Friday, February 27, 2009

Jason Isbell just keeps getting better

I have had a true appreciation for the musical stylings of Jason Isbell ever since I first heard The Drive By Truckers (Outfit in partic). When he left the group to travel the solo road I was curious to hear what kind of sound he would own. I was beyond delighted when the first album turned out as well as it did and the delight, I'm happy to report, has only increased with the release of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The album pushes the sweetness of Isbell's distinct bluesy/alt country voice. Sweetness is a word I use with caution for it can imply a degree of saccharine not at all appropriate in this case. Jason Isbell's "sweetness" is a raspy, sincere delivery of beautifully written lyrics in the tradition of country ballads and bluesy heartaches. I could really wax poetic on the quality of the 400 Unit's contribution or the tightly crafted production of the album as a whole but when it comes to story telling this good its best to let it do the talking...

The Last Song That I Write For You
The Blue
No Choice In The Matter

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sing Along Time

On the flip side of the movie soundtrack coin are those scenes where music is a direct line from the movie to the audience when the characters are enjoying the tune right along with you. These are a selection of memorable musical moments performed on film with one line associations.

Tiny Dancer - Elton John
Almost Famous
Cameron Crow knows how to build a soundtrack (this movie explains how he got that way ) and the timing and song choice for this scene is impeccable.

Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
Wayne's World
You know you've recreated this scene at least once, just admit it.

Lets Get It On - Jack Black
High Fidelity
Hands down one of the best movies about music lovers, by music lovers for music lovers.

Kiss The Girl - Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid
This is one of those Disney songs that is oddly appropriate for mermaids and humans alike.

Wig In A Box - Hedwig
Hedwig & The Angry Inch
Brilliant, simply brilliant.

Moon River - Audrey Hepburn
Breakfast At Tiffany's
Audrey with a guitar on a fire escape. An iconic quality of movie moment that just doesn't seem to happen anymore.

***This one took A LOT of digging so I hope you enjoy...

Al La Claire Fontaine - Naomi Watts & Children's Choir
The Painted Veil

When words are too much...

The Oscars are this Sunday! Normally I would have folks over to do red carpet commentary and cast faux ballots for a chocolate gold guy. Alas, this year I will be in the car on the way to a gig in Virginia so I will be getting my Oscar fix by posting here.

One of the reasons I started blogging was because I have a strangely consistent soundtrack to my life. Whether I note the music playing at certain times, have a song running through my head during the day or find a particular song seemingly written for me I would say I have a musical association to most moments. Not surprisingly I have a total affinity to movie soundtracks and scores. There are composers who are widely known; Phillip Glass [the Qatsi trilogy, The Illusionist, The Hours] John Williams [Star Wars, Indiana Jones, ET] and Ennio Morricone [A Fist Full Of Dollars, Once Upon A Time In America, Cinema Paradiso] for example. And there are those who you don't really know until you start to pay attention; Rachel Portman, Yann Tiersen, Gabrel Yared... Regardless of their fame all good movie composers can grab you, put you in the moment, make your pulse race or you heartbreak.When you notice yourself totally swept up in a scene largely due to the music playing in the background it transcends the usual movie watching experience. Here are a few of my favorites...

Theme To Jurassic Park - John Williams
I vividly remember watching the first heli-pan over the "costa rican" dinosaur park. The imagery paired with the gradual build of this piece was like butter on hot toast they melted into each other creating a truly delicious experience. It pressed me back into my chair and put me there for the rest of the movie. When I got the chance to play this in orchestra it brought the song to a whole new level. I think soundtracks a the way to draw interest into the wonder instrumental/classical music can impart.

Main Titles (Chocolat) - Rachel Portman
I love Rachel Portman's work. She has provided the scores to a ton of movies (Benny & Joon, Cider House Rules, Joy Luck Club...) but her work on Chocolat was what first grabbed me. The movie about a nomadic Chocolat maker in Southern France is incredibly sensual yet whimsical and Portman brings that to live with her orchestrations and Jango Reinhard-esqu gypsy guitar score. If you haven't seen it put it on your list!

