26 September 2005

oh yes indeed they do

weeks go by like days : my morning jacket
click on the image below to listen

I'm posting this song in recognition of the fact -- the title says it all. We're approaching the final quarter of 2005 and what have we achieved so far? I hate to think. In fact, I don't even know what I achieved this weekend; certainly, not the story I'm supposed to finish by Tuesday. And since I'm not even supposed to be blogging, I'm just going to let All Music Guide do the talking about My Morning Jacket, a band that's so underrated I'm surprised iTunes has them:
My Morning Jacket is a four-piece band from Louisville, KY, built solidly around the vocal and songwriting talent of group leader Jim James. Their sound is lonesome, haunting, almost classic country at times, and that voice -- Jim James' voice shares the same section of that old country highway with the familiar sounds of Neil Young, yet sounds right at home here in the world of independent American pop music, alongside contemporary singers like the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and Galaxie 500's Dean Wareham. Like Galaxie 500, My Morning Jacket weaves songs and sounds together perfectly -- underneath the big open sky filled with bright stars of course -- never allowing the heavy reverb (and the reverb is definitely heavy) to subtract anything from the visual lyrics, or from the simple beauty of the songs themselves. Along with singer Jim James, My Morning Jacket was founded with his cousin Johnny Quaid (guitar), Two-Tone Tommy (bass), and J. Glenn (drums).
Critics are praising Martin Scorsese's 3.5-hour documentary on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home, to high heavens. According to the Washington Post: "Scorsese illuminates just how evolutionary and revolutionary Dylan's art was, putting it into musical and historical context without becoming overbearing. He brilliantly charts Dylan's restless mutation from Woody Guthrie acolyte to folk icon, from poetic singer-songwriter to raucous rocker."

Rock Star Quote of the Day: "I've got to go pretty soon, I've got 20 more calls to make tonight." Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson on the phone to a reporter, referring to his vow to personally phone people donating at least US$100 to Hurricane Katrina victims.

In other news, in case you haven't noticed, I redesigned my blog. Got tired of the blue theme, and thought I'd make a different header graphic as well. Those guys above are pretty much the musicians I respect the most, and they are:
I know the new design makes my blog look darker (not to mention that there are pictures of three dead people up there), but I kind of like it this way. Let me know if it's too much; suggestions on how to improve it are most welcome.

24 September 2005

song for a lost weekend

breakdown : tom petty & the heartbreakers
click on the image below to listen

I could have posted the song Lost Weekend by Lloyd Cole but this has a bit more meaning to me. You know those songs that just get you going like the Energizer bunny? Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits album had that effect on me during an all-nighter at work a long time ago. Finished a six-page article with that CD on repeat in the background. Free Fallin', Learning to Fly, American Girl -- great songs to pump musical adrenalin into your system. Now I'll be working this weekend -- all weekend and well into Monday -- hoping to beat a Tuesday deadline that will make my work load for the whole of next month a heck of a lot easier. I hope I don't break down. So I'm listening to the same album hoping it will have the same effect. Then again, the fact that I'm blogging and not working doesn't exactly herald a good start.

Just got an e-mail from Apple announcing that they've raised the capacity of their .Mac web hosting service by 100 percent. Hurrah, 2GB of storage for me...and about time too! I pay Apple 100 bucks a year for hosting the songs I post here as well as my online photo albums. Sure, it comes with loads of free stuff and the hyper efficient integration with iPhoto, but if Google's e-mail service can give that much capacity for free, a Ben Franklin seems a bit too much.

So are they or are they not? Shirley Manson of Garbage was quoted by an Australian newspaper as saying there's a possibility that the band would call it quits after their current tour. Then she backtracks and says no one in the band is interested in breaking up. Whatever. I've only heard snippets of the songs from their new album, Bleed Like Me, which they're calling their strongest output after years of creative drought, and I doubt that the rains have returned. Oh well. They only still catch my attention because their debut album reminds me of good times with friends, oh, about 10 years ago?

