherry featuring background vocals by Annie. In addition, they recorded this new version with Annie alone. I don't know if I've ever seen one song get so much attention!

Stereogum has all three versions for free download, so if you have more interest in the song you can collect them all!

Get them here:

All three are actually quite different, and while I am still currently partial to the original '00 version with Paola (can't believe it's six years old!) the others have made their way into my playlist... for at least a few days.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Get Myself Into It

Song: Get Myself Into It
Artist: The Rapture
Album: Pieces of People We Love

This is a really great song. I've been listening to it for a while now, a couple days anyhow... also finding the entire record pretty captivatinng.

It starts like it's a Rod Stewart song or something. Lead singer Luke Jenner has a high semi-whinny screech, that I don't dislike, just wouldn't call "pretty" per say. The chorus is perfectly simple, two phrases repeated a few times... but I see myself singing along while dancing to it, which I quite enjoy, even if it looks goofy, or worse... annoying. Regardless, by the time that you realize you're grooving along to a SAX riff, you're sold.

"Pieces of People We Love" is The Raptures sophmore follow up to their DFA (LCD Soundsystem) produced debut. I haven't listened to that record, didn't get on that train when it came out (I was probably too busy with Interpol or something,) but I dig the big song from that record, "House Of Jealous Lovers" which I hadn't heard until recently.

Here is the Shynola(Radiohead's "Pyramid Song) directed video:

Zine's Alive!

A handful of "Pieces" songs were produced by Danger Mouse, who after the summer of Gnarles Barkley's "Crazy," is most likely on the "hot list" for producers to get. But he tries something different here, not the out of knowhere hip-hop he perfected on The Gorillaz "Demon Days" and Barkley's "St. Elsewhere." It's as if he's producing The Scissor Sisters, and all they want to do is write one "The Skins" after another. Like a dirty 70's rock-disco club, that plays porn in the corner and smells like a cologne bomb went off... the Rapture make post-disco rock for a fun dirty little party. I dig it. Actually, an updated Rod Stewart (circa "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy/Young Turks" era) is not far off.

If you enjoy "Get Myself Into It" and "Lovers" I think you'll like this record. Can't speak for "Echoes" their debut, but I LOVE LCD Soundsystem, which is basically the DFA (Dance outfit from NYC, have remixed Le Tigre, Nine Ince Nails, etc.) so I'm interested in hearing it. (They LOVE cowbell.)

A fun party record for sure.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Goodbye Horses

Song: Goodbye Horses
Artist: Q. Lazzarus
Album: Music From the Film Married To The Mob

Here is one of those songs that everyone knows, but nobody knows what it is. "Goodbye Horses" by Q. Lazzarus was used in a very crucial scene from Silence of the Lambs. Take a listen and you'll immediately know which scene I am talking about. It adds so much to the tension and overall creepiness of what is happening that it is hard to separate the song from the movie.

In fact, "Goodbye Horses" first appeared in the movie "Married to the Mob," also directed by Jonathan Demme who did "Lambs." It can be found on this soundtrack, but not on the "Lambs" Soundtrack, which is just the score. I was a little shocked to discover that it was sung by a female, and it turns out she is as mysterious as the song. She has only recorded two songs, this and the b-side "White Lines" taken from the "Horses" single. She is a former taxi driver from New York City, and has also appeared singing in Demme's "Philladelphia" and "Something Wild." That's really all the information I could find.

This is the best picture you can find of Q. Lazzarus on the internet. What a mystery!

I find this song to be very sexy, although like I said... it is impossible to hear it and not think of that very famous scene. I like playing this at parties because there will no doubt be at least one person that will, mid song, change their facial expression to something close to disgust and say "OMG, what is this?!?!" Everyone knows it... but nobody knows. For that reason I think it is a necessity for any iPod... believe me, play it for anyone and say "Tell me what this is from."

Put the lotion in the basket indeed!


"It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again."

Dr. Suess this ain't.

When You Were Young (Jacques Lu Cont Remix)

Stereogum is hosting a free download of the new Jacques Lu Cont remix of the Killers "When You Were Young." It's a song that really doesn't lend itself very well to a dance remix, but Jacques pulls it off in my opinion. Do check it out, especially if you are a fan of the song or Jacques Lu Cont (AKA The Thin White Duke, Man With Guitars, Paper Faces, etc.) in general.

All Of My Days

Song: All Of My Days
Artist: Alexi Murdoch
Album: Time Without Consequence

Alexi Murdoch is one of those overnight sensations that took years and years to happen. Los Angeles based, by way of Scotland, Alexi's easy going neo-folk harkens back to quite singer-songwriters like Nick Drake. I've had this album for a while and I must say I really do like it. It's a great mood record, quiet and melancholy.

