16 December 2005

my last post for the year. maybe.

thank you : china crisis
click on mona below to listen

I’m blogging from the airport, waiting for my flight for a two-week break. I had planned a proper year-end post with my own list of the best songs of 2005 (everybody else does albums) but it looks like that will have to wait. The past couple of weeks have been quite hectic.

Looking back on the past year, this blog has been one of the highlights for me. I started it primarily as a very personal project – I just wanted to have a creative outlet. I write for a living and this is a good counterbalance to the kind of material I deal with every day. I enjoy sharing the songs I like, I enjoy writing about them (most of the time), and I’m overjoyed that nearly every visitor who sends feedback through comments or e-mails appreciates my posts. Hence, this song, by China Crisis. Best known for their 80s hits Wishful Thinking and African and White, China Crisis continued to produce songs through the 90s, albeit in obscurity. Thank You comes from their mid-90s album Warped by Success, which is an excellent adult-alternative effort that’s very different from their New Wave days. Enjoy the smooth vocals and soothing melody of the song, which is just the kind of sound we need for the holidays.

Have fun and enjoy the season, whatever it is you're celebrating. And have a great new year, too.

08 December 2005

this title will change

I wish I had the time to write more about the following songs. But I've wasted enough time surfing already and it's time to go to bed. Oh well. Enjoy.

burn that broken bed : calexico | iron and wine
listening time : 5m 06s

Listen to this song with noise-cancelling earphones. Burn That Broken Bed – and in fact all songs in In The Reins, a collaborative project of Joey Burns of Calexico and Sam Beam of Iron and Wine – is such an interplay of hushed vocals and instrumentations that the best way to appreciate it is in isolation in a dark corner of a room. Every lilt, pluck, beat and hum brushes like a young feather against your skin. This seven-song, 27-minute EP has been on repeat in my iPod for a few days now, and it only gets better each listen. Beam and Burns are (often wrongly) labeled as sadcore, but In the Reins is celebratory. A review from Pitchfork.

homesick : the finn brothers
listening time : 3m 48s

This is my anthem for the month. I'm flying home! I'll be reading at my best female friend's wedding on the 17th in a chilly mountain resort, and I will have the chance to go around before I see my family for Christmas and New Year. So I'm using the occasion to post this song by The Finn Brothers, the guys responsible for the great Crowded House. Whether solo, part of a group, or working with brother Tim, New Zealand-born vocalist Neil Finn has always written songs about journeys and coming home, no doubt because he has been in exile most of his life, in Australia where Crowded House hit the big time in the 80s, and then touring and recording everywhere since. Everyone is Here, for example, was recorded last year in LA. A review from The Guardian.

winter in the hamptons : josh rouse
listening time : 3m 08s

I like Josh Rouse. He's filled with goodwill. Winter in the Hamptons is probably the least country of all the songs in his album Nashville, which seemingly is a departure from his alt-country roots, but I love its mixture of energy and lethargy. Probably half the songs in the album show that Rouse doesn't always write the most interesting melodies, but he more than makes up for it with witty songwriting. My favorite line from my other favorite song, It's the Nighttime: And maybe later on/After the late Late Show/We can go to your room/I can try on your clothes. How fun is that? A review from Stylus magazine.

04 December 2005

sub-one minute stuff : interludes and fillers

click on the corresponding number for instant gratification!

1 : are you coming down this weekend? : his name is alive : 18s
2 : roi (reprise) : the breeders : 42s
3 : pantala naga pampa : dave matthews band : 40s
4 : germaine : sinéad o'connor : 38s
5 : go free : moby : 38s
6 : enormously wealthy : utah phillips : 43s
7 : country mike's theme : the beastie boys : 35s
8 : rollercoaster : shoestrings : 49s
9 : i'll kill ya : dialogue from lock stock & two smoking barrels : 42s
10 : parachutes : coldplay : 46s
11 : let's hear that string part again, because i don't think they heard it all the way out in bushnell : sufjan stevens : 40s
12 : like a virgin : dialogue from reservoir dogs : 58s
13 : dead duck : badly drawn boy : 46s

27 November 2005

three songs this weekend!

Click on the image below each title to listen.

aerial : kate bush
listening time: 7m 52s but well worth it

This is the title track from Kate Bush's first album in 12 years, and the one I love the most. Nothing should stop me from calling it a perfect album. It deserves all the praise it has so far received. Aerial is a deliberate work of sophisticated art. Every note, instrument and pause is arranged to fulfil both contrast and complementarity, and Ms. Bush at 47 has only matured with age, sounding more in control of her style and being more compelling in her songwriting than she has ever been. I can't think of any other artist who can sing the words "washing machine" repeatedly and convey the little tragedies of domestic life. Her greatest asset of course is her voice, which she uses in great variety in Aerial – from the anthemic highs and lows of A Coral Room, a solo piano number reminiscent of This Woman's Work, to the soft sensual warbling of Somewhere in Between. There is no dull moment in this album; just when you think a song has hit that point, as what happens halfway through Sunset, she picks up the pace and injects a dose of flamenco. In Aerial, the final song in the two-CD set, Ms. Bush pushes her talent for dance tracks that she has long demonstrated in songs like Heads We’re Dancing from the album This Sensual World. Here, she morphs into queen of trance, and closing your eyes while listening to its beat, you can imagine yourself being slowly lifted off the ground, shutting off external noise that when she sings "I can't hear a word you're saying," you can feel exactly what she means. The original is great in itself, but Aerial is just begging to be remixed...

