As a girl and a closet romantic, I think there could, in theory, be nothing more flattering than being serenaded with a song written specifically about you. To know that a person knows you well enough and adores you so much to compose a song in your honor must be a very overwhelming experience–for, you know, the girls who get songs written about them. It’s not a wild fantasy of mine or anything. (Side note: I went on a quest to find a song entitled “Ann” for a little pick me up. Found the Josh Ritter song “Anne”…apparently “conversations are slow” with myself in “dead parking lots.” Why am I “just wasting away?” He soooo gets me.)
The thing is, movies, TV, and pop culture have lied, and they are only just starting to fess up. Films used to be full of the whole “use music to win her heart” thing, giving the guy confidence with his grand gesture of affection. As a girl, I totally bought into it. But the gimmick is up. Now, there is no more cringe-worthy moment in a movie than when a guy turns around with a slick acoustic guitar in his arms, only to find his “muse” staring back at him, horrified about what’s about to ensue. I would point you to this and this for evidence. Singing a song about a person to that person now unfortunately just seems like an all-around awkward experience.
But what all that doesn’t change, thank goodness, is the music itself. Mary Ann, Lyla, Julia–these ladies have inspired some sweet tunes, whether or not the desperate admiration, the infatuating love was reciprocated in real life. Most of the songs below are of the I-love-you-you-beautiful-angelic-creature variety, but there are always the unrequited-love-you-don’t-know-I-exist’s, the someday-we’ll-be-together-you-just-don’t-know-it-yet-this-isn’t-creepy-though’s, and of course, the why-don’t-you-love-me-anymore’s. Every genre has its version of the serenade. No one does it better than The Beatles in many categories, but especially this one. Other rock legends like The Kinks, Oasis, and The Libertines have offered their iterations of the ode to [Insert Name Here], and so have jazz idols like Ray Charles, pop crooners like Dave Barnes, and folk geniuses Simon & Garfunkel, Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver.
Here are some of the best odes to ladies, old and new…enjoy!
MP3: Ray Charles-Mary Ann
MP3: The Beatles-Julia
MP3: Fleet Foxes-Lorelai
MP3: Bon Iver-For Emma
Always celebrate the solstices.
Today, this marvelous Thursday, is the winter solstice. The solstices have been celebrated for millennia, and for good reason. It may not be the dead of winter yet, but tomorrow the sun hangs around for a little bit longer. And, by golly, that should be something to drink to! There’s something earthy and magical about solstices. And I’ll be the first one to admit, I love shit that’s earthy and magical.
Enough of that. I was cruising around reddit today, and I came across this holiday reunion photo of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air cast.
I was a little too young to watch it when it first aired, but I used to watch Fresh Prince re-runs a lllll the time on Nick at Nite. Loved it. One thing lead to another, and I ended up getting a greatest hits collection of of Dj Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince on eBay a bunch of years back. And if you’ll remember, Will Smith was Fresh Prince the rapper before he was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. His music with DJ Jazzy Jeff has a super old school feel to it, but it can be really refreshing or, at the very least, put a happy smirk on my face. “Summertime” (1991) was one of the greatest hits, and it still feels awesome to play in the dead heat of summer (and the winter solstice, perhaps…):
Other awesome ones (ya gotta see the music videos too):
Finally, in the spirit of the new Men in Black movie about to come out, this video is hilarious. Will Smith in some German TV interview, busting out the MIB rap from the top of his head like 10 years after the original movie was made. Skip to 0:40 if you’re in a hurry:
I don’t quite remember when I first heard Simon & Garfunkel, but it must’ve been early. Maybe even in the womb. I have a wisp of a memory where I’m sitting in the backseat of my mom’s car at night, listening to her play “The Sound of Silence” on tape. It’s one of the most relaxing memories I have, I think about it almost every time I hear Simon & Garfunkel hum their way through my ears. The days have gone by, but that song still hits its chord–
“Hello Darkness, my old friend…”
Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, Thursday was Paul Simon’s birthday. If your’e reading, Happy Birthday! I once had a friend who was a huge Paul Simon fan who didn’t realize that, yes, that’s Simon from Simon & Garfunkel. It was sort of like the time I realized we say “afternoon” because it’s literally after noon. Or that “soft drinks” are called “soft” because they don’t have alcohol. I was embarrassingly old. But back on track…I like to think that if Sunset were around in the 60s and 70s, we’d be all over Simon & Garfunkel. Better yet, if Lydia were born decades earlier, Paul Simon would’ve had a damn good shot on that “5 Artists I Want to Marry” list. Maybe even Art Garfunkel if he did something about that hair.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt Simon & Garfunkel are true poets. Their rhymes are often simple, but the imagery and stories they surround them practically drip out of my speakers. You can see it, taste it, hear it…you can live in it.
I’ve posted this song before, but I’ll do it again. A live recording of one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs of all time….this is the poetry in music at it’s best.
Now from his pocket quick he flashes,
The crayon on the wall he slashes,
Deep upon the advertising,
A single worded poem comprised
Of four letters.