Rock Star Quote of the Day: "People think I'm a freak or something, but I'm actually a really normal guy." Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo to MTV, on how he found peace through meditation. With albums like Make Believe, I think calling himself normal is an insult to all the normal people out there.

22 September 2005

steve jobs, inxs, quote of the day

Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks out against greedy record labels demanding that iTunes Music Store jack up the price of song downloads from the current $0.99 per song. "If they want to raise the prices, it just means they're getting a little greedy," he tells the media before the Apple Expo in Paris. "If the prices go up a lot, (consumers) will go back to piracy. Everybody loses." I completely agree. First of all, as Jobs also says, the cost of selling songs online is already far less than selling physical CDs. As this chart from a Wired article illustrates, song downloads can cost as little as $0.79 each. Also, record-label executives are thinking short-term here. Consumers are just warming up to the idea of buying songs online; it isn't good to turn them away, and back into piracy, by making downloads more expensive now.

As I sort of predicted here, former Elvis impersonator JD Fortune would become the new vocalist for INXS. Despite having way too much attitude, JD's actually got much of the same qualities as Michael Hutchence -- mainly the smooth voice and charisma -- and it was obvious from the beginning. Although the band seem to like Marty Casey a lot, being the old farts that they are, why would INXS take a risk with a vocalist that's got a different style to what they're used to? Marty is too dark and Mig Ayesa is too soft. Besides, JD wrote the better song -- "Pretty Vegas" is very radio friendly. I can't believe people who raved over Marty's "Trees" -- You and me up in the tree / You and I up in the sky? Did he even get past kindergarten? I do hope though that Suzie McNeil will have a good solo career. She can fill the shoes of washed-up female rockers like Melissa Etheridge and Courtney Love. Oh and she may as well kick Sheryl Crow's skinny ass too.

Rock Star Quote of the Day: "I'm all right. I'm good. There have been better times, but I'll be OK." Country artist with a very gay pout Kenny Chesney, on the pending annulment of his four-month marriage to Renee Zelleweger, indeed sounding cheesier than his songs.

18 September 2005

kt tunstall : black horse and the cherry tree

kt tunstall, a scottish singer-songwriter with chinese blood, has been in the critics' circle for about a year now. yet her debut album, eye to the telescope, remains way off the radar, at least outside her native scotland and the u.k., where she was one of the 10 nominees for the mercury prize. comparisons have been earnestly positive, even though they range from the incredible such as carole king and rikki lee jones to the questionable such as dido and alanis morissette. neither end of the range is surprising, however. listen to the song, her first single from the album, and it's not hard to understand why some would hold her up there with the legendary female artists. but given the way new artists are marketed these days -- the constant search for the next big thing -- you can say those who compare her to the latter set are just being realistic: they probably think tunstall will be packaged out of coffeehouse obscurity into chart superstardom, and then burn out to near-oblivion after the big first impression. eventually, some of them will find a niche, but the hype probably does more harm than good in terms of the artists' respectability, which they will need to gain long-term followers. i can't really give my own opinion about kt tunstall, as i haven't got her album yet -- this comes from a compilation -- but i'm eager to learn more about her music. if i were to make my own comparison, though, then she has the pop appeal of a michelle branch and the bite of a melissa ferrick.

15 September 2005

understatement : seth horan

quick, five seconds to answer this question: how many singer-songwriters do you know use the bass guitar as their instrument of choice? my answer: one. i found out about seth horan, former bassist of vertical horizon, from amazon's "listeners who bought...also bought..." recommendations system. it doesn't always work, but i'm glad to have stumbled into seth anyway. listen to this song and marvel at how skilful this guy is with his digits. but that's just half the story. his songwriting is actually very smart, and his voice is quite convincing too. understatement is a perfect pop song where all its elements just gel tightly together. the title refers to a relationship in which those involved conceal their true feelings and expectations of each other, but it also describes the way seth's bass guitar takes second place behind his storytelling. so many rock songs are written to highlight the virtuosity of their guitarists, and for someone like seth who's a rare breed, it's so easy to get tempted to do the same with his bass so he can get noticed. but he doesn't fall for it; he's a songwriter first and bassist second. my favorite line from this song:
See, we've been doing what we can to hide these scars we can't conceal. They don't run deep; they'll heal with time; we're not that bitter yet, I guess. But it saddens me to know you understand my loneliness, and if heartache caused these scars to one as innocent as you, then yours will look like mine; you wait, you'll see what time can do.
like he says here, the song could have been a diary entry one day in late november. learn more about seth and his latest (2004) album conduit from this review. his two albums are also downloadable on itunes music store.