vox : extended version : sarah mclachlan
listening time: 6m 50s

...which reminds me of Sarah McLachlan, who isn't new to remixes. In fact, her last album of originals, Afterglow, is now sandwiched between two albums of remixes: Remixed from 2003 and this year's Bloom, which digs deeper into her short but distinguished discography. The former is tolerable; the latter is just awful, especially because it butchers some of her best songs, like Vox. With the exception of Dirty Little Secret done by Thievery Corporation, Bloom reduces her songs to nothing more than the babbling of a woman with a fine voice, then muffling them with relentlessly pounding beats or pointlessly looping them with pointless echoes. Did I just say pointless twice? I guess I can't stress that enough, and that is why I'm posting this early remix of Vox, coming from her album Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff. It is invigorating, as opposed to numbing, which is what Bloom is.

bedtime story : madonna
listening time: 4m 53s

Now I'm posting Bedtime Story because for some reason Aerial also reminded me of this song. Well, I guess not just for some reason. It's also a beautiful trance/electronica track, done to perfection with production by Bjork. This is how it should sound if Kate Bush's song were to be remixed. Bedtime Story comes from Madonna's underrated album, Bedtime Stories, which is her transition from I'm-here-to-shock-you (Erotica) to take-me-seriously (Ray of Light) diva. Unfortunately, everything after Ray of Light has been downhill, and even her fine physical form in the video of Hung Up can't mask the fact that she's past her prime. As I've said somewhere here before, Madonna can't hold it on her own anymore, and her sampling of ABBA is just a more creative variation of her onscreen liplocking with Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. And to think she's the same age as Kate Bush.

Feel free to agree.

Artwork for Kate Bush and Madonna came from New York Magazine. I normally use publicity shots for this blog, but this one seemed convenient.

24 November 2005

i would like to thank the academy

be thankful for what you've got : massive attack
click on the slogan below to listen

Not being American, I don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but let me use the occasion to post this song anyway. This is Massive Attack's cover of the 1974 R&B hit by William DeVaughn. The song appears on their 1991 debut album Blue Lines, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the first manifestations of the trip-hop genre. I've never heard the original, but this version suits me just fine. There's nothing trip-hop about it if you came to know the genre from mid-90s Portishead or Morcheeba. In fact, vocalist Tony Bryan is sounding very Marvin Gaye-ish here, singing in falsetto almost all througout while remaining assuredly masculine. It's sincerely soulful and lavishly luscious, which is kind of weird considering there is nothing sensual about the lyrics. Then again, Marvin Gaye does the same with What's Going On. Anyway, as the title suggests, the song is about letting go of material desires when what you have in your hands should suffice. Although it's really just about DeVaughn sourgraping over a car he couldn't afford. On a more serious note, it may not be entirely true that I don't celebrate Thanksgiving. Although there are no turkeys involved, it does make me aware that perhaps I should spare more than just a moment to take stock of the good things that have happened to me in the past year, and here are five that top the list, which aren't all this-year specific:
  • Staying healthy. I've never been hospitalized in my life, and I plan to keep it that way.
  • A family I can always turn to, even though I don't call them often enough.
  • A job that I like and where my work is appreciated. I think.
  • The opportunity to travel and see places that awed me as a child. This year, they were the Taj Mahal and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • Just being here in Hong Kong, where I find something stunning everyday despite having lived here for over five years now.
And what are you thankful for?

16 November 2005

jai guru deva om

across the universe : the beatles
click on the guitar man to listen

This is for my dad, who would have turned 55 today. He was a huge fan. I can't listen to a Beatles song without being reminded of him. Growing up, it seemed to me as if every sober moment of his life was spent listening to them or playing their songs on his guitar. He loved Abbey Road more than Revolver. He would criticize anyone who ever covered Help! He would carry my little sister and sing And I Love Her. And I would be jealous.

13 November 2005


pictures of you : the cure
click on the icon below to listen while browsing my pics!

I'm dumping pictures I've stored in my cell phone since I bought it about two years ago. It's an old SonyEricsson T610, so the resolution isn't great. Save for the two Hong Kong pictures, these are mostly from my travels, which is about the only time I remember to use the phone's camera feature. Meanwhile, enjoy the song, one of my favorites from The Cure, definitely one of the best bands to ever walk the earth.

This is the door to Casa Mila, or La Pedrera, Antoni Gaudi's last civil work prior to dedicating his life to La Sagrada Famiglia in Barcelona. During his golden period (1892-1914), Gaudi drew inspiration from natural elements, which is why you will hardly see any straight line in most of his work. This main door, for example, is supposed to resemble a spider's web. Taken in December 2003.

