Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yes, I'm Sick of It Already -

the new M5 album, that is. I got sick of it in less than a week - so disappointing. There are a couple of still-sorta-fresh tracks (Hey Ya-ripoff "Little of Your Time", "If I Never See Your Face Again", "Nothing Lasts Forever" (aka new take on "Heard 'Em Say"), but those are going to go stale too I fear, way before they ever even get inevitably overplayed on the radio. It's just so bubblegum lame, even (especially?) Adam Levine's oversexed lyrics.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

R.I.P. Shiloh

This little guy was the greatest dog in the world. He died in an accident last weekend, before his time, and my family misses him so much. Shiloh loved playing tag with me, ripping through the house with his beloved plastic yellow newspaper "The Daily Growl" and darting and skidding under tables. He was always happy when I came home for a visit and always remembered me, no matter how long it had been since he had seen me last. He often got so excited to see me that he'd flip his favorite blue bed over his head and go tearing around showing off -- this speeding blue bed with tiny black paws peering out the bottom. He always knew when I was sad, licking my tears away as if to tell me everything was going to be okay. He helped me get through my comprehensive exams of my doctoral program -- he went on something like 3 walks a day with me that week, listening intently as I worked through the logic of my next essay answer out loud. He loved snuggling and hated being told it was time for bed, because that often meant it was time to part from his loved ones (it was right about then that he would produce the audible version of "The Daily Growl").

The good thing is that he knew he was loved. Everyone in my family adored him. I love and miss you, Shilohman.

Where I'll Be Aug 14...

SUMMERSTAGE: Nickel Creek & Fiona Apple teaming up... love em both. And I'm imagining Nickel Creek will force Fiona to stay a bit more melodic live, while still featuring lots of improv (her live shows can at times feature so much spontaneity (and angst) that they can become a little too cacophonous). Check out BrooklynVegan's recent post for an awesome youtube of Fiona, Jon Brion, and Chris Thile doing "Fast As You Can" together.

Duncan Watts On... Eurovision?

Yes! The illustrious sociologist/network theorist Duncan Watts wrote an Op/Ed in yesterday's NYTimes about the Eurovision song contest! I too experienced my first Eurovision contest party this past May 12th, courtesy of my friend Arik who is a true veteran enthusiast of the contest, complete with a book on the contest's history (I had no idea that it's been around since 1956, and launched the careers of ABBA, Julio Iglesias, and Celine Dion!). Well... I guess it used to truly be a talent competition, but post-cold war with lots of little countries like Moldova & Slovenia having as much voting power as the UK & France... voting (much like voting for American Idol, only you can't vote for the contestant from your own country, and each country has the same number of "electoral votes" to award in total)...has become all about politics: European politics & the politics of sexuality!! Like Duncan Watts, I found the voting process FASCINATING!!!

But watching the song entries is silly, often campy, fun too. For example, check out the runner-up in this year's competition, Verka Seduchka from the Ukraine. Per Arik's report, this "Ukrainian space-age transgender telletubby is number 28 in the UK chart this week, based on downloads alone. Just wait until the physical single hit the stores. Danzen!":

The actual winner of the competition was what Arik would call the "Serbian KD Lang", Marija Serifovic. I actually thought she had the best voice in the competition, so given that Lordi (the monster metal band from Finland) won last year, I think someone with a good voice winning (rather than someone with just a major gimmick) is good news for the future of Eurovision. But he'd say she is BORING. You decide:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More on Maroon 5's New Album

ok, my initial resistance to change/their full embrace of radio friendliness is wearing off, and I'm now letting myself go in enjoying the danceability of these new songs...

Arik, I have a feeling you're going to love this album.

New Albums: Maroon 5 & The National

I've been waiting for these 2 albums to be released for a while now... haven't listened enough yet to firmly evaluate - but so far, I'm disappointed by the M5 (why should it surprise me that it's overproduced?) It's not bad or anything -- much of it is instantly catchy... which is kind of what scares me. I'm a little weary of it being too immediately accessible and then getting really stale really fast. I always liked the live versions of Songs About Jane better (they sounded much more alternative/rock live... they're actually all talented musicians - esp. James Valentine on guitar)... and, anyway, this album is more commercial pop than the last album. I'm sure it makes sense from a business perspective to go this route, but I'm not looking forward to even more shrieking teenage girls at their concerts.
As for The National's Boxer... so far, I gotta just say it's wonderful. I've been trying to pinpoint their musical influences - there are many, and they tease you with their subtlety (the best kind). This seems to be an album (unlike the new Maroon 5) that is not going to grow old fast... (or ever?). Anyone have extra tickets to any of their sold out shows at Bowery Ballroom next week?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Savion Glover's Feet (Even Webbed) Make Me Happy