14 September 2005

attack of the killer pam-pams

you can have it all : yo la tengo
click on the image below to listen. go on, don't be shy. it won't bite.

sorry about the blog title. don't get me wrong; i'm not trivializing yo la tengo. they're one of my all-time favorite bands, but as with red house painters and radiohead, i can't seem to speak about them without feeling that my words are too inadequate. so i'll just take the simple route and say here's a peculiar song from a peculiar band. what makes you can have it all peculiar is the neurotically melodic backing vocals that can very well make the song stand on its own without any musical instrument -- and i think yo la tengo have done it this way in some of their concerts. this is a love song, but it's anxious, foreboding, almost threatening. the interaction between the background and the lead vocals, coupled with the song's unequivocal lyrics, creates an image not of unbridled passion, but submissive obsession. call me a pervert, but i listen to this, and i hear a very sensual song -- not of the honeymoon-in-satin-sheets kind. think cuffs. think whips. think candle drips. abuse me, biatch! okay, you probably won't think the same way on first listen, but give it a while and you'll see what i mean...

11 September 2005

easy sunday listening

a waltz for a night : julie delpy
click on the image below to listen

in case the artist and the tiny picture on the left hasn't already made it obvious, this song comes from the movie before sunset, which makes for a good sunday viewing. it's a beautifully done sequel that satisfies fans of the first movie, before sunrise, and if i may say so, it's also one of the most delicately rendered love stories made on film. but i guess i can say this because it's my generation, and because i prefer subtlety over drama. there are no big moments in both films, and in before sunset, the characters don't even kiss. yet the film exudes so much artistry and eroticism, and this song, which julie delpy's character sings toward the end, is a very fitting climax.

oh and i just have to post this picture below -- a scene from the opening of the film, at a bookstore in paris -- because i've been there! the bookstore is called shakespeare & co., and it sits just by the river seine, on the left bank. you can see the notre dame cathedral from outside. it's probably the mustiest bookstore you'll ever find.

anyway. the listen link above is for the version that made its way to the soundtrack. you can listen to the audio capture from the film -- just julie and her guitar -- here. i remembered to post this song after watching school of rock on hbo last night -- it was by the same director, richard linklater. pretty cool, huh? apparently he's doing a fim called fast food nation, based on the book, which is an excellent piece of work. should be interesting.

10 September 2005

the ipod nano

i wish that was my hand holding the latest ipod incarnation. i can't believe how small they've shrunk the thing; it looks even more fragile than a frozen bar of lindt chocolate. it sure won't feel right anymore if i kept it in my back pocket, like i always do with my 0.75-inch ipod photo. sit. snap! oops. i can already envision the snazzy hard, metal enclosures for this. i think i'll go for a chrome case that snaps shut, you know, like one of those metal name card holders, with windows of course for the screen and scroll wheel. smart move moving the position of the headphone jack. it's now at the bottom, and apart from the option of using traditional earphones, you can buy something like this so you can wear it around your neck, like you would the ipod shuffle. so now that the mini is gone, i wonder how soon before steve and jonathan are able to shrink the larger model, while bringing its capacity to 100 gigs. my 60 gigs are already full. a year, perhaps? two? never?