Obscene, immoral, depraved stuffed toys waiting to be won in Ocean Park, Hong Kong. Taken probably around this time in 2004.

My favorite dish at Restaurant 369 along O'Brien Road in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. The first time significant other and I ate there, I frowned upon seeing not too many vegetarian options. The waiter probably saw the knot in my eyebrows, and said the kitchen could prepare this off-menu item for me. It's diced tofu fried with noodles, chili, and salt and pepper. Taken some time early this year.

Chastity: I know you can be underwhelmed, and you can be overwhelmed, but can you ever just be, like, whelmed?
Bianca: I think you can in Europe.
-- From the movie 10 Things I Hate About You
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Easter 2005. I was whelmed.

The first picture I took with the T610. Need I say more?

This fish has a story. It was significant other's dinner in Phuket three nights before the tsunami. We were there when it happened. I have pictures online, but I can't find the link.

My dinner on the same evening in Phuket. They do all sorts of crazy stuff with fried rice in Thailand; sadly they lack creativity with the vegetarian kind. So I asked them to put lots and lots of cashew in it. And cashews were given unto me. Yum.

Taken at the beachfront of our hotel in Koh Samui, Thailand, Easter 2004. We stayed at a nice botique hotel called Muang Kulaypan, which has a minimalist landscape, the highlight of which is a striking black-tiled pool.

Cable car along Powell Street in San Francisco. This, along with the ones that follow, was taken in September 2003.

You can't see it properly, but this is the world's crookedest street.

Houses photographed from a street corner in the Haight-Ashbury district. I love that place, especially because there's an Amoeba there. And lots of Mexican restaurants. And vintage clothes. And bookstores, including an anarchist one.

From a mural of rock stars along Haight Street.

One dreary afternoon at Fisherman's Wharf.

Cafe Tacuba in concert at The Fillmore. I've already written about it here, where you can also listen to a couple of their songs.

What have you taken with your camera phone?

10 November 2005

separated at birth?

stay in the shade : josé gonzález
north marine drive : ben watt
click on their images below to listen
total listening time: 4m 40s

No, I'm not talking about their looks. (No shit, Sherlock!) These guys are so much alike they could have come from the same musical gene. Their voices, their fingerpicking patterns, the overall mood of their songs – I've never heard two musicians sound so similar. And yet, these songs are 22 years apart. José González, born to Argentinian parents, is a new act just emerging from Sweden, and Stay in the Shade comes from his debut album Veneer which came out last September. González is being counted as part of the so-called New Acoustic Movement that embraces mostly male – and mostly European – musicians who make sensitive music out of nothing more than their steel-string guitars, languid voices, and self-refective lyrics. Ben Watt, on the other hand, is half of the British husband-and-wife duo Everything But The Girl, and North Marine Drive comes from his pre-EBTG album of the same name released in 1982. He has now found a new passion as a producer and DJ. In both gentlemen, the Nick Drake influence is quite obvious; these songs can sit side by side with Road or From the Morning (from Drake's landmark album Pink Moon in 1972). I'm just fascinated by the fact that these works are decades apart, yet sound like they're contemporaries. Long live the one-man-one-guitar affair?

08 November 2005

burning down the arcade

haiti : arcade fire
click on the image below to listen

Never has bilingualism in rock sounded so good. Before the last couple of days, I hadn't listened to Montréal's Arcade Fire long enough to strongly like a song from their album Funeral. What a shame that I'm writing this a year too late. The 2004 album is so confident that it's hard to imagine it as a debut record from an indie band that started performing together only just the year before. In 10 songs and 48 minutes, Arcade Fire set themselves apart from the sometimes-cocky emo and retro rockers that have been lucky enough to find a broader audience over the last couple of years. Perhaps until we hear their second studio album, expected next year, it's hard to say that there is a single sound that distinguishes the band. The first three minutes of Un Année Sans Lumiere, for example, could already have stood on its own as a richly melodic, jam-friendly acoustic number, and the frantic scratches of electric guitar in the final minute could have provided an angry hook for another song. But there they are together, giving an appropriate polarity to a song that, to me, deals with the thin line between accepting death and fighting it. It's quite different from the singular tone and theme of Haiti, which is a clear elegy to the war-ravaged country from where singer Régine Chassagne's parents originate. In fact, although she sings lead in only two songs in the album – Haiti and In The Back Seat – Chassagne's jazz-trained voice alone adds even more variety to Arcade Fire's material. Hearing her was, after all, the reason Win Butler, who would become her husband, decided to form the band. Funeral was made in a year when personal tragedies struck members of the band. That obviously gave the album its theme, and probably the complexity of its sound as well. Now that Arcade Fire have (presumably) gotten over it, I can't wait to hear how they will live up to their amazing debut.