Ada Plays (Cold Mountain) - Gabriel Yared
The music in this movie is equivalent to another character. Musicans (Jack White) were acting and actors ( Nicole Kidman & Brendan Gleeson) were playing music Yared's score tucks seamlessly into the fold. This track convey so much of Ada's character arc in the movie from city girl to independent mountain woman. Exceptional work.

The Postman Poet (Il Postino)
- Luic Bacalav
The threads of art, music and poetry that weave through this movie combine to so perfectly they truly become one and bring life to this simple movie about Pablo Neruda's influence on the love life of his mailman while exiled on an Italian island. The music dances with the rhythm of Neruda's works and reflects the air and mood of Italy perfectly. The same refrain occurs in most of the score's tracks but with subtle variations. It is another movie you should add to your list if you haven't seen it already.

Finally, I don't have a DRM free copy of this one to share so I will leave you with this
Ashokan Farewell (The Civil War) - Jay Unger

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An Album Thats Good For Your Soul

The folks at The Red Hot Organization (with a little producing support from the National's Dessner brothers) have released the 20th compilation to raise funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. Dark Was The Night is a two disc release with 31 tracks showcasing some of today's best acts.The tracks cover a smattering of delicious sounds from the up tempo Knotty Pine put forth by Dirty Projectors and David Byrne to the steady and playful So far Around the Bend by The National to the title track Dark Was The Night by the Kronos Quartet. In an interview posted on Pop Tarts Suck Toasted Bryce Dessner says they had to turn away offers of B-sides and rarities from some acts and I have to say the editorial decision was a wise one. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this album are the interesting pairings that came together in support of this fantastic cause. The interweaving sounds of Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner on Big Red Machine are so natural its pauses you. And Feist's double duty contributions simply reaffirm her talent and creativity. Particularly on Train Song where she turns up her twang to parlay with Mr. Gibbard. I'm only posting this track in hopes you will go and buy the whole collection. Opportunities to put your money out for such a great endeavor and in return get an amazing bit of music are rare so don't let it pas you by. If fund raising always sounded this good I'd be broke.

Pop Tarts Suck Toasted Interview with Bryce Dessner

Train Song - Feist & Ben Gibbard
Buy Dark Was The Night Here

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love ADD style

I couldn't decide on a subtheme for the big V-Day post so I am going with three very different love songs that probably won't be on any of the other lists. No real rhyme or reason other than they're good.

Love and Happiness - Al Green
I saw The Rev. at an outdoor festival in St Paul thee years ago that was pathetically attended. But other than feeling disappointed in my fellow Minneasotans for not showing proper love the show was amazing. He gave it is all and put on a fantastic show. He performed all of his classics and his delivery of Love & Happiness was epic.

All You Need Is Love - Lynden david hall
This gospel version of the Beatles classic is from the wedding scene in Love Actually and as cheesy as it is I think it would be pretty fantastic to have a gospel choir serenade me at my wedding.

I'm Gonna Always Love You - Miss Piggy, Kermit The Frog, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf, Scooter & The Great Gonzo
Muppet Love, as pure as it comes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Slow dancin

I got this video from my roommate yesterday

and it inspired today's song selection. I think dancing is one of the best things you can do with that special person (besides the obvious -- see yesterday's post)Even if it involves a little treading on the toes or the basic middle school sway two people taking the time to get close and move to a rhythm is a beautiful thing.

These are a few good ones to put on the stereo, kick off the shoes and do a little slow dancin...

Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton
Cliche? Yes but for a reason. Its slow sweet and sexy.

At Ease In The Arms Of A Woman - Amos Lee
This song just gets me. A wee bit on the sweeter side of blues but given real character by the country/jazz/soul influence Amos Lee is so good at.

You've Really Got A Hold On Me - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
This classic is ideal for a little flirtier old school dancing. The kind I imagine would happen a lot more if life were more like Dirty Dancing.

And for a little bonus...
Slow Dancing In A Burning Room - John Mayer

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wink wink nudge nudge

It takes a lot of sorting, listening and well, testing to make a good between the sheets mix. There are many variables that contribute to setting the right mood (rhythm, lyrics, tone/bass etc) and there a lot of different theories and opinions on the right combos. These are a few that continually find themselves in the running whenever I make a new disc and true to form there should be less talking more um, listening...