I love Savion Glover. I love Robin Williams. I love animated penguins who can talk and sing and DANCE. Make sure you watch the clip long enough to see the big dance scene.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Betty Davis: An Original Funk/Soul Diva in Reissues

This woman has been rocking my computer speakers all day long. Please go check out the reissues of her self-titled album & They Say I'm Different.
I guess it should come as no surprise that her personal story (good summary via Seattle Weekly)is pretty darn interesting too... once married to Miles Davis (she was probably the influence that sparked his Bitches Brew stage), around 1980 she just disappeared ... though plenty of other fierce women in music owe her a lot (Madonna, Kelis, Macy Gray, even Lauryn Hill, amongst others...haha, even Melinda Doolittle - I always liked the gritty Melinda best - better for her career that she got cut from American Idol anyway, btw).
Betty Davis MP3s available via Pitchfork

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Random Thoughts

  • Happy birthday to Julianne & Janet Jackson!
  • I kinda hate to fuel any ego this big, but his new song is good
  • I think my sister would like the new Cassie song (it's catchy) - and while Cassie def. is influenced by Janet, make sure you honor the original too today - like, watch the video the other birthday girl dug out for the occasion (why don't they make dance videos like this anymore!?!?)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

American Idol: Bye Bye Blake

My friends Emily & Peter like him, but I thought the judges were overly kind to him tonight. He had pitch problems in all 3 songs - not awful awful pitch problems, but the bottom line is that his voice is not as good as those of the ladies. And btw his rendition of This Love was a total "copycat" performance, and Adam Levine also has a much better voice than he does. That's actually really not an easy song to sing - his version was ok, but felt like a good karaoke version to me. Between the other two, I'm kind of torn for the first time in a few weeks. Jordin sang well tonight, but her song choices were a little weird -- her last song was def her best. Melinda was smack on every song tonight - her Whitney song was not as good as the judges said, but she can hold her own. Her last two songs were great - and she was totally sparkling tonight in terms of her energy & confidence. It was great to see!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Jon Pareles is Reviewing Everyone I've Seen Recently: Stephen Marley

I just saw Stephen Marley (feat. Damian too) at Jazzfest, so in reading Jon Pareles' review of their recent NYC show in today's NYTimes, I was really surprised to read that Stephen did so many of his father's songs at the Nokia theater show too. (he did the same thing at the N.O. fairgrounds, but I thought that was b/c the audience there would be more likely to come see him based on his last name than his whole name...) I agree that, as much as I love the elder Marley, he really doesn't need to play as much from Legend as he does. His own sound (esp. combined with his songs from his brother's stuff) can more than make for a great show on its own.

BTW, Damian has the longest dreads I've ever seen in my life. They're like down to his knees. Crazy cool.

And at jazzfest, they had an adorable little kid dancing around with a flag onstage (maybe one of Stephen's sons?), and I also loved that the band included some elder Rastafarians. I'm a sucker for seeing multiple generations on stage. That's actually very common to see in New Orleans in general... I wish it were more common more broady.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Go to Idolator For Leak of Common Track

Geoff, that means you! ;)

Seriously, "The People" is really good. I can't wait for the whole album. Julianne told me I'm gonna love it, including (especially) a track feat. Lily Allen... ooh, can't wait!

For a track-by-track preview, see The Fader .

And, yes, he's been accused of being a bit corny (Gap commercial) / reportedly has carried a notebook that proclaims "God Is Love" to his hosted listening sessions... but I gotta tell you... I could be accused of being inspired at times:

Little kids (they get me EVERY time):
I want to be a governor...
I want to be a doctor...
I want to be a ballet dancer...
I want to be a Aaaastronaut!...
I want to be a... gym teacher...
I want to be a DUCK...
I want to be the first African-American female President
I want to be a police officer...
I want to be a suuperstar!
Deep wise "Pops":
be here, ... be there,
be that, ... be this
Be grateful for life, be grateful to life
Be gleeful everyday,
for being the best swimmer among 500,000...

AND, like Julianne, I will never get tired of the song "Faithful".

Jon Pareles' on Amy Winehouse's On-Stage Detachment

Jon Pareles of the NYTimes was as disappointed in Amy Winehouse-as-"performer" this week as I was back in March. But his causal attribution differs from mine. In explaining her odd persona live, Pareles points mainly to her Britishness (and its removal from the origins of soul, e.g., African-American church choir) & her age (growing up on "hip-hop's version of R&B"). I don't know... those factors might be (small?) pieces of the puzzle, but I don't think you have to be American, African-American, or Aretha's age to have soul - to show deep emotional connection with your songs - on-stage. Corinne Bailey Rae is just one example in a long list. She's British, half-white, did not get her start singing in a gospel church (it was a much more conventional brethren church choir) and is only 4 years older. Her songs are more neo-soul than retro, of course -- but having recently seen her live, let me tell you, the woman feels her music on-stage...