06 November 2005

third rock from the sun

3rd planet : modest mouse
click on the image below to listen

The first time I heard 3rd Planet, I felt like I had just been punched in the chest and needed to sulk in a corner to recover. It's the first song from Modest Mouse's album The Moon and Antarctica, and it's most memorable for its opening and last lines. Everything that keeps me together is falling apart, vocalist Isaac Brock declares in the first 23 seconds of the song, and in the last 30, The universe is shaped exactly like the earth, if you go straight long enough you end up where you were. It's not exactly groundbreaking songwriting, but honest enough as to be brutal and piercing. Like most Modest Mouse songs, the lyrics of 3rd Planet are illustrative and disguised, but not so that they're impossible to penetrate. Brock just seems to prefer to relate his thoughts and experiences by transcribing fragments of his dreams. How do you make of words like this: Outside naked, shivering, looking blue, from the cold sunlight that's reflected off the moon/Baby cum angels fly around you reminding you we used to be three and not just two. There's just no one way of telling what it means unless you speak to the writer, and I've read interviews with Brock saying he too often gets lost in his own words. Yet in spite of its disparate images, the song allows you to form your own complete picture of what it could be about, which to me involves a tragic death. But perhaps no one sums up Brock better than Mark Kozelek, who does a complete remake of 11 Modest Mouse songs (not including this one) for his latest album, Tiny Cities: "The lyrics take all these twists and turns...You don't know what it is, but something about it makes you stop and think and feel, and it puts you in this other place." It's not a comfort place, but it's good to touch base with it once in a while.

02 November 2005

everything and nothing

everything is everything : live acoustic : phoenix
click on the image below to listen

Sometimes just one line from a song is enough to move you to tears. In this dreary version of the pop-rock song by the English-singing French band Phoenix, it's when vocalist Thomas Mars mumbles "The things I do possess, sometimes they own me too" that does me in. It's not bourgeois guilt on my part; it's just a universal truth that's hardly acknowledged, and the downright dispiriting melody of the song puts that line in proper context. Frankly, there's not much cohesion in the rest of the lyrics. There are nuggets of existential thought on the self and on relationships, which seem to have been put together only because they belong to the same emotional shelf. But maybe that's the point. After all, in a state of depression, thoughts run through your head like a million images overlapping one another; each one is different, yet they all come around and lead to the same conclusion: everything is nothing. And that, folks, is my cheap shot at philosophy today. Oh, and thanks to one anonymous visitor who recommended the song to me.

30 October 2005

an unfinished poem

the whole of the moon : terry reid
click on the image below to listen

Here's a song that leaves me curious and half-satisfied. Written by Mike Scott and originally performed by his 80s group The Waterboys, The Whole Of The Moon is probably one of the most lyrically vivid songs you will ever hear. Rich in metaphor and symbolism, it moves you so much that it almost qualifies as lyric poetry, not only in terms of composition but also in the way it contrasts two different characters. (I pictured a rainbow/You held it in your hands...I wondered, I guessed and I tried/You just knew.) The relationship between the narrator and the object of the song is open to interpretation; I see it as between one who has achieved so much, and another whom he or she has left behind, and even that doesn't say much. Which is exactly the reason why this song leaves me hanging: from the first line to the last, all it does is describe the distance between two people. There's no evolution or conclusion to their relationship; there isn't even conflict. You can say that the contrast itself suggests conflict, but I'll disagree. It's obvious that the narrator still yearns for the other person, but I'm bugged by the question of what he intends to do with his awareness of that distance. You're there, I'm here, and then what? I just wish there was a line or two to suggest some kind of closure. But then again, this very vagueness is probably also the reason why the song speaks volumes. Closure can be an overrated thing.

For the full lyrics, click here. This version, by the way, is by Terry Reid, a.k.a. the man who turned down Jimmy Page's invitation to be the vocalist of The Yardbirds, which became Led Zeppelin. Although Reid has a respectable solo career, can you image how he must feel everytime he hears a Zeppelin tune?

25 October 2005

where on earth is the sun hid away?

like the weather : 10,000 maniacs
click on the image below to listen

Here's a song I've been singing in my mind lately, given the skies we've been having in this part of the world. It kind of gets to you when it's like this everyday. I have not much to say, really, so I'll just let the song speak for itself. Oh, maybe I'll say one thing: Natalie Merchant, who sings here, has a new retrospective of her post-Maniacs career. Creatively called Natalie Merchant Retrospective 1990-2005, it's a double CD that includes highlights of her solo career on disc 1, and rarities, live and previously unreleased tracks on disc 2. Merchant is one of my favorite voices and lyricists in rock, so this album must be a must.

Like The Weather
Natalie Merchant

The color of the sky as far as I can see is coal grey.
Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again.
With a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather.
A quiver in my lip as if I might cry.

Well by the force of will my lungs are filled and so I breathe.
Lately it seems this big bed is where I never leave.
A shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather.
A quiver in my voice as I cry:

"What a cold and rainy day. Where on earth is the sun hid away?"

I hear the sound of a noon bell chime.
Well, I'm far behind.
You've put in 'bout half a day while here I lie
with a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather.
A quiver in my voice as if I might cry:

"What a cold and rainy day. Where on earth is the sun hid away?"