Start A War - The National

Songbird - Eva Cassidy

How Does It Feel - D'Angelo

District Sleeps Alone Tonight - The Postal Service

Ache For You - Ben Lee

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Other Side Of Love

A little twitterpation can be a very inspiring thing as demonstrated by the scads of songs, poems, books, haikus, plays etc that have been written in celebration of that twinge of attraction. The only subject that can give it a run for its money is the heart wrenching pain caused by love's dimise. Whether it is amicable, messy, "just a break," overdue or way too soon the end of an affair has produced a comparable number and variety of art. Of course, no love themed week would be complete without a little slice of the sour side of amore.

No Children - The Mountain Goats
I saw the MG's in concert this fall (review) and when this song came around it was delivered with such sincere reflective anger it was clear this was written from a dark place where the only light was sarcasm.

Collide - Howie Day
This is a song I associate with break ups 'cause, well, it was on a friend gave me after I went through one. The song itself isn't too sad or angsty its just sweet.

No Future Together - Yarn
The honesty on display in this song is a level of straight forwardness I respect. Sometimes you just gotta call it instead of wasting anymore time putting up with subpar treatment. Yarn is a fantastic bluegrass group out of Brooklyn, of course. They are really fresh and therefore hard to catch live because they don't tour widely...yet. They play a lot of smaller venues and from the sound of the recorded stuff seem like they would make for a good live show.

You're No God - Laura Marling
There is a moment in some relationships when you know things are coming to an end sooner rather than later when you sense that they feel they are doing you a favor by not breaking up with you. Personally I find the statement "I just don't want to hurt you" the biggest crock of shit. Hurt is going to happen. Its part of rolling the relationship dice. They should really say "I don't want to feel guilty for ending this," and assume the person is strong enough to move on. Whew, ok vent is over. Laura Marking is another songwriter who has a knack for honesty and this song is one of my favorites.

Bitter Radio Single - Hospital Ships
Speaking of honesty... LOVE IT!!!

Chin Up Cheer Up - Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams has released a ridiculous amount of music. From his solo work to Whiskeytown to his stuff with the Cardinals he has covered pretty much every possible relationship angel. A bluish tinge is cast on most of his work but when hes going the rose colored glasses route he does it well. This song is that little bit of encouragement sometimes necessary post break up. Strangely well timed news grab... Ryan Adams is engaged to Mandy Moore. Interesting eh?

Stand Back Up - Sugarland
There is no way this list would even approach complete without a little country music recognition. If ever there were a genre that has taken the break up song and created a truly refined art its the ladies and gentlemen of country music. It made it difficult to choose one so I decided to grab Nashville's version of I Will Survive. Sugarland emotes the sad side and the hopeful side of the break up song. Another good one for those mixes created to soothe a recently broken heart.

If these don't cover enough of the breakup bases for you...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

There is more than one way to love (and sing a song)

In the third installment of the TWIAPC's week of <3 stylings of others.

Faith - The Boy Least Likely To
George Micheal's video for the original was sooooo cool to my little mind when I was younger. The song isn't half bad either. TBLLT is best known for their indie scene anthem Be Gentle With Me and their twee/bluegrass twist really adds an unexpected touch.

How Deep Is Your Love- The Bird & The Bee
I can go hot and cold on this group. Some of their original stuff can get a little cloying to me but they will forever have a soft spot in my cover loving heart because of this Bee Gee's resurrection. The brothers Gibb are too often overlooked for their contribution to music, always being shoved off into the disco category. How Deep Is Your Love eats up The Bird & The Bee's low-fi approach. Very well done.

Bring It On Home To Me - Spoon
This Sam Cooke track has been done and done again. Yet, they all seem to blur together. Except, that is, for this Spoon edition. They run it through an indie group session feel and the hollow vocals and spare percussion strip the classic soul song down and present it all anew.

Run- Leona Lewis
Ms Lewis has herself some pipes and knows how to work them. On this retake of the Snow Patrol song Run she pushes it a little further. The result is an epic love song crying out for a CW drama soundtrack

Real Love - Regina Spektor
Regina Spektor tends to illicit mixed reviews but love her or hate her this cover of John Lennon's Real Love is, very simply, beautiful. I think John would surely approve.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spittin It Heart Style

When I asked my house guests this evening what the theme for today should be hip hop/Rap centric. With their help I have put together this list for your listening pleasure...

