29 June 2005

no myth : acoustic : michael penn

click here to listen
listening time: 3m 44s

drowning in work. here's something from aimee's husband.

oh, wait. here's something i thought of the other day: how to piss off colleague x in a meeting. and make sure you show off your biceps while stressing your point:
man, you're glib. you don't even know what {topic} is. if you start talking about {topic}, you have to evaluate and read the research papers, x, okay? that's what i've done. you should be a bit more responsible in knowing what it is because you communicate to people.
yeah, i'm just trying to fill up this space. ttfn!

24 June 2005

the kindness of strangers

click on the title to listen. note: there's a bit of a glitch in this file. if the song doesn't start right away, click pause then play. also, don't pay attention to the timer, which is out of whack. the total listening time is only 6m 31s.

this is an alternative version of the phenomenal song, from a rare benefit album called rainn songs, produced by atlanta's 99x radio station for the rape, abuse & incest national network. i discovered it during the heydays of napster, but the encoding was very bad, and the song skipped a couple of times. i searched high and low for a copy of the album, and neither the station nor e-bay had it. i couldn't even find it in any of the p2p clients i use. so i finally decided to post in ipodlounger that i was looking for a good rip of this song, and in just a few hours i received a reply -- and the song file -- from forum member ihaveanipod. he or she correctly identified it as the best version of this song.

in fact, this version is too good to be kept hidden in an obscure compilation, so i'm sharing it. enjoy.

22 June 2005

good thing : patty larkin

click here to listen
listening time: 4m 36s

a song that's almost too beautiful for words. i remembered to post it because of the weather. we've had nothing but rain over the last few days, and i'm loving it. i've always found the rain soothing. i first heard this song one quiet sunday morning in bed. i had just woken up, listening to this album. rain was looming, but i kept my window ajar. this song came on just as the rain started to fall, and i relished the feeling of drizzles softly, graciously, almost respectfully touching my face. everything seemed to be in slow motion during those four minutes.

Good Thing
by Patty Larkin
Well I've heard enough
And I've seen enough
And I know enough to know
I know a Good Thing when I see it
And it's a bad thing to let go

Well I've been around
I've been up and down
Until I bent out of control
With your world all in motion
Got to put a ball and a chain on your soul

All those angels running
Picking up the pieces
Putting back together hearts broke long ago
I know a Good Thing when I see it
And it's a bad thing to let go

There will always
Be lovers
With borders of their own
And you may charge across
In a golden chariot
But you will never be home

I had dreams like distant thunder
I had hope like a prayer unheard
Now this is nothing
Less than perfect
In a less than perfect world

21 June 2005

i can't help you anymore : aimee mann

click here to listen
listening time: 4m 52s

i've been trying to like the forgotten arm, aimee mann's latest album, but i can't get past my initial feeling of 'what the hell?' it could be the whole concept of the album. i just can't connect with it. the forgotten arm -- which mann dedicates to "the alcoholic and addict who still suffers" -- follows the relationship of a carnival performer and a down-on-his-luck boxer that begins just before the latter is sent off to war in vietnam. he comes back addicted, and the circus performer has been trying to find a way out of the relationship since. each song is a chapter that unravels disillusionment, despair and ultimately, doom. these themes already make for a strong material that would appeal to those who agree that the most interesting relationships are inherently complex and all too often tragic. but in writing each song, mann forces too much creativity and achieves the opposite. we're distracted by too much meter and rhyme for their own sake, that they end up being a constraint to, instead of a form of, story-telling.
once somebody stationed in kuala lumpur
said he thought you went out but he couldn't be sure.
- dear john

you pulled up and parked your el dorado
we said "hi" and kissed with some bravado
- beautiful
nice. now in your next effort, can we please have less of these silly rhymes and more of the grown-up perspective you demonstrated in the following songs, which are the best moments of the album?
was i the bullet or the gun
or just a target drawn upon
a wall that you decided wasn't worth defending?
- i can't help you anymore

life just kind of empties out
less a deluge than a drought
less a giant mushroom cloud than an unexploded shell
- little bombs
the forgotten arm, a boxing reference to an unexpected punch from what was perceived as the opponent's weaker arm, comes after mann's four consistently excellent studio outputs. although as a concept album it explores and successfully demonstrates mann's dark and twisted view of relationships, no track stands out the way save me did in the soundtrack she created for the film magnolia, or lost in space from her album of the same name. ah, but maybe it'll grow on me after a few more listens.