Do I need someone here to scold me
or do I need someone who'll grab and pull me out of this
four-poster dull torpor pulling downward.
For it's such a long time since my better days.
I say my prayers nightly this will pass away.

The color of the sky is grey as I can see through the blinds.
Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again.
A shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather.
A quiver in my voice as if I might cry:

"What a cold and rainy day. Where on earth is the sun hid away?"

I shiver, quiver, and try to wake.

20 October 2005

two songs : nickel creek

best of luck
somebody more like you
click on the image below to listen, then click the left and right arrows to switch between songs.
total listening time: 6m 23s

These songs come from Nickel Creek's third and latest album, Why Should The Fire Die?, which I bought on impulse the other day. As someone new to the San Diego trio, I had to listen to the album three times to even understand how I feel about it, and only after reading about the band was I able to better appreciate them. The album represents the past and future of Nickel Creek. It's an eclectic mix of bluegrass, which is their roots, and folk rock, which is where they seem to be going. The trio of Chris Thile and siblings Sean and Sara Watkins started off as teens toting fiddles, banjos, guitars and mandolins in the festival circuit, until bluegrass artist Alison Kraus helped them land a record deal and later produced their first two albums. With Why Should The Fire Die, produced by the same people that have worked with Michael Penn and Queens of the Stone Age, the band makes a move closer to the mainstream, with a healthy dose of youthful angst served in a vigorous indie rhythm.

Lyrically, the songs don't impress much, as attempts at grown-up bitterness sometimes lapse into juvenile sarcasm: I hope you meet someone your height so you can see eye to eye (Somebody More Like You); Where can a teacher go? Wherever she thinks people need the things she knows (When In Rome). Vocally (and each band member sings at some point) they're not in their best shape yet either. Sara Watkins sometimes sounds inappropriately sweet, while Thile's voice audibly breaks as he switches to a high note in Can't Complain. That said, what I like most about the album is its intimacy. Relying almost entirely on the instruments that the band grew up playing, it sounds like Nickel Creek could be doing a jam session in your living room. Despite its flaws, Why Should The Fire Die is powerful, driven, raw, and ultimately, quite engaging.

16 October 2005

catchiest. na na. ever.

dyslexic heart : paul westerberg
click on the image to listen

There's been a lot of buzz lately about Elizabethtown, the new film by Cameron Crowe, and not all of it is positive. (Like this very harsh review by Chicago Tribune.) But I look forward to seeing it, first because I like almost every movie Crowe has directed (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, Say Anything) and also because he probably compiles the best soundtracks in Hollywood. You have to at least expect that from a former Rolling Stone journalist. This song by ex-Replacement Paul Westerberg comes from Crowe's 1992 masterpiece Singles, plays at the opening credits, and sets the perfect tone for the rest of the film. With the equally jangly Waiting for Somebody from the same soundtrack, Dyslexic Heart would prove to be the commercial zenith of Westerberg's career after The Replacements disbanded in 1991. He released a best-of album last May, called Besterberg, which seems to satisfy those who know him casually and those who know him well, judging by the number of songs in it: 20. Anyway, the soundtrack to Elizabethtown is now on sale on iTunes Music Store, and I'm happy to see Crowe include a song I've posted here before: Don't I Hold You, by Wheat. The soundtrack version is different, though, as Wheat laid a fast beat over the song and shortened it a bit. Listen to the original from the link.

Depeche Mode has uploaded their entire new album, Playing the Angel, for streaming on their MySpace site. Check it out here. While you're at it, you may also want to stream an album's worth of Wu-Tang Clan sounds merged with indie hip-hop here. The album is called Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture and is the brainchild of Brooklyn DJ David Kruger. Details.

I was half hoping it was a joke, but it's true. Sony BMG has released Trees, the song written and performed by Rockstar INXS runner-up Marty Casey, as a single. It's much more polished than his TV performance, obviously, but no less inane. Sorry, but no matter how philosophical some will probably say the song is (which I doubt), I still can't get over its dumb chorus. Download or sample the song from iTMS.

Readers of the entertainment magazine Variety has just crowned The Beatles as the number one icon of the past 100 years, beating Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Mickey Mouse, and 96 other venerable and questionable characters.

Pop Star Quote of the Day: "There was a moment when I was onstage and I was just so angry. I thought, 'Something is wrong. I have the applause, I have a great band behind me, I live comfortably...' I was starting to become a victim of fame. Everything was too serious and I wasn't enjoying it." The newly buzz-cut Ricky Martin, to People Magazine, on how fame hit him at the height of his career in 2002.

13 October 2005

the long wait is over. almost.

Apple outdoes its secretive self by announcing the arrival of the new video-capable iPod at a no-live-coverage, cellphone-blocking, WiFi-disabling event at the California Theater in San Jose. Let's get the subtleties right: Steve Jobs didn't give it a proper name like he did the iPod photo, mini and nano. It's not the "iPod video" or "video iPod" or some such. It's back to the good old iPod, just so no one forgets that this is a music player first and foremost.