His song "Orange Sky" burst him onto the scene after raves from KCRW's Nick Harcourt. The song has been used in "The O.C." and various other TV programs, but this album really hasn't quite taken off. He reminds me of a MORE laid-back Jack Johnson, whom I honestly don't care that much for. But this is a nice album if you are in that sort of mood.

"Orange Sky" ends the CD, and while I like that song, I just think "All My Days" sticks with you more. Interestingly enough, he was courted by many of the major labels but decided to release the album independantly. I suppose that might be part of the reason the album hasn't really taken off, but I think a word of mouth success story is in the works.


Monday, September 11, 2006


Song: Rudebox
Artist: Robbie Williams
Album: Rudebox (single)

The first time I went to London was right around New Years, 1997. I was pretty excited as it was my first trip out of the country and had always been drawn to Europe, specifically the U.K. and just wanted to enjoy a new country and its very new (to me) culture. I was also very excited to visit some U.K. record stores and see if I could find anything new or interesting. I was disappointed to find out that music there is actually pretty expensive, and on top of the exchange rate... basically I didn't get a thing. But in every shop I went to I see posters and pictures of this guy Robbie Williams. As I consider myself pretty up on music I was surprised that I didn't know who he was, and he was everywhere. I asked my step-father's niece who he was (we had had many music conversations since we met when I was fifteen or sixteen) and she almost fell over... "Your kidding right?" She stared at me in disbelief.

I soon learned, from then on, that the music business was completely different over there, and while big international acts can be just as popular there as here, they often have different contracts, deals, etc. with different labels marketing and selling the same product. I was also introduced to the fact that we don't get everything they do and vice versa.

Robbie Williams was part of the five member boy band Take That who ruled the U.K. and European charts in the early 90's unlike anything since the Beatles in the 60's and actually sold more records than any English group since the Fab Four. Their success can be credited to the creation of The Backstreet Boys, whose debut came out a good three years after Take That started. Through their insane popularity, Robbie was always the "troubled" one and quit the band/was kicked out in 1995 to pursue a solo career. His first single was a completely faithful cover of George Michael's "Freedom," which did not do so well on the U.K. charts. He went away for a bit, partied with Oasis, and promised a more Brit-Pop style sound when his album came out.

In 1997 he released his first full length LP, "Life Through a Lens" which became a huge European hit on the strength of the singles "Lazy Days," & "Angels," He followed that in 1998 with "I've Been Expecting You" which did even better, solidifying him as a major voice in pop music, and completely overshadowed his former Take That members.

It wasn't until the spring of 1999 that Robbie was set to take on America. His success was so profound elsewhere, an American invasion was expected, especially with the success of boy bands here at that time. "The Ego Has Landed" a compilation of the "best" songs off his first two European albums was released with a huge marketing push here in the States. His Bondish single "Millennium," which was huge in the U.K., was marked as the debut single. I loved it, loved him, and loved the goofy video. America on the other hand yawned.

Robbie tried again in 2000 with "Sing When Your Winning," released simultaneously, like all huge international pop stars, both in Europe and here in the States. Despite an attention grabbing video for "Rock DJ," the first single, and the fact that it was HUGE everywhere else, America still didn't bite, and it was the last time Robbie tried his best to make it here. "Sing When Your Winning" is still my favorite of his albums as I find it the most consistently good. He released over five singles from that record abroad solidifying his appeal and commercial success.

After releasing an album of swing covers, Robbie in 2002 re-signed with E.M.I. for a reported 80 million pounds, which is more money that I can really contemplate... but a good barometer for understanding how big this guy is just about everywhere else. The first record from this deal, "Escapology" once again sold millions in Europe, and didn't here. "Escapology" was also the first Robbie album that I didn't flat out love. The amazing first single, "Feel" is one of my favorite songs of his, but the album as a whole seemed too varied, and more aimed to be a big hit rather than an actual great album. It also marked the last time Robbie would be working with his long time writing partner Guy Chambers, who had produced and co-written everything Robbie had done since the beginning.

Robbie since has teamed up with former Duran Duran member Stephen Duffy who co-wrote and produced 2005's "Intensive Care" album and now "Rudebox," set to be released in October. Despite a great first single, "Tripping," "Intensive Care" was by far the most boring of Robbie's releases. He called it his "80's album" born from his obsession with Prefab Sprout (Uh... okay) and while he did manage to have several successful singles from the album, I put it away after just a few listens. I started to think I had out-grown my Robbie.