13 June 2005

sunshower : chris cornell

click here to listen
listening time: just under 6m

i'm typing this while waiting for my flight for a business trip. the flight leaves in 40 minutes.

i leave you with this beautiful song by former soundgarden, now audioslave vocalist chris cornell, from the soundtrack to the underrated 1998 film great expectations. cornell has got to be one of the best male voices in rock. too bad he isn't so prolific as a solo artist.

boarding now. see you all next monday. behave children, and remember: eat! your! vegetables!

09 June 2005

love steals us from loneliness : idlewild

click here to listen
listening time: 3m 12s

this is first single and my second favorite song from idlewild's latest album warnings / promises, which is a solid piece of work and a welcome affirmation of the band's departure from their headier, earlier days. the 13 songs in this album, the very title of which suggests duality, alternate almost predictably between electric and acoustic. die-hard fans from their native scotland are probably crying sellout (it doesn't help that the band is opening for u2 and r.e.m. this summer) but standing on the soft side of alternative rock, i like them better this way. kinder, gentler, ten pints more sober.

my only glitch with warnings / promises is the heavy r.e.m. influence which to my ears is more obvious here than in their previous albums. when roody woomble sings the line happy birthday, are you lonely now in this song, you can almost hear michael stipe cry a similar line in shiny happy people. in fact, the acoustic half of the album could have come from r.e.m.'s out of time, and the electric half from monster. this doesn't necessarily mean that idlewild are losing their original sound; i guess they're on their way to finding a new one, and woomble's sharp, wistful songwriting and vocals make sure they don't falter along the way. get this from the all-acoustic not just sometimes but always, my favorite track:
i wake up hearing unfamiliar voices
convinced they're trying to explain
that if my words were clearer
then maybe i would know what i'm trying to say
just as those long forgotten voices
disappear back into rain
granted, the sedate, even soothing, medoly betrays the more somber reality of the song, but you can take that as a struggle against bleakness. it's hopeful, and hopeful is mature. welcome home, goodnight and the bonus track are also clear winners in this album, featuring vocal harmonies that are more pleasant than what r.e.m. can achieve. (not that anyone can actually harmonize with stipe.) both songs open with acoustic guitars and stay in that mode for the rest of the song. love steals us... as you can hear opens with pounding drums and angry riffs before mellowing out, a brilliant choice as first single because it best shows the band in transition. but it is still edgy, and if they keep it that way idlewild will stay on the good side of alternative pop, perhaps in the company of train, another great, under-appreciated r.e.m.-influenced band.

nine stars out of ten.

07 June 2005

a playlist : ballads from the new school

oneway : drew o'doherty
click here to listen
listening time: 4m 07s
don't i hold you : wheat
click here to listen
listening time: 3m 50s

this is a playlist i made to give a name to this new set of male artists who make personal, intimate pop ballads sans fromage. the music is uncluttered and the words are expressive, not effusive. they're boys who grew up to be boys, fell in love, broke their hearts, and mope with their guitars. there is a trifle sense of immaturity in their stories, and they're not afraid to expose their vulnerability, but the sincerity shines through. you get the feeling they've been through exactly what they're narrating. others:

collide : howie day
back to you : john mayer
chemical : rockwell church
sleeping to dream : jason mraz
loud : matt nathanson
caught up in your love : ari hest
hold on tight : christopher jak
the wanderer : marc broussard

you can download o'doherty's song from his page in myspace, which is an excellent resource for independent music.

update. i e-mailed drew to let him know i blogged about his song, and he replied saying he's currently at work on a full-length album that's coming out soon, which should be something to look forward to. he is currently on tour in cambridge, where he will perform with tom thumb at zuzu on thursday. follow drew's progress in his website.

03 June 2005

cannonball : damien rice

click here to listen to the album version
listening time: 5m 10s
click here to listen to the radio edit
listening time: 3m 26s

a song that's destined to be a classic, despite being overshadowed by the blower's daughter (famously used in the soundtrack to the film closer) and volcano. with cannonball, irish singer-songwriter damien rice creates a masterpiece out of simple words and chords: they've all been said and done before, but the emotion comes alive with his voice and the undulating guitar arrangement that perfectly captures the writer's hesitation and longing.

here are two versions of the song. i actually like the radio edit better; the pause or suspension between the first and second verses works for me. it's only literally a fraction of the song, but it's a charming effect. i enjoy tiny moments like this in a song. this version comes from the bonus disc and is the most accessible song from his album o, which is the work of a weathered storyteller, something you wouldn't have expected since o is a debut album.