The new video-capable iPod: leaner but meaner
The fifth-generation iPod comes with a bigger 2.5-inch display -- a 25 percent improvement from the prior top-end iPod photo -- in a thinner, lighter body. Resolution isn't bad at 320x240 pixels -- it's the same as most video-focused portables out there. Here is what the new iPod will most likely be compared with: the iriver PMC-120, whose only advantage is a bigger 3.5-inch screen.

By extension, Jobs also unveiled iTunes 6.0 which now allows users to download music videos and TV shows from the iTunes Music Store at $1.99 each. Those with QuickTime 7 Pro can also sync their home movies with iTunes, which will then sync them with the iPod. The letdown? Apple didn't jack up the capacity: the maximum is still 60GB. As it is, my 60GB iPod photo can't hold of all my songs anymore, let alone my pictures. So as much as I covet this thing, I'm gonna hold off until Apple brings it to 80GB or more. Something tells me I won't be waiting long.

Eminem is due to release a Greatest Hits album on December 6th, called Curtain Call, sparking rumors of retirement. The album will include two new tracks that he will start recording with Dr. Dre some time this week, barely two months after getting out of voluntary rehab.

09 October 2005

happy birthday john lennon

imagine : john lennon
click on the image below, then close your eyes and see.

John Lennon would have turned 65 today. As cliché as posting this song is, I say his message is as relevant today as it was 34 years ago. There's nothing I can say about this man that someone else hasn't already said better, so what I'll do is let Lennon himself speak. Here are excerpts from a very long interview he did in New York with Rolling Stone founder and then-editor-in-chief Jann Wenner on December 8th, 1971, exactly nine years before his death. This comes from the book The Rolling Stone Interviews: 1967-1980. Check out his answer to the last question.

What do you think rock & roll will become in the future?

Whatever we make it. If we want to go bullshitting off into intellectualism with rock & roll, then we are going to get bullshitting rock intellectualism. If we want real rock & roll, it's up to all of us to create it and stop being hyped by the revolutionary image and long hair. We've got to get over that bit. That's what cutting hair is about. Let's own up now and see who's who, who is doing something about what, and who is making music, and who is laying down bullshit. Rock & roll will be whatever we make it.

Why do you think it means so much to people?

Because the best stuff is primitive enough and has no bullshit. It gets through to you; it's beat, go to the jungle and they have the rhythm. It goes throughout the world and it's as simple as that, you get the rhythm going because everybody goes into it. I read that Eldridge Cleaver said that blacks gave the middle-class whites their bodies and put their minds and bodies together. Something like that. It gets through; it got through to me, the only thing to get through to me of all the things that were happening when I was fifteen. Rock & roll then was real; everything else was unreal. The thing about rock & roll, good rock & roll -- whatever good means and all that shit -- is that it's real, and realism gets through to you despite yourself. You recognize something in it which is true, like all true art. Whatever art is, readers. Okay. If it's real, it's simple usually, and if it's simple, it's true. Something like that. more below the image.

Barcelona subway, January 2004
What do you think are your best songs that you have written?

Ever? The one best song?

Have you ever thought of that?

I don't know. If somebody asked me what is my favorite song, is it "Stardust" or something, I can't answer. That kind of decision-making I can't do. I always liked "Walrus", "Strawberry Fields", "Help", "In My Life", those are some favorites.

Why "Help"?

Because I meant it -- it's real. The lyric is as good now as it was then. It is no different, and it makes me feel secure to know that I was that aware of myself then. It was just me singing "Help", and I meant it. I don't like the recording that much, we did it too fast trying to be commercial. I like "I Want To Hold Your Hand". We wrote that together, it's a beautiful melody...I like "Across the Universe", too. It's one of the best lyrics I've written. In fact, it could be the best. It's good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin' it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don't have to have any melody; like a poem, you can read them.

The ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don't have to have any melody; like a poem, you can read them.
Would you take it all back?


Being a Beatle?

If I could be a fuckin' fisherman, I would. If I had the capabilities of being something other than I am, I would. It's no fun being an artist. You know what it's like, writing, it's torture. I read about Van Gogh, Beethoven, any of the fuckers. If they had psychiatrists, we wouldn't have had Gauguin’s great pictures. These bastards are just socking us to death; that's about all that we can do, is do it like circus animals.

I resent being an artist, in that respect; I resent performing for fucking idiots who don't know anything. They can't feel. I'm the one that's feeling because I'm the one that is expressing. They live vicariously through me and other artists, and we are the ones...even with the boxers -- when Oscar comes in the ring, they're booing the shit out of him; he only hits Clay once and they're all cheering him. I'd sooner be the audience, really, but I'm not capable of it.

One of the big things is that I wish to be a fisherman. I know it sounds silly -- and I'd sooner be rich than poor, and all the rest of that shit -- but I wish the pain was ignorance or bliss or something. If you don't know, man, then there's no pain; that's how I express it.

What do you think the effect was of the Beatles on the history of Britain?

