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.

04 October 2005

i give in. i surrender.

que vida la mia : reik
click on the image below to listen.
haz click en la imagen para escuchar.

This song by the Mexican boyband Reik (see how pretty they are?) is the longest-lasting earworm I've ever suffered, hands down. I'm posting it as an act of self-exorcism. I first heard it on the night I arrived in Mexico for my holiday last July. It followed me everywhere -- from Guanajuato to Puebla to Oaxaca to Mexico City, on the video channels, on the radio, in the shops selling pirated CDs. To its credit, Que Vida La Mia, which loosely translates to This Life of Mine or What Life I Have, has a very addictive beat, and I love the way it starts off as an acoustic number, then briefly adds punches of electric guitar in the verse after the chorus, and winds back down towards the end. Pure pop bliss. But it's not just that. I'm a learner of Spanish, and the fact that I can understand most of what the song says makes it more -- I hate to use this term -- endearing to me. Like most boyband themes, it's about infatuation, and how this guy wants to get better acquainted with the girl he fancies. "I just want to be your friend," he says in one line, and in another, "I'm dying to kiss your lips." Gee, I've never kissed any of my friends' lips. Any volunteers?

En español: Discúlpame si mi español es malo, sólo estoy practicando! Esta canción, por el grupo mexicano Reik es, sin duda, el earworm que he sufrido por más largo tiempo. Lo estoy poniendo aquí en un acto de autoexorcismo. Primero lo oí la noche que llegué a México, para mis vacaciones, el julio pasado. Me siguió a todas partes -- de Guanajuato a Puebla a Oaxaca a D.F., en los canales musicales, en la radio, en las tiendas que venden CD piratas. A su favor, Que Vida La Mia tiene un ritmo muy adictivo, y me encanta la manera en que comienza acústicamente, y luego agrega unos golpes de guitarra eléctrica, y otra vez se relaja al final. Pero no es sólo eso. Soy un estudiante de español, y el hecho de que yo pudiera entender casi toda la letra, hace la canción más agradable para mí. Es sobre un enamoramiento juvenil, y cómo este joven desea conocer más a esta chica. "Yo sólo quiero ser tu amigo," dice en una línea, y en otra, "Y me muero por probar tus labios." Yo nunca he besado los labios de ninguna de mis amigas. Alguna voluntaria?

(Gracias a Loscar y Mazgringo por sus correcciónes.)

03 October 2005

the OC-fication of indie music

i will follow you into the dark : death cab for cutie
click on the band image below to listen

lightness : death cab for cutie
click on the o.c. cd cover image below to listen

Ossification : the process of becoming rigidly fixed in a conventional pattern of thought or behavior; hardened conventionality.

You're probably sick of hearing about Death Cab For Cutie by now, but just bear with me for a moment. I've been listening to them for a while now, impressed by the jagged lyricism of vocalist Ben Gibbard and the innovative production of guitarist Chris Walla. Ben writes with a singular perspective on the perennial themes of love and death, with none of the affected anger or cynical alienation that tears through the coffee-stained napkins of every jaded Seattle songwriter armed with bitter ink. Instead, Gibbard's songs are laden with the insecurity of a young man who fumbles through his relationships and emotions in search of himself, yet chooses to remain only half-involved. He's the guy who stands outside the coffee house, looking through its rain-soaked glass walls, watching a watercolor semblance of himself enjoying a cheesecake with a girl named Guinevere. Happiness, for him, is an undeserved privilege. You don't listen to Death Cab For Cutie to feel good about yourself, unless you get off mocking followers of the heretofore obscure band.

Their collective outing, however, came with the popularity of the TV drama The O.C. I've never sat through an entire episode of that show, but from what I gather one of its main characters, the nerdy and -- guess what -- insecure Seth has dropped the band's name in a number of episodes. Its creators topped it off by ultimately crafting a scene where the band performed on the show, unquestionably giving Death Cab For Cutie the kind of buzz that buzzes the buzzers of major record labels. With their latest album Plans, released just about a month ago, the quartet of Ben (vocals, guitar), Chris (vocals, keyboard), Jason