I can't say that my concerns have subsided on the strength of this first single. It almost makes me think Robbie has lost his mind. It's a stab at early 80's new wave white-boy hip-hop, which actually never existed. I honestly thought to myself, is this a joke? when I first heard it. But my hopes are still high for Robbie to get me back in his good graces, and a look at the track titles for the album... they could be the most crazy/bizaar so far this year:

1. Rudebox
2. Viva Life On Mars
3. Lovelight
4. King Of The Bongo
5. She's Madonna
6. Keep On
7. Good Doctor
8. The Actor
9. Never Touch That Switch
10. We're The Pet Shop Boys
11. Burslem Normals
12. Kiss Me
13. The 80s
14. The 90s
15. Summertime
16. Dickhead

One of the things I have always liked about Robbie is his sense of humor and often self-deprecating wit. Because of this, and his self-knowledge of how cheesy some of the stuff he has done is, I have found him always to be a bit smarter than most contemporary pop stars. And therefore more worthy of my time. He is a bit of a mess sometimes, fighting publicly with Ginger Spice, entering rehab every once in a while, etc. He's got everything going for him as an entertainer and yet still can't seem to make America care. I believe that he has wisely decide to stop trying, and instead cater to the vast European audience that can't seem to get enough of him. Maybe down the line he'll go the Damon Albarn route and do something like The Gorillaz that will get him notice. Who knows.

In the meantime, we have "Rudebox," which really doesn't sound like anything that'll break America at this time, but overall he's bigger than Timberlake in the world, so I think he's doing alright for himself.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ta-Dah Trailer

This is odd... a trailer to an album? I don't think that I remember seeing something like this before.

Anyhow, it's interesting, if a bit brief. I am a bit confused as to what the cover of the album is going to be. For the longest time, the image above was used as the cover, and now I have seen one that shows the people in this clip, elevator open. I not sure which is which, but this trailer is sort of like album art coming alive.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jane Fonda

Song: Jane Fonda
Artist: Mickey Avalon
Album: Mickey Avalon

Okay... so listen to this song, and if you don't HATE it... listen to it again. Then, listen to it one more time.

You still with me?

So this reminds me of Beck's "Loser" or The Butthole Surfer's "Pepper. It sounds pretty crazy... which I guess is "fresh." It sounds like it was made on a computer in someone's very tiny apartment... which is so "now." I heard he was on "The Simple Life." Hmmm... maybe I love him.

Mickey Avalon is from Los Angeles. His look is very American Apparal meets Sunset Strip cerca like... never. The irony is pretty thick, and the more you listen you start to hear how lo fi it is... but that sort of works for it. It's not as good as say... M.I.A. but might be as good as The Streets. But it's different.

There is of course a MySpace Page... and the dude is on YouTube.

And by the fifth listen, I had realized I had my weekend anthem. Maybe Los Angeles isn't all bad. ;)

Thank you Scott for introducing me to Mr. Avalon!


True Dreams of Wichita

Song: True Dreams of Wichita
Artist: Soul Coughing
Album: Ruby Vroom

Back in high school, I went through a hipster phase which I suppose I never totally got out of. After Nirvana, what was popular music really changed and I fell into the group of annoying wankers that discovered Morrissey and vowed never to get into pop music again. (Lest you forget I just purchased the Paris Hilton CD, so things have eh-hem, changed.)

There is a lot of stuff that I was really into from that time that I haven't gone back to at ALL. Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Cracker, Sugar, Shonen Knife, I really could go on and on. The hipster quotient doesn't make this music BAD but it doesn't make it GOOD either, and while I thought I was the bees knees because I was into The Vaselines and The Josephine Wiggs Experience at the time, these CD's haven't seen the light of day since the 90's and therefore haven't made the jump to my digital collection. (Morrissey has on the other hand has, every album (including the Smiths of course! as well as b-sides, remixes, and every live version I have gotten my hands on.)

One band that I was really into at the time, have unfortunately broken up, but I still listen to on a pretty regular basis are Soul Coughing. They released just three albums in a five year span from 1994 to 1998, starting with the stellar "Ruby Vroom." Their subsequent releases; "irresistible Bliss" ('96) and "El Oso" ('98) retain their downtown jazz/funk/poet aesthetic of their debut, but don't really come close to its epic scope. (But I do recommend all three, especially if you pick up "Ruby Vroom" and LOVE it.)

I discovered the band because back in the early 90's I had gone CRAZY for Suzanne Vega's "99.9 F" and that albums producer, Mitchell Froom. (Who later became Suzanne's husband, documented in "Nine Objects of Desire," then ex-husband, documented in "Songs in Red and Grey.") It was the first time, as I noticed he had produced the last two Richard Thompson records I had gotten, and Dan Zanes first solo album before he went kiddy, how much a producer can put his or her imprint on an album, much like a film's director does to a script. I started buying records that he produced without even knowing who the artist was and really dug a lot of them. I noticed many of the records he worked on he would hire Tchad Blake as the engineer (including 99.9 F.) I don't know how I found this out exactly because this was prior to the internet, but discovered that Tchad also produced on his own, and the first thing I picked up was "Ruby Vroom." (Which, incidentally, was named after Mitchell and Suzanne's only baby girl, Ruby Froom.)