03' Bonnie & Clyde
- Jay Z & Beyonce
They are now Mr & Mrs but when this duet first dropped it was nothing but a playful flirtation. A hip hop take on the classic bad boy/bad girl attraction and in doing so maintain the thread of romance.

The Way You Move - Outkast
When Speakerbox/The Love Below came out some friends hosted a listening party which ended up being one of the best dance parties that year. This song can work for a fun group groove as well as a little smooth get down. A nod to the sway of the hip or bob of the head that first caught your eye. And that clean bass line just gets me.

Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You- Lauryn Hill
MissEducation was such a remarkable album for me. Stepping away from the truer hip hop stylings of the Fugees Miss Hill introduced a touch of old school soul R&B to her solo work. It was a much needed jolt to my system and this song is so pure and mooshy its a perfect choice for this list.

Heartsprings - Heiruspecs
A fantastic Minneapolis group provides the final song for this list. Its sweet smart and the arrangement propelling it along backs up the lyrical vibe.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oh Why Not

I am not really into proscribed commercial holidays. I am a much bigger fan of spontaneity and would rather people take it upon themselves to randomly celebrate their love, appreciation, thanks, heritage etc whenever the spirit moved them regardless of whether there are a gagillion cards, candies or decorations readily available to support the effort. It would be a pretty fantastic world if people embraced the unexpected and put a little energy into paying it forward. That said, this year I am going to put that aside because I know too many people who could use a little valentines day pick me up. This week I'm going to post a few songs every day that are somehow valentines related.

As you listen to these please think about the people/person who may need a little nudge of sweetness whether it be Saturday or or three week from now.

To kick it off I'm going to some of the classics:

Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton
I can only hope that everyone get to indulge in a little cliche at least once in their life and dance with that special someone to this song. Say what you will but this song has the power to freeze the moment.

For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder is responsible for providing pop with a little touch of soul/R&B and no where else is that combination of happy in love and catchy hook better heard than on this track. And the presence of harmonica makes it that much better.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand- The Beatles
The original pop song. They kept it simple and pay tribute to that most basic of gestures, holding hands.

Ace & Gary Salute You

A quick post for my sister's birthday. Kind of a random assortment of songs that at some point have been danced to, sung at the top of our lungs or included in mix tapes. So, to my dearest HB, Happy Birthday!

So Right, So Wrong - Linda Ronstadt
Montana Summer of 1992...castanets, dollar bill origami
Standing Outside The Fire- Garth Brooks
Top of the lungs
Dancing Queen- Abba
Full choreographic MASTERPIECE
My Girl - Temptations
"talent show" brilliance
You Got The Right Stuff- NKTOB
Joan's stage ahem, porch

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A little snack to tide you over...

So many changes in the last two weeks! Briefly, I quit my job on New Years and after spending a month tying everything up as of Monday of this week I am now a partner in creative consulting agency. This means I have a lot more flexibility in my schedule and will be posting more often as blogging is a bigger part of my job. But I need a few more days to work on my next post. Until then I thought I would tide you over with a few covers I have harvested lately. Enjoy, and check back this weekend to find out what tunes I have been doing the happy self employed dance to all over my house.

Cool It Now - Robbers on High Street
From the newishly released compilation Guilt By Association vol 2. This series is released by Engine Room Records who assembles a interesting mix of artists and tracks. Well worth checking out. Vol 1 was good vol 2 is better. This particular track soothes and adds a touch of a hipster vibe.

If You Leave - Rafter
Another track from GBA vol 2. I love this song in it original form and Rafter's take is can interesting spin.

Baby Love - Kate Nash
A live cut of Ms. Nash taking on the Supremes. A bold move yes, but she delivers it playfully with a tinge of curiosity that I couldn't help but like.

Build Me Up - Rhymefest
My affinity for Build Me Up stems directly from it being the perfect top of the lungs sing along tunes. I fully appreciate Rhymefest's version. An old fave from a whole new perspective.

I Wanna Sex You Up - Charlie Ash
From the Buffetlibre project, one of the most delicious and ambitious cover projects I have encountered. Serious cover addicts should take some time to check out the songs chosen by today's up and coming acts to cover/remix in their own vein. This one is just strange but in a good way.