And his heart is laughing, screaming, pounding
The poem across the tracks rebounding
Shadowed by the exit light
His legs take their ascending flight
To seek the breast of darkness and be suckled by the night
Beyond lyrics or stories or rhyme, Simon & Garfunkel set a new standard of harmony. If you’ve ever heard them (which hopefully you all have!), you know what exactly what I mean. They can both sing at the same time, but you only hear one resonating voice. And no studio trickery..they nailed that shit live:
If you’ve only heard a few songs by S&G, go out today and get one of their albums, and I guarantee you won’t regret it. It’ll give you warm company in the winter, and relaxation when you’re stressed. Play it in the morning, or play it in the wee hours of night as you pound coffee. I’ve posted some of my favorite songs below, enjoy
ZIP (including above) or individually:
MP3: “America”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Song For The Asking”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “At The Zoo”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “I Am A Rock”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Cecilia”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (Live)”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Keep The Customer Satisfied”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “The Only Living Boy In New York”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Leaves That Are Green (Live)”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Baby Driver”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “The Dangling Conversation”- Simon & Garfunkel
August 17, 1969 — Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young play their first live concert at a venue in Chicago. Somewhere during the performance, they tell the audience that they’re going to place called Woodstock the next day, but they have no idea where that is.
Lo and behold, the next day, the last day of Woodstock, they get on stage:
“This is only the second time we’ve performed in front of people, man. We’re scared shitless.”
MP3: “Woodstock” – CSNY
We are stardust/We are golden
This song is from CSNY’s awesome 1974 album So Far. But surprise, surprise, it was written by Joni Mitchell in a NYC hotel room as she watched reports of the festival on TV.
I first discovered CSNY when I was in 7th grade, long after the group had released their last album. I got a couple albums from one of my friends, and another couple after digging through my Dad’s CD collection. You had good taste back in the day, Pops! Getting all those albums in a matter of weeks was almost (but not quite) as awesome as discovering Scrubs 5 seasons in. Eeeeaaaggglleee.
CSN and CSNY were a pillar of my musical identity for a long time, and I still get it moods where I can listen to them for hours at a time. If you’re not familiar, definitely give them a listen.
Download ZIP or individually below (and above)
Not a lot of time to write today, so this week’s TT is gonna by live. WE’LL DO IT LIVE. Well, sort of. Actually, not really, but as close as I can get.
If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know that no live recording can ever capture the experience of actually being there, in the thick of it. The crowds, the screaming, the picnics, the weather, the little jokes by the band. Not to mention the glorious sound and thunderous acoustics. Just like no picture can truly ever capture everything about a moment, neither can a live recording at a concert. But pictures are awesome, and so are live recordings. QED.
But really. There are some bands out there that are no longer, and it makes me sad to think that they’ll never make another song. And that’s where live music comes in. Even if they’re singing a song you know, live recordings always have-a-somethin shiny and new about them. They’re never quite like the original, and sometimes I’ll find myself playing the live version over the mastered version. It’s nice hearing the applause, the foot thumping, and the occasional (one-sided) conversation between the artist and the audience. Check out some of my favorite live recordings:
ZIP or individually below:
MP3: “Welcome (#7)” – Wynton Marsalis Septet
MP3: “In The Sweet Embrace of Life” – Wynton Marsalis Septet (62 mb, 54:43)
[^^These two go together, the first is the introduction to the song that follows. Listen for the coughs and tinkling of wine glasses.]
MP3: “The Dangling Conversation (live)” – Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Desperado (live)” – Eagles
MP3: “Knife (live)” – Grizzly Bear
MP3: “No Woman No Cry (live) – Bob Marley
MP3: “Dark Matter (live)” – Andrew Bird
MP3: “Love of My Life (live)” – Queen [listen for the audience singing a verse]
MP3: “”39 (live)” – Queen [fun fact: this song is about time dilation]
MP3: “Familiar Terrain (live)” – Bobby Birdman
Also, check out this awesome NPR recording of Chris Thile and Michael Daves that one of my friends showed me. Be warned, it’s bluegrass, and it’s awesome. Chris Daves (with glasses) looks the part of a bluegrass fella, but he can wail on guitar. And I have it on good word that Chris Thile is the greatest mandolin player ever:
Tuesday was the 15th anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death. That anniversary isn’t something that I have marked on my calendar or anything, so to be totally honest, I only realized it the day of. But nevertheless, for most people who are familiar on any level with hip-hop and its history, 2Pac is iconic figure, revered perhaps more than any other emcee. He’s been an unexpected source of inspiration in my life, and I want to take this Throwback Thursday to talk a little about how I came to listen and to admire him.
If I asked you to name a famous swimmer, who would you name? Michael Phelps? Well, like the legends of almost any sport or art, 2Pac’s name is known even among those totally foreign to hip-hop. And when I first began to take a serious interest in hip-hop, I was almost (but not quite) as foreign to the genre as I was to olympic swimming. I’d heard of 2Pac, but save for a song or two, I really had no idea who was or why he was so respected. For an artist who consistently ranks with the top of the top in popular rankings in hip-hop, what would his music sound like? Could he really be that good?