Lead singer M. Doughty created, along with the band, a very eclectic mix of free-form jazz and bohemian avantgard poetry. Lyrically, he is all over the place, but yet this album creates such a great vibe that permeates with what New York City was in the early 90's. This particular record is great from start to finish, and I do recommend the others. "Irresistible Bliss" garnered the Alt-Radio hits "Super Bon Bon" and "Soundtrack to Mary," and "El Oso" had their biggest hit to date, "Circles." "Ruby Vroom" is still their crowning achievement, which was evident when I saw them on the "El Oso" tour in which they played "Ruby" almost in its entirety, and just did the hits from other two newer releases.

"True Dreams of Wichita" is my favorite song of theirs and while it is not their most upbeat, it really captures their vibe and the best of what they achieved. Subsequent M. Doughty solo record have left me cold, so stick with Soul Coughing, a band that should not be forgotten!


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Let Down

Song: Let Down
Artist: Easy All-Stars
Album: Radiodread

I've always enjoyed when other artists record songs by someone else. These "covers" can be straight a-head redo's of a song or, more interestingly, taking the song cross-genre's and doing something new with it. You can have the ironic indie-does-pop cover ("I Will Survive" - Cake, "Baby... One More Time" - Travis) or the "I need a hit" cover ("Blue Monday" - Orgy, "Angels," "These Boots Are Made For Walking," "Public Affair" - Jessica Simpson... oops, "Public Affair" isn't ACTUALLY a cover of Madonna's "Holiday," nor was "Ice Ice Baby" and "Under Pressure" re-run, yeah.) Sometimes a cover is what helps launch a new artist (again Orgy, "Bizarre Love Triangle" - Frente, "Comfortably Numb" - Scissor Sisters) and it really depends on the band if they have the chops to take that buzz and keep going. The Scissor Sisters had many bigger UK hits than "Comfortably Numb," and therefore won't be remembered in this fashion. Frente and Orgy on the other hand probably won't e remembered at all. (Although, Frente's debut "Marvin: The Album" not only has that pretty acoustic version of "Triangle" but a handful of fun quirky Australian-pop tunes that are worth a listen.)

The Easy All-Stars take things a bit further. After a collection of songs they produced was released in 1998, they decided to take a different approach and record a song for song re-recording of Pink Floyd's most famous album, "Dark Side of the Moon" Their version, re-titled "Dub Side of the Moon" was a complete reggae redux, highlighting the already stoner vibe the original carried. For the follow up, they have chosen to give the same treatment to Radiohead's "O.K. Computer." "Radiodread" as they titled it, is a slow burn reggae record that just happens to be comprised from one of my favorite records of all time.

What is interesting about this is the immediate familiarity of the material despite its newness. I love these songs, and while this could have been a trainwreck, it all works because these guys are good musicians and are respectful enough of the material. You can not deny the scary future-is-awful-and-future-is-now lyrical content that is contained in the original "Computer" and Thom Yorke's oblique vibe is kept in tact yet under a completely different context. It's odd for this type of easy going reggae, whose roots involve blissed out moments on Caribbean beaches, to be used for such paranoia-inducing subject matter. On the other hand, the original versions are already considered stoner classics now.

I like this record, and perfect for when this type of music's vibe is needed, and/or when the original "O.K. Computer" is a bit too much. But when is that? If nothing else, it's a good thing to tide you over until the next ACTUAL Radiohead record... because the Thom Yorke solo record just didn't really do it.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Here it Goes Again

Song: Here it Goes Again
Artist:Ok Go
Album: Oh No

The video of Ok Go's "Here it Goes Again" is just now picking up steam and getting noticed by people. Thanks to YouTube, the video has spread by wildfire. It's simple, looks like it cost about $200, but is quite fun and the perfect representation of the band. It is also a reminder that a simple, smart idea, can actually work.

You can view the video here:

So does the song hold up on its own without the video? I think it does, and am very interested in the album and band now that I have been listening to this song a couple times over the last weekend. The album, their second, was produced by Tore Johansson who has worked with Saint Etienne, did all of the Cardigans albums, and most notably, Franz Ferdinand's debut album. Their sound is standard power-pop, much like Fountains of Wayne and/or The Cars. I usually enjoy this type of music at first and then lose interest as it lyrically doesn't hold up to the killer hooks.

Regardless, this is a great song, and possibly might catch on, despite the record being a year old, because of this very fresh clip.