I just think that Amy Winehouse's performance issues have much more to do with being Amy Winehouse, specifically, than they do with the circumstances of her nationality or her age.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Just Call Me Randy Jackson

He pretty much said everything I said, right after I said it last night.
Last night was not a great show, but I'm still for Jordin.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Highlight of JazzFest: Corinne Bailey Rae

We saw a lot of great shows, and, to be honest, I thought the songwriting on her album as a whole was inconsistent & could get boring... but, live in person, Corinne Bailey Rae was *incredible*. She plays her voice like a master instrumentalist -- she's got this seemingly intuitive, amazing control and timing. She also has a lot more power than you would guess from hearing her radio hits. In the studio recordings, her voice can sound maybe a little too precious. Live, it is more raw and complex. She plays around with her vocal timbre -- sounding sweet for moments, yes, but many notes are complemented by this raspy finish that lingers in its reluctant release of your chest. In a good way.

And the other cool thing about her as a performer is that her whole being smiles throughout her show. Not only her mouth, but her eyes twinkle, her skin glows... and it's actually not weird. You know those people that never stop smiling, even when what they're saying isn't worthy of this big grin - those awkward smiley people? That is not what I'm talking about. The way she smiles -- you get the sense that it's completely authentic - that it's the result of just completely surrendering to the inherent beauty in all *real* human emotion & experiences-- even the complicated and not-all-sunny ones.

You don't have to have the range of Mariah to be worthy of divahood.

If you ever have a chance, please see this woman live.

Here's a preview - not from our show at Tipitina's, but from an earlier show at Webster Hall:

Friday, May 4, 2007

She Still Has Slightly Purple Hair

So Rich and I were wandering aimlessly around the French Quarter late this afternoon when we heard a trio of Brits talking/walking behind us. A girl and two guys. They were butchering the pronunciations of the streets, and the girl was lamenting her bad sense of direction. Rich was endearingly smirking at their accents. I took pity on them, being known for both a bad sense of direction myself as well as a compulsive tendency to try to help any people I can. I turned around and said "Decatur Street is that way" to the girl behind me. She laughed, put her hand on my shoulder warmly and said in her smoky voice, "oh thank you so much! ha - I wasn't even saying it right. Cheers, thanks again, cheers!" I turned back around and as we walked away, it hit me why she looked so familiar: it was Joss Stone! She was -- somewhat surprisingly to me -- really down-to-earth and lovely. And also, like just about every celebrity I've ever met/seen, incredibly normal in real life. I mean, yes, there's the slightly purple dark hair (i think the dirty blonde looks better on her) and multiple? nose rings, and she was wearing pants with huge hearts all over them ... but she had acne "just like US", and her hair was frizzing along with mine in the NO humidity, etc. etc. Hahaha - we should have told her that one of her songs was featured on our wedding save-the-date CD...

I kind of felt badly that I was criticizing her songwriting on this blog just days ago... I do love her voice though.

In a more "local" sighting, we walked by guitarist Ian Neville (Art Neville's son; Aaron Neville's nephew) who was standing outside of Port Of Call - he still looks about five years younger than he is (I think he's like 25 now?) Hopefully he'll pop on stage at some point tonight at the Howlin' Wolf.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

P.S.... Pela

If you don't know Pela, check them out. They're a rock band - their debut album, Anytown Graffiti was just released last month. I like 'em.

Vote For Jordin

Vote for Jordin; that song kicked her ass tonight, but she shouldn't get kicked off this week. Chris actually did not sound too nasal this week - wow!, but I still don't like him. And I love Justin Timberlake, so it has nothing to do with his "style" - the problem is he doesn't sing that well generally, and he doesn't really have style. JT definitely does. No comparison whatsoever, people. Phil Stacey is still creepy and not cool enough OR uncool enough for me to ever buy a record of his. LaKisha was better than she's been in weeks, but I still don't want her to win. Blake's "big risk" was pretty decent; he didn't annoy me too badly this week. And Melinda showed more style/personality than she has in weeks. I loved the whole "I don't know how to rock" shtick. A new fresh spin on the old stale modesty thang. Nice.

Speaking of Awesome Voices: Feist

Feist's new album, The Reminder, was released today. Many many lucky people who get advance copies of albums have already written lots about it. It is indeed a glittering album. Her best work yet.