08 September 2005

three cheers for blandness

never know : jack johnson
click on the image below to listen.

i could be posting a ramones song. i could be posting a pixies song. heck, i could even be posting about weezer and how i hate these illiterate bastards. instead, here i am nodding my head and tapping my toes while listening to a jack johnson song. what are the chances of your picking up the latest copy of outside magazine, only to find jack johnson on the cover, and have a jack johnson song play randomly in your ipod at the exact moment? i swore off this guy after tiring of the novelty of his first two albums, bushfire fairytales and on & on. i used to like him, because he came at a time when the pop airwaves were being bombarded by the eminems, beyoncés and timberlakes of the world. he was a fresh break, with a fresh-from-the-surf sound. and then i got bored. he repeats the same formula in his latest album, in between dreams. i regretted buying it, but today's odd coincidence made me think otherwise, at least thanks to this song. it's a very catchy tune, with a simple, trippy beat and a sicky sweet vocal trick in the chorus, all the while trying to be philosophical. (we're just moments, we're clever but we're clueless, we're just human, amusing and confusing...) mmkay. anyway, read his profile in the magazine's website. he does sound like a good guy.

07 September 2005

a song for new orleans

build : the housemartins

i was torn between this song and caravan of love, also covered by the housemartins, but the positivity of the sound of this song won out despite some of its words not being entirely appropriate. just pretend that the first stanza refers to hurricane katrina. obviously, i'm as surprised as anyone else that a disaster of this magnitude could happen in the united states. probably, i'm also as tired as everyone else of the blamestorming that's characterized this disaster since day one, which lent new meaning to new orleans' monicker as the city that care forgot. enough. it's unconstructive. time to think of rebuilding morale, livelihood, and the city itself. 

on a more (way more) narrowminded note, i'm saddened by the fact that new orleans has changed -- as it no doubt will -- even before i could see it the way it is romanticized in my mind. it's one of my top five u.s. cities to visit, and i've already crossed out three of them. but who knows, perhaps, in spite of the tragedy and the scar that the tragedy leaves behind, the city will retain its old soul, its old heart, its old sound. perhaps a new character will emerge. a new inspiration. a new style of music. perhaps.

05 September 2005

thank god for freebies

here i dreamt i was an architect : the decemberists

here's a band i'd like to get to know better. i found out about the decemberists from a cd that came with a music magazine that i like. (it's called paste, and it's a shame they only come out once every two months, because they're one of the few mature ones around.) the featured decemberist song, we both go down together, hooked my interest. after a quick google, i was able to download a few of their earlier songs, including this one from their 2003 album castaways and cutouts, which you can download for free here. my conclusion so far: colin meloy doesn't have the best voice on the block, but he uses it to his music's advantage, because his lyrics are layered with the kind of skewed narrative and homoerotic imagery i normally associate with morrissey. in the soldiering life, meloy writes: but you, my brother in arms, i'd rather i'd lose my limbs, than let you come to harm. it's reminiscent of the smiths' there is a light that never goes out: and if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die. this shouldn't really come as a surprise as meloy has professed his fanaticism toward the smiths, but what's surprising is he seems to approximate morrissey's unabashed delivery of passionate, personal stories quite effortlessly. of course, having listened to only a few decemberist songs and not having any of their albums, i could be wrong with the analogy. note to self: must check out all their albums soon.

01 September 2005

marry me martha!

factory : martha wainwright

last night was the first time i ever heard martha wainwright's voice. but the first few lines of factory were enough for me to know that i'm going to keep her close to the heart of my musical collection for a long while. i have a weakness for female voices that evoke a feeling of fragile calm, and wainwright's comes close to its perfect balance. hope sandoval ripped my heart with drugged nonchalance. harriet wheeler hollowed it out with her quiet distance. but wainwright gave it a renewed trust that some things we have lost may come back in the end. it's the voice of a woman sitting forlorn on her porch, blankly staring at the starless sky, an occasional tear sliding into the half-consumed glass of wine she holds against her chest. it's strength and vulnerability at the same time, and wainwright knows neither will prevail, because neither has to.