I first started listening to hip-hop while I was living in China, and my roommate at the time was a hip-hop connoisseur. Almost like a hip-hop hipster. He raved on and on about all the classic rappers, music from the early and mid-nineties that I’d probably never have heard without him. I’d always wanted to to get to know hip-hop on a deeper level, so I figured he’d be the best way in. Soon enough was giving me all this music (of course at 320 kbps, god forbid he listen to anything less), and I was listening to it everyday during my long commute to and from work. It came time for me to listen to 2Pac’s albums, and man was I excited. I mean, this guy is like the cream of the crop, right? So I charged up my iPod with Me Against The World and All Eyez on Me and I shuffled on out the door with “If I Die 2Nite” bumpin’ in the ‘phones.
I wasn’t feeling it as much as I thought I should. I felt guilty. I mean this was one of the LEGENDS, and I wasn’t feeling blown away at all. I thought the sound was a little dated, and I was having trouble seeing what distinguished it so wildly from the other nineties hip-hop I was listening to. Maybe I didn’t get it, I thought. Or maybe everyone who claimed to love him was following a heard mentality of “this guy is awesome because everyone says he is.” I’ve had that feeling before; a classic writer whose books I thought were crap, or a painter or poet or film that disappointed me despite being so popularly bloated with reverence. As I’ve learned, in these situations this disappointment usually means one of two things: 1) The popular reverence is phony and self-perpetuating or 2) There’s something you have yet to see or understand about whatever/whomever is in question. Often it’s probably a little of both. But for 2Pac, it became clear some time later that there was more depth than I could possibly see with the feeble scratches I’d given on the surface.
After cruising the Beijing subways to the loss of my 2Pac virginity, I came back to my apartment to my hip-hop connoisseur friend telling him that I wasn’t so overwhelmingly impressed. And that didn’t change until months later when I sat down to get to know him, to really listen to him. To understand the realness of who he was and what he was saying. I listened to him speak in interviews, read things he wrote, and really listened to what he was saying (Use those lyric websites!). He’s transformed the way I listen to hip-hop. And more importantly, even though we come from staggeringly difference backgrounds, he’s given me more wisdom and inspiration than arguably any musical artist out there. When it comes to people citing him as the one of the greatest rappers ever, it’s not because he’s got the greatest flow or the best lyrical and technical precision out there. He doesn’t, not at all. His music is so powerful and he shines so much as an artist because of his reflection and his emotion and his honesty. The potency of what he’s saying and how he says it. When you hear him speak in interviews, his intelligence and his realness is totally consuming. It makes me want to be true and in everything I do….It’s hard to explain, but does anyone feel me?
Listen to Tupac Shakur in his first interview in 1988, when he was 17 (3 years before he was to real ease his first album):
Here is is 7 years later, interviewed while serving prison time. This is long, but so fucking interesting.
I can watch interview upon interview with him and always learn something new or discover another kernel of wisdom. The context and history behind his music and his life is far too long to write here and I probably wouldn’t do it justice, but it’s something I definitely encourage anyone to explore. If you haven’t seen it, Tupac: Resurrection is an amazing posthumous documentary about his life, narrated by 2Pac himself.
Listen to some of my favorite songs of his:
Download ZIP or individually:
MP3: “I Ain’t Mad At Cha (feat. Danny Boy)” – 2Pac
MP3: “Only God Can Judge Me (feat. Rappin 4-Tay)” – 2Pac
MP3: “Thugz Mansion (Nas Acoustic) (feat. Nas, J. Phoenix)” – 2Pac
MP3: “So Many Tearz” – 2Pac
MP3: “Better Dayz (feat. Mr. Biggs)” – 2Pac
MP3: “Hail Mary (feat. Kastro, Young Noble)” – 2Pac
MP3: “Old School” – 2Pac
MP3: “Life Goes On” – 2Pac
MP3: “Runnin (feat. Notorious B.I.G) – 2Pac
MP3: “Still Ballin (MiMOSA Remix) – 2Pac
Seems like there’s an awful lot of women
In whose honor I would
Like to raise my glass
And give a toast
One night last summer, I thought I had run into an awkward situation with the guy I was rooming with at the time. I don’t remember the details, but it was like a Tuesday night, the roommate was out, and there was nothing to do. Think you know where this story’s going? Wrong. Well maybe, I don’t remember, but anyways. So, I call up one of my best friends who lived right below me, and he comes up to hang out. The fluorescent lights in my room were super harsh and invasive, so usually at night I’d flip on the colored Christmas lights I’d strung 360 degrees around my room. Perfect mood lighting. I don’t remember the course of events, but the activity for the night ended up being us just sitting quietly in the perfect mood lighting, listening to my beautiful stash of chick singers. Usually bro’s don’t listen to Regina Spektor and Cat Power together, but that’s what we were doing, and it was awesome. About an hour later the roommate walks in on what looks like a pretty serious bromantic situation. There’s a smirk on his face as he throws his bag down and closes the door, but then he just sits down, nods in agreement to the great music, and closes his eyes. And what I learned that day is that nothing solidifies a male friendship like mutual respect for one’s taste in soft, female-sung music. Who’d'thought?