I don't know about the "history"; the people who are in control and in power, and the class system and the whole bullshit bourgeoisie is exactly the same, except there is a lot of fag middle-class kids with long long hair walking around London in trendy clothes, and Kenneth Tynan is making a fortune out of the word "fuck". Apart from that, nothing happened. We all dressed up, the same bastards are in control, the same people are runnin' everything. It is exactly the same.

We've grown up a little, all of us, there has been a change, and we're all a bit freer and all that, but it's the same game. Shit, they're doing exactly the same thing, selling arms to South Africa, killing blacks on the street; people are living in fucking poverty, with rats crawling over them. It just makes you puke, and I woke up to that, too.

The dream is over. It's just the same, only I'm thirty, and a lot of people have got long hair. That's what it is, man; nothing happened except that we grew up, we did our thing -- just like they were telling us. You kids -- most of the so-called "now generation" are getting a job. We're a minority, you know; people like us always were, but maybe we are a slightly larger minority because of maybe something or other.
And when we got here, you were all walkin' around in fuckin' Bermuda shorts, with Boston crew cuts and stuff on your teeth.
Why do you think the impact of the Beatles was so much bigger in America than it was in England?

The same reason that American stars are much bigger in England: The grass is greener. We were really professional by the time we got to the States; we had learned the whole game. When we arrived here, we knew how to handle the press; the British press were the toughest in the world, and we could handle anything. We were all right.

On the plane over, I was thinking, "Oh, we won't make it," or I said it on a film or something, but that's that side of me. We knew we would wipe you out if we could just get a grip on you. We were new. And when we got here, you were all walkin' around in fuckin' Bermuda shorts, with Boston crew cuts and stuff on your teeth. Now they're telling us, they're all saying, "Beatles are passé, and this is like that, man." The chicks looked like fuckin' 1940 horses. There was no conception of dress or any of that jazz. We just thought, "What an ugly race"; it looked just disgusting. We thought how hip we were, but, of course, we weren't. It was just the five of us, us and the Stones were really the hip ones; the rest of England were just the same as they ever were.

You tend to get nationalistic, and we would really laugh at America, except for its music. It was the black music we dug, and over here even the blacks were laughing at people like Chuck Berry and the blues singers; the blacks thought it was wasn't sharp to dig the really funky music, and the whites only listened to Jan and Dean and all that. We felt that we had the message which was, "Listen to the music." It was the same in Liverpool; listening to Ritchie Barret and Barrett Strong, and all those old-time records. Nobody was listening to them except Eric Burdon in Newcastle and Mick Jagger in London. It was that lonely, it was fantastic. When we came over here and it was the same -- nobody was listening to rock & roll or to black music in America -- we felt as though we were coming to the land of its origin, but nobody wanted to know about it.

song for a cloudless autumn

ramble on : train
click on the image below to listen

Leaves are falling all around; it's time I was on my way. Here's a beautiful autumn song, especially for those with ichy feet or are out on a mission to find someone to stay warm with during the winter. Call me a heretic, but I think this is one rare case where the Led Zeppelin cover is better than the original. I guess it's just that the Train version is so fresh, while the original is so dated. Well, duh, obviously, they're 30 years apart! Sorry, let me try again: Train's is fresher, cleaner, sung with such fervid vocals that Pat Monahan makes it sound almost like an earnest ballad. The original sounds so dark and devilish, which is fine if you want to give importance to the song's reference to Lord of the Rings. But everyone has his own Gollum and Mordor -- those parts of ourselves that we want to change and leave behind, and I think Pat Monahan conveys that quite convincingly.

Do you have a favorite autumn song?

what happens to the ipod at altitude

I originally posted this at a travel forum. I thought you might find it useful too. There have been questions about this before, so here's my experience when I climbed Pico Orizaba, Mexico's highest mountain (about 5,700 meters, also the third highest in North America) last July:

At 4,200-4,500 meters, my precious -- a 60g iPod photo -- worked perfectly fine. She kept me in good company when things started to get boring, and my guide started his full-volume snoring, at Piedra Grande hut. We romanced each other happily for about three or four hours, my thumb caressing her scrollwheel with no resistance whatsoever -- backlight, photo slideshow, volume all took it well -- and her buds whispering sweet Nick Drake tunes into my ears. (Hardly climbing songs, but that's me.)

At 5,300 meters, which is already high on the glacier, I retrieved my precious from my backpack and turned her on during a rest period. Hurrah, my precious played! But I turned her off right away because my guide and I were discussing whether to continue the climb or not. I (quite stupidly) left my precious lying in the snow, and gazed at the beautiful contrast of white on white. (Yeah, I know, it's a line from a song -- but look at the picture!) After our chat, I woke my precious up, and although her screen lit up, her scroll wheel was frozen (literally, I guess). I couldn't even turn her off. So I reset her, pressing the center and menu buttons at the same time. Bad idea. When I turned her on again, her screen didn't light up, and my precious gave off a constant clack-clack-pause-clack-clack sound. My precious gave up on me at 5,300 meters.

