06 June 2010

What I love in 2010 (so far)

I'm still alive!

Apologies for all but leaving our belov'd blog behind while I ran away to culinary school in Montpelier, Vermont and then home to Seattle, but now that life has some pauses I intend to fully make good with the MP3s and such! So let's find a basic starting point: What're the fresh and ripe picking for ears this season?

Some might say I've taken a turn to the dark side with a newfound affinity for pop, or could it be that suddenly there's actually good pop music out there? Lady Gaga's endlessly changing looks and enviable stage productions take already awesome songs and elevate them further. From personal experience, The Fame Monster is an excellent album to cook or bake to.
Lady Gaga - So Happy I Could Die.mp3

"Broken Bells, sounds like the guy from the Shins with a DJ." Close, it's the Shins' James Mercer with Brian Burton of Danger Mouse. Local station KEXP made a good point: After listening to the album, wait 2 hours, then try to sing one of the songs. You can't, because they completely lack hooks of any kind. The Shins' least-poppy songs are still poppier than anything from BB but don't categorize them with artists like Fiery Furnaces just yet. They hold their own musically and deserve multiple listens. Here's the first track off the album:
Broken Bells - The High Road.mp3

Considering most of my preferred viewing fare is along the lines of Breaking Bad and The X-Files, Glee is a wonderfully refreshing change. The musical dramedy's impeccable attention to detail, the incredibly talented cast, and fresh writing make this show a true gem.
Glee taught me two things: 1, the influence of Bollywood supports the idea that culture doesn't (and shouldn't) move strictly from west to east, and 2, that in recession times people cut back on the serifs and flourishes of life but that singing and dancing will always be popular. Glee does it right with a healthy dose of snark. If you like cover songs as much as we do, then this is a bandwagon you should definitely get on.
Glee - Total Eclipse of the Heart.mp3 (Bonnie Tyler cover)
Glee - Poker Face.mp3 (acoustic Lady Gaga cover... aw yeah)

Now that hipsters have decided to move on from the 80's to the 90's, I'm hoping for a revival of some of my favorite artists from that decade. 20 years ago, Jeff Buckley worked on his first fledgling recordings: the Babylon Dungeon Demos and an album with Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas. Here're two songs from that time:
Jeff Buckley - All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun.mp3 (Rare, high-quality studio recording with Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins)
Jeff Buckley - Unforgiven.mp3 (aka Last Goodbye, this early version is from the Babylon Dungeon Demos)

I love Stephin Merritt. It's too bad that he's a gay 40-something smoker with a tiny dog named Irving Berlin; otherwise, we'd be perfect for each other. I love his lyrics, his gravelly voice, his depressing demeanor and deadpan, dry wit. His straightforwardness in even titling songs is a nice balanced reflection opposing the previous album, Distortion, which was electronica artfully obscuring music. In Realism we have a reprieve, where Mr. Merritt steps away from the keyboard and sits down with his fellow bandmates to bring songs back to their raw element. Even the cover art is almost meta-literal about this. It's one of the best Magnetic Fields albums in some time.
The Magnetic Fields - The Dada Polka.mp3

The classic 1988 punk album Beelzebubba contains the same raw anger and youth passion as albums from a decade before, but with more toxic under-sink solutions (sniffing glue, drinking bleach, smoking banana peels) and hilariously ill-informed attempts to woo through song. Without being overly grating, this energetic album is totally awesome as a soundtrack to working or grocery shopping.
The Dead Milkmen - Born to Love Volcanoes.mp3

I was lucky enough to attend the Mountain Goats show @ Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon on May 30. It was a bit rough in production but very full of love. JD lived only blocks from the venue at one time, with mixed but intense memories that he shared with the crowd in a high-energy "hometown" show They ran through a nice selection of favorites. JD attempted a new song from the "Going to" series, "Going to Brazil," but he couldn't remember the lyrics so we only got the first line and he moved on to "Going to Bogotá."
Only about a half-dozen pictures of the show are on flickr, from one guy, and nothing you haven't seen before. Tons more are of the Sasquatch festival, which I suspect might be due (in part) to JD complaining in Portland about how there's nothing worse than one really serious guy in the front trying to hold a phone up the entire time. JD said if you're in the mental health field, you just immediately get the urge to help, like "oh you look so sad" and you need to fix them... but mostly it's annoying.
Aand if you don't already have a copy, know tMG have and listen to Hi, We're Not the Mountain Goats, with proceeds going to the purchase of a goat from Farm Sanctuary.
the Mountain Goats - Going to Bogotá.mp3

Sure, I could try to justify why I bother with this bubblegum teen-pop at all. Like cheap candy and butterflies, this 16-year old pop star provides absolutely nothing of value or substance, but is always an immensely entertaining draw nonetheless. Who says guilty pleasures should be guilty? S/He who is without New Kids on the Block or Beatles(!) fandom, cast the first comment.
Justin Bieber - Common Denominator.mp3

Yes, yes I know:

Consider this offering of Mashups an olive branch:

Life's a Bitch, Loser (Nas vs. Beck).mp3
Ghost Beasties (Ghostbusters Theme vs. Beastie Boys).mp3
Seasons Of Juice (Chambaland vs. Rent).mp3
The XX Gon' Give It To Ya (DMX vs. The XX).mp3
Tipsy In The Sun (Weezer vs. J-Kwon).mp3
Tik Tok Seattle (Ke$ha vs. Owl City).mp3
Heartbreaker Baby (Justin Bieber vs. MSTRKRFT).mp3

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