Besides from my mom (who, of course, is the best chick singer I know), my first introduction to female singers came from Dad. All the girls he had a crush on in college: Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Carol King, Mary Travers (from Peter, Paul, & Mary), etc. Apparently they were all hotties way back in the day, but by the time I was listening to them they were even older and geezier than my Dad. But I was in my oldies phase, and I loved them like I loved all my oldies. I credit Peter, Paul, & Mary for sparking my lifelong appetite for folk music and, later, Dan Bern for solidifying it.
In terms of chick singers of the past, there are some icons of female song that I refuse to leave off my list, even though I admittedly still don’t have much of their music. Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Nico. The Ella song below “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is the perfect, holiday-time, bundling up song. I hate the cold, but it almost (almost) makes me wish it were winter already so I play that song as I prepare for a classy, brisk night out on the town. The Aretha song will always have a special part in my heart, even though I always feel awkward and self-conscious playing it in public. Finally, the Nico song is the sample for probably my favorite mashup ever, “Slow Down” by Big Z Remixes.
I just finished eating an entire block of Jarlsberg cheese. I’m gonna regret that in the morning. Ok, getting off track….moving on. I’m pretty sure I’ve blabbered on about Feist in a number of my posts, so I’ll do it again. She’s amazing, and her voice is flawless. But surprisingly, I’ve found a few other artists in the last year or so who I dare say give her voice a run for its money. These women are truly fantastic, and I highly recommend giving them a listen and looking up more of their music:
There’s one chick singer on this post/mixtape who could kick the shit out of all the other women in the post (and probably all you guys reading this). And that’s Pink. Say what you will, but I proudly tromp around the gym rocking out to her furiousness. This is one of those songs that I remember exactly where I was when I first heard it. I was smashed at a super janky tourist bar in Beijing, coming back from an even jankier bathroom. I’m walking down the stairs back to my friends, and “So What” comes almost loud enough to blow my face off. It was awesome.
MP3: “So What” – Pink
One of my musical ambitions is to become better acquainted with female hip-hop artists. I know of quite of few, but I know of them mostly through features and the odd single. But as I’m sure you all remember from Nicki Minaj’s verse on Kanye’s “Monster,” female rappers can tear shit up. Jesus Christ. Of the female hip-hop artists whose albums I have, one of my favorites (and obviously one of the legends) is Lauryn Hill. Check it.
MP3: “Rill Rill” – Sleigh Bells
MP3: “Anyone Else But You” – The Moldy Peaches [[for my brother, who sings it almost(...) as well]]
MP3: “Wicked Games” – Coeur de Pirate (The Weeknd cover)
In case you don’t want to download all the songs individually, you can download a zip of them all here:
Ok, don’t panic.
Hey! Yeah you. Stop scrolling down. Anyways, in the spirit of spontaneous Sunset mixtapes this week, I just couldn’t help myself. So here it is, Sunset riders, a Not-So-Throwback Thursday mix for your weekend playlist. I started off trying to write a piece about mood music; picking moods and then finding great songs to match, but it ended up spinning the other way around (picking the songs first, moods second). The list kept growing and growing, and I totally lost focus. I feel kinda bad about that, but I hope you all like these songs. I sure do, I love them ALL. As you can see (yeah, I’m talking to you, you premature scrollers), I’ve kept the moods above the songs. I also tried to order the songs so they sound relatively pleasant next to each other, so feel safe listening to the whole thing through.
In other news, I had a music disaster yesterday #whitepeopleproblems
Long story short, I ended up breaking the very tip of my speaker audio jack inside my computer. Like, we’re talking only the last 4mm of the metal part. Two thoughts hit me one after the other: 1) FUCK, my speakers are broken and 2) Omg this shit is lodged in a tiny whole in my computer and I won’t be able to listen to anything. No more music, no more True Blood. After an hour of unsuccessful prodding and tweezing, I decided to MacGyver the situation; put a dab of crazy glue on the end of the broken speaker jack, and then I jammed the sucker inside my computer. Waited 20 minutes. Any bets on what happened?
Anyways, here’s the mixtape, enjoy : )
1) Tip the hat, I’m feeling classy
MP3: “Juicy New York, New York” – The Notorious B.I.G & Frank Sinatra
2) It’s dark out, and I’m wearing all black. And damn I look good
MP3: “Everlasting Light” – The Black Keys
3) Feelin’ Wu, what more can I say?
MP3: “The Heart Gently Weeps” – Wu-Tang Clan [George Harrison's son played the guitar on this!]
4) Dazed stumbling, but I’m loving it
MP3: “Playground Love” – Air
5) Summer night in the city; Enjoying the seven stars of SF
MP3: “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) – Looking Glass 
6) Just the right amount of wine
MP3: “After All” – Sondre Lerche
7) In the mood for a Wes Anderson movie
MP3: The Summer (Alternate Clip) – Coconut Records
8 ) It’s raining, and I’m on the pottery wheel. How magical when this song comes on
MP3: “Shelter From the Storm” – Bob Dylan
9) I bet no one knows about this secret Jack Johnson stash…
MP3: “Frankie and Albert” – Jack Johnson
10) Fiine, here’s another
MP3: “Moonshine” – Jack Johnson
11) Like, actually, it doesn’t get any more relaxed than this
MP3: “Three Little Birds” – CMH World’s Hawaiian tribute to Bob Marley
12) Out of the blue, I ain’t blue no more
MP3: “Furr” – Blitzen Trapper
13) Guilt. I think I listen to this more than the original.
MP3: “Us (Me and Mrs. Officer)” – My Sick Uncle, from (500) Days of Weezy.
14) Today’s going to be an Eminem day
MP3: “Lost Under a Bridge” – DJ Moondance (Eminem vs. The Red Hot Chili Peppers)
15) It’s 2pm and I just woke up? What a night
MP3: “Sunshine” – Atmosphere
16) What was that song with that baaad-fucking-ass verse by Black Thought from the Roots? Oh yeah!
MP3: “Slow Down” – Chiddy Bang
17) I wish I could make mashups
MP3: “Cash Run (feat. The White Stripes, Biggie, 2Pac)” – Adrian Champion
18) Are my eyes red?
MP3: “Ganja Babe” – Michael Franti
19) Can’t wait to spend this weekend in NoYork!
MP3: “First Things First (feat. Miguel Jontel)” – Blu // Oops, this didn’t make it on the full mixtape, but here it is
20) One of my favorite Sunset posts [link] ever by Lydia
MP3: “Bombay Bicycle Club” – Ivy & Gold
21) Is my play count really this high?
MP3: “The Most Beautiful Girl [In The Room]” – Flight of the Conchords
22) Feeling electriccc
MP3: “All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix
23) Man I love that Freddie Mercury Rage meme
MP3: “Somebody To Love” – Queen
We’ve all been there before — on Facebook, Google+, or maybe (god forbid) even myspace. We’re there, staring at the “favorite music” section, scheming about what artists we should write in to portray our true musical identity. Or perhaps our not-so-true musical identity. Pshh, no one needs to know about that Christina Aguilera album I listen to everyday when I work out. Or maybe Pshh, so what if I only have one Dr. Dre song, I swear he’s one of my favorite artists. Yeah, I’m talking to you.
I can’t lie, I’ve been there done that. Topping my guilty pleasure top three list is probably 1. True Blood, 2. Girl Scout Thin Mints, and 3. Akon. Love me some good Akon. Still, even if it’s true, I probably wouldn’t tell people that on any sort of social media (wait…fuck). Anyways, to be honest, I’ve always found it too treacherous to fill those “favorite music” sections out, and anytime I do end up writing something, I delete it eventually. It never seems to quite convey the musical identity I want it to…or maybe it’s that it makes me feel toolish. I don’t know. But what if Facebook automatically plugged in the favorite music section by connecting to your iTunes/iPod and adding the top 10 played artists/songs? What would it show? For me, Andrew Bird would sit at number one, by a disgusting and beautifully vast lead. Yet mingled in there, though, are songs I would never dare admit I listen to (*cough* Justin Bieber *cough*). C’mon, judge me. Fuck you.
MP3: “Sunny Day” – Akon
I’m squirming at the idea of posting this on Sunset. But it could’ve been JB, so count your blessings. Listen for Wyclef’s mediocre verse, but awesome voice somewhere around 1:45.
MP3: “The Happy Birthday Song” – Andrew Bird
But back on track, a question this poses is what is one’s true musical identity? Is it what one listens to the most? Or is it something else, like artists one listens to less frequently but finds more meaningful? Maybe artists or songs that have influenced your life in some way. It’s hard to say what it is, but one thing I’m convinced is true is that one’s musical identity is strongly intertwined with one’s identity identity. You’re sitting there filling in your favorite music section, and whether consciously or not, you’re filling it in not to let people know what music you listen to, but to let them know what type of person you are. I’m a gourmet blend of Andrew Bird and Jack Johnson, with some Outkast swirls and a heavy dusting of the finest Jay Z and Eminem. And some after notes of Coconut Records. And I get better with age.
MP3: “Microphone” – Coconut Records.
Coconut Records is Jason Schwartzmann. You know, Darjeeling Limited, Rushmore. Jason Schwartzmann. Check out the wacky but great music video to the song:
And also this amazingly ridiculous iPad advertisement:
Sorry, that must’ve been distracting. Again, anyways, perhaps more indicative of the type of person you are isn’t actually the music you listen to, but the music you want people to think you listen to. I think that might be why I feel uncomfortable filling out “favorites” sections…a part of my brain knows that I’m trying to give off a certain vibe, and another part of my brain is calling that first part a douche. I guess I don’t feel genuine. Does that make sense?
But nevertheless, in terms of accurately portraying the type of person one is, I think that musical identities really are like vibes; they aren’t always accurate, but sometimes they hit the nail on the goddamned head. I remember reading a FML a while back that went something like this: “I’ve been crushing hard on this girl for months, and last night we finally became friends on Facebook. When I went to her page, I saw she was a republican and liked Nickleback. FML.”
My freshman year of college, we all had to fill out a roommate selection form that had fill-in-the-bubble scales of things like how late you stay up, how early you get up, socialness, cleanliness, and a bunch of other things. There was one place to write in your favorite music. Finally, you could choose one of the items on the form to give the most weight to when it came to assigning you a roommate, and I obviously chose music. Not because I cared so much about what he listened to, but because I thought I’d get along best with someone who shared the same musical tastes as I did. Our music tastes weren’t so similar, but he was an awesome roommate nonetheless. I know amazing people who love terrible music. And I also know people who hate my music but don’t think I’m so bad either (I hope).
MP3: “It’s the Chemicals (feat. Scarub)” – Inspired Flight . This song is amazing.
Well, that’s it for another edition Not-So-Throwback Thursday, see you guys next week!
PS: This made me laugh so hard: Every time I smell old milk to see if it’s still ok:
It’s that time of the week again Sunset riders. Another marvelous Thursday (at least in the pacific ocean) where I ramble about a music-themed topic and pretend that it’s somehow “Throwback”-related. But on we go!
In a fit of writers’ block, I decided to take a shot in the dark and find out what the oldest song in my music library was. That would surely lead me to a Throwback idea. There was a little voice in my head murmuring something like “Well Beethoven’s pretty old…,” but that guy’s just a troll, so we’ll ignore him. As it turns out, the oldest song in my library is a 1928 song by Harry McClintock called “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” It’s a song about a Hobo’s paradise, a place complete with “cigarette trees…a lake of stew and of whiskey too.”
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
All the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The farmers’ trees are full of fruit
And the barns are full of hay
Oh I’m bound to go
Where there ain’t no snow
Where the rain don’t fall
The winds don’t blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
How’s that for a Throwback? Yeah, take that haters. But anyways. At least on my computer, that song comes from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. A great great movie accompanied by the perfect music if you’re ever in an old-timey mood. But of course, it’s not the only soundtrack I have scattered throughout my iTunes.
As I thought about it, I realized I have some pretty amazing soundtracks tucked away. Songs already have a powerful way of awakening memories, moods, emotions, ambiances, etc..but when those songs couple themselves with the moods and ambiances of a movie/scene you love, the song’s power becomes twofold. It’s like it can zap you right into that moment and feeling you love and know so well.
I’m bringing out the big guns early; Without the slightest inkling of doubt, I can say that my favorite soundtrack is the soundtrack to Lost In Translation, with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. The word “favorite” doesn’t even do it justice. It’s one of those warm guns in the arm, where each song can knock me flat on my ass. I remember the very first time I saw the movie (on DVD) when I was 14 years old or so. The song (below) “Kaze Wo Atsumete” was playing in the credits, and I was just sitting there totally incapacitated. I can’t exactly say how, but that movie changed my life. Some people totally hate the movie, and some people love it, but I’d highly highly recommend seeing it. It doesn’t have a whole lot of dialogue, so the music really drives the mood and emotions of everything. The last scene is one of my favorite scenes ever, and the song that plays in the background brings me right back to it every time I hear it: “Just like Honey.”
Back at home, I have this dirty, rusty old shower CD player that works miracles every time I visit home and take a shower. The battery life has shown “empty” for the last 3 years, but, alas, every time I hit the CD play button it still manages to keep out water and rev up the same CD: the Forrest Gump soundtrack. I actually heard the soundtrack before I ever saw the movie, and when I finally saw the movie it took me about halfway through to realize why it was that I knew all the songs. But anyways, it’s full of some super great oldies, some of my favorites.
MP3: “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”- Scott McKenzie)
I admit it: whenever I’m flying back to California, I always play that song “California” from the OC on m iPod. When I’m going to San Francisco, I play this song in my head.
The movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly takes its name from the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine who suffered a major stroke and was subsequently diagnosed with condition known as locked-in syndrome – where your mind is completely lucid and conscious, but your body utterly paralyzed. For Jean-Dominique Bauby, he was entirely paralyzed except for his left eye, which he could blink on command. Now for the incredible part: Jean-Dominique composed a beautiful and humble memoir, blink by blink, letter by letter, with help from a nurse who read out the entire French alphabet over and over and over again. The memoir and the movie are both really amazing and moving, and the soundtrack that goes along with the movie is great. I had to catch a shuttle to the airport at 4 in the morning last week, and this is exactly what I was listening to in my dazed, twilighted state.
Almost always, soundtracks go along with movies. But sometimes, movies go along with soundtracks…I’m about to give y’all a much needed Disney injection. After all, we’re just really really big kids that like to pretend we’re adults. At least that’s what I do…
Annnd fine….here’s some Lil Wayne and Lion King mashed up if you insist:
MP3: “Stuntin Like Mufasa” – djDOYOU
My grandfather is turning 85 this weekend — he was in born in Berlin in 1926, and he came to the US when he was 11, in 1937. That was a hell of a long time ago. I don’t know if any of you have experienced something similar to this, but every time I sit down with him and chat or, more likely, listen to one of his thousands of stories, I get this incredible feeling where I can see a huge part of myself in him. Like, this man is definitely my grandfather. We’re different people from extraordinarily different backgrounds, but at the end of the day, way at the core, it’s almost as if we’re the same person. It’s bizarre.
Like me, my grandfather loves music. But unsurprisingly, our musical tastes aren’t so similar. Almost exclusively, he listens to classical music. Piano, orchestra, opera, waltzes, and on and on. I couldn’t even name all the subgenres, let alone the composers. Classical music is beautiful, and I love it too, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to it with entirely the same ear that he can. And when it comes to the music I listen to, well…he doesn’t listen with any ear. The music my parents grew up with — the music I call oldies — wasn’t around until my grandfather was almost 40. And hip-hop only began to appear when he was in his 60s. Like generations before him, my grandfather grew up listening to classical music. It’s what he knows and it’s what he loves. Here’s one of Chopin’s amazing Nocturnes. Ever stressed out? Throw this on and watch it melt away.
So, as I was saying, my grandfather never enjoyed the music my parents grew up with. I remember hearing stories of my grandparents giving my aunt shit when she was a teenager for listening to Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan. (Are you kidding me?!) But, like fate, my parents don’t enjoy the music I listen to. Admittedly, I’d be more than a little taken aback if I caught my dad listening to Biggie…or even Andrew Bird to be honest. But still, why is that? I like to think that I’m pretty open-minded about music, but what will I be listening to when I’m 40? Or 60? Or 85? Will I enjoy the new music of my kids’ generation, or will I think it sounds like crap and wonder how on earth they do it? A related South Park clip where Randy (one of the fathers) tries to prove to himself and his wife that parents can enjoy the newest rage in music that their kids are listening to… (If you don’t like poo jokes, skip this one):
Haha god that clip always puts a smile on my face. Anyways. A few months ago I got new headphones, and I was back at home visiting the family and my amazing dog. My dad wanted to try the headphones out, so I thought just for kicks I’d throw on some, err, electrofolkstep and see how he took it. The James Vincent McMorrow dubstep remix posted in april. He could barely take 30 seconds before telling me to put on some “real music.” I succumbed and threw on Led Zeppelin.
Surprisingly, I’ve made progress introducing my mom to hip-hop. She most definitely doesn’t listen to it or know the names of any artists, but I was able to break down one of the biggest barriers — that mass rejection of hip-hop on the grounds that it is just vulgar, or violent, or mindless. I took her to my room and brought up the lyrics to 2Pac’s Dear Mama on my computer screen. I didn’t play the song for her initially, I just had her read them.
Pour out some liquor and I reminsce, cause through the drama
I can always depend on my mama
And when it seems that I’m hopeless
You say the words that can get me back in focus
When I was sick as a little kid
To keep me happy there’s no limit to the things you did
And all my childhood memories
Are full of all the sweet things you did for me
And even though I act craaazy
I gotta thank the Lord that you made me
There are no words that can express how I feel
You never kept a secret, always stayed real
And I appreciate how you raised me
And all the extra love that you gave me
I wish I could take the pain away
If you can make it through the night there’s a brighter day
Everything will be alright if ya hold on
It’s a struggle everyday, gotta roll on
And there’s no way I can pay you back
But my plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated
MP3: “Dear Mama” – 2Pac
It’s real, honest, heartfelt poetry, and she saw that. But when I played her the song, no matter how powerful the lyrics, it just wasn’t something she could sit down and enjoy.
Is the ability to enjoy new music quashed by age? And if so, why? I heard a statistic somewhere that if you’re over 35 years old when a new genre of popular music comes about, there’s a 95% chance you’ll never listen to it. This might be a nonsense statistic, but it actually sounds kind of true. It makes me wonder, though, how and if the internet might change this. Discovering and exploring new music is easier than it ever has been. It’s leaps and bounds easier for us than it was for our parents, and even more so compared to our grandparents. There’s definitely a social aspect of learning to enjoy new types of music. That is, you’re more likely to give music a chance if you have people around you listening to it and enjoying it themselves. Maybe that environment has historically been harder to come across as you age, but perhaps the existence of social media might change that.
It’s hard to imagine what music will be out there when I’m 85. Maybe I’ll still be truckin, giving the iTunes its daily injection of new music. Or perhaps I’ll longingly look back on the days when electrofolkstep reigned king…
It’s another Thursday, so I hope y’all are thirsty for a little throwback. Today’s TT is continuation of the story I posted last week — how music forever entangled itself within my life, how my music tastes evolved, and I how I ended up listening to what I do. We left off somewhere around the end my high school years, when I left Texas for bigger and badder adventures in the wild wild west…
When I think of the summer after my first year in college, in terms of music, I think of the Cambrian Explosion — when out of the blue, like, 600 million years ago, life decided to diversify like crazy and start being badass. I was working in Beijing and studying Chinese (long story), and I was living with some friends from other California colleges. One of them, my friend Supallav, was a total hip hop snob and connoisseur. I was not. I didn’t know shit about hip hop, top 40 or otherwise. I never thought poorly of hip hop, and I certainly wasn’t one of those guys to ignorantly bag on it — I just didn’t know where to start, and I knew it.
So I asked my friend to give me some of his albums for me to listen to, and he basically sat me down, laughing, and told me he was going to do it the right way. He began introducing me to all the greats and legends one by one, an album a day, and at the same time he’d let me in on their stories, histories, philosophies, controversies and the works. I had an hour commute to and from work everyday. I spent the entire summer walking and riding the Beijing subways to Jay-Z, B.I.G, Nas, Wu-Tang, Lil-Wayne, Eminem, 2pac, Dr. Dre, and on and on. I couldn’t get enough of it. He’d make me listen to all the old school records, something I don’t think I ever would have listened to without him pushing me. I remember standing in crowded ass subways listening to 2pac’s All Eyez on Me or GZA’s Liquid Swords. The first Jay-Z album I heard was Reasonable Doubt. I remember exactly where I was walking the first time Juicy came on when I first listened to Ready to Die. I had no idea how famous that song was, and when I came back to the apartment that night telling my friend how awesome it was, he just sighed and shook his head. Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Common, The Roots, Dead Prez, Blu. It was SO good. Kanye and Lupe Fiasco. Every once in a while I’d come back to our apartment, complaining that some of the old school music sounded dated — he’d then play the song on his computer, and break it down for me line by line until I was forced to admit that these guys were clever as hell.
The first song I want to share is D’Evils, from Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. Another one of those songs were I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. A super powerful song about friendship and competition between two friends who grew up together — how life hustling on the streets can infect, corrupt, and poison the mind. Look up the lyrics to this song and take your time.
We used to fight for building blocks/now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killin/The closest friends when we first started/But grew apart as the money grew, and soon grew black-hearted/Thinkin’ back when we first learned to use rubbers/He never learned so in turn I’m kidnappin’ his baby’s mother
MP3: “D’evils” – Jay-z
Hidden Bonus Track on Johnson&Jonson’s self titled album (Blu and producer Mainframe). If you’ve never heard of Blu, get on it. There’s something so real and honest and youthful about him, something that very few hip hop artists seem to touch. It’s hard to put a finger on, but I think this song does him justice. That John Lennon sample…so good!
Old School, from 2pac’s Me Against the World. Ok so I admit it, I threw this one in because it is, after all, throwback thursday. But a great song nonetheless.
MP3: “Old School” – 2Pac
The year after I discovered hip hop, I became a music blog addict. Like friends and the outdoors, music can reinvigorate life like nothing else can, and especially new music. I discovered Blind Pilot and Bon Iver around this time…oh my. Those two guys helped me through one of the toughest times of my life. And Andrew Bird. Don’t get me started on Andrew Bird.
A little while later, I heard Chiddy Bang’s Swelly Express for the first time. A couple weeks later they came to play at my school. I was front row, fist-bumping Chiddy:
I was still happily discovering all the amazing hip-hop in my iTunes that my boy Supallav had introduced me to, but for the first time I was also stumbling on mashups. Do you guys remember when the Notorious XX album came out, the mashup between The XX and the Notorious B.I.G.? Amazing. I was coming across so many DJs, so many mixes… I was in heaven. Some of my favorite indie-rock songs fused with hip hop raps and beats, or with dubstep lines or electronic melodies. I found Big Z Remixes on Sunset maybe a little less than a year ago. All I could think was, holy shit, this guy is so young but his music is SO good.
Here I am a year later, still uncovering incredible music…some new and some that’s been out for ages. And as I move forward with my life, musically and otherwise, I’m just trying to take it all in and shut nothing out. You never know what you’re missing.
I’m resisting the urge to post Bon Iver’s re: Stacks. I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, and if not, it’s on Sunset’s Flying Through Summer mixtape. But..of course, of course I’m posting an Andrew Bird song. Actually, to be embarrassingly honest, I’m actually wearing an Andrew Bird shirt as I write this…I swear I’m not creepy. He’s an amazing artist, and he does everything by himself (even live!) using looped tracks he makes on the spot. It’s nuts. Here’s Plasticities, from Armchair Apocrypha.
My favorite Big Z Remix song, Slow Down (feat. Lupe Fiasco and Mos Def), with a beautiful sample of Nico’s These Days. The song is soft and melodic and wise and powerful, with great verses from Lupe and Mos Def. Mos Def’s verse comes his song Priority, from The Ecstatic. It’s a one verse song, but with a totally different feel.
Save Me Concubine (Ghostface Killah vs. Beirut), TheHoodInternet remix. I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times. Ghostface is a hard dude, but this story is surprisingly touching and sentimental. It was on repeat during another tough time for me.
Finally, here’s an Arcade Fire cover I stumbled across some weeks back, by Mr. Little Jeans. One of the best covers I’ve ever heard. This girl’s voice is gorgeous, and it fits perfectly over the dreamlike dubstep coatings.
If you had to pick 5 or 10 songs to represent the history of your musical discovery, what would you choose? Treacherous, huh?