My precioussssss...in snow.
My guide and I decided to go down because we had absolutely no visibility -- there's a reason July isn't the climbing season in Orizaba -- and when we got back down to the hut, the sound was still there. I started to worry. In fact, I was so worried about my precious that I kept her deep in my backpack to give her as much cushion as possible on the way down. Naturally, the first thing I did when we got back to the town of Tlachichuca, which is about 2,600 meters, was to check on my precious. Hurrah, the sound was gone! But her battery was drained too. I was filled with an unimaginable amount of nervousness when I decided to plug my precious into the wall socket of Señor Canchola's casa, fearing she would explode, but she only sprung back to life and smiled back at me. As if nothing happened. Her battery too didn't seem to have been affected, as her endurance during our seven-hour romps in overnight buses around Mexico would prove.

My precious and I are still living happily together.

in other news

Check out Madonna's website for a very short preview of Hung Up, the first single from her latest album, Confessions on a Dancefloor. You'll hear right away that the song samples ABBA's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Not surprisingly, Hung Up is endorsed by ABBA themelves. I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time Madonna used a song that's heavily dependent on sampled rhythm for her first single. Her album before this, Music, was all original (thanks to French DJ Mirwais), as was Ray of Light (thanks to William Orbit), and quite likely, everything else before these.

What's the significance? Nothing, really. I just think that although she's sampled other artists in the past, Madonna is by and large an original artist, and her use of dancefloor legends ABBA for her latest first single is an unintentional revelation that she can't hold it on her own anymore. But yes, Hung Up sounds promising; in fact, I was already singing it while I was cooking lunch. The single is out on November 14th. On a side note: It looks like Madonna fans still cling to her past. Her most downloaded song on iTunes music store, which got hold of her entire catalog only last month, is Like a Prayer, followed by Material Girl, Ray of Light, Music, and Like a Virgin.

07 October 2005

a playlist : make-out songs by women

inside and out : leslie feist
click on the image below to listen

So much going on in the world today, and all I could think about while I was reading the papers this morning was: Why are so many make-out playlists filled with songs by men? Google it any way you want -- "songs to get laid by," "songs to make love to," "sex music" -- and chances are the lists would be at least three-quarters testosterone, from R&B classics like Let's Get It On (Marvin Gaye) and Never, Never Gonna Give You Up (Barry White), to rock standards like You Do Something To Me (Paul Weller) and In Your Eyes (Peter Gabriel), to rather dubious ones like Under the Milky Way (The Church -- yeah, if you're Donnie Darko) and Lay Lady Lay (Bob Dylan -- if you're Dylan). Even this he-said-she-said list from Stylus Magazine is 80 percent male. Ever wondered why that is?

So I'm making a playlist of songs by female artists that make me want to get freaky, starting with Inside And Out by Leslie Feist. The Canadian singer-songwriter did for this song what the testicularly challenged Bee Gees, who originally recorded it in 1979, could not. In fact, despite the detumescent effect of its title, Feist's debut album Let It Die is a thrilling sensual potion -- dark enough to hint at the unexpected, but unfailingly gorgeous with her fuck-me come-hither vocals. The rest of the songs below are sexy in their own way, and I made a bit of an effort to make sure they come from different genres. I wish I could have included something a little off-beat like Bjork or Cibo Matto, but I guess I'm a little too conventional about this:
  • The Look Of Love : Dusty Springfield
  • I Want You : Madonna
  • Stormy Blues : Billie Holiday
  • These Are The Things About You : Ivy
  • No Ordinary Love : Sade
  • Holiday : Club 8
  • Samba De Bencao : Bebel Gilberto
  • You're Makin' Me High : Toni Braxton
  • I Don't Want To Know : Muki
  • Sway : Bic Runga
So what are your sexiest female songs?

in other news

Morrissey has a new album, to be called Ringleader Of The Tormentors, that he hopes to complete by November 1st for an early 2006 release. Although I'm not quite happy with the title -- I can't help but think of the parallelism with King of Pain -- I'm very much looking forward to it and hoping it's an improvement from last year's You Are The Quarry, which is already quite good. Still, I think Morrissey has hit his peak with 1994's Vauxhall and I. More details about Tormentor at NME.

To benefit victims of hurricanes Rita and Katrina, Mark Kozelek is auctioning off two of his guitars on eBay until October 15th. Pics below, bids here. And this isn't quite news, but since we're on the subject, he's also releasing a new album, via Sun Kil Moon, of Modest Mouse covers. Knowing how inventive Kozelek is with his reinterpretations -- just listen to his version of I Am A Rock by Simon & Garfunkel -- and how clever Modest Mouse are, Tiny Cities should be a blast. It will be in stores on November 1st, and I can't wait!

You too can now finger Kozelek's guitars!

Rock Star Quote of the Day: "I love him, I really do. How much? Well, you know Leningrad in Russia? I think they should name it Lennongrad in honour of him." Coldplay frontman Chris Martin to Q Magazine (November 2005), on why he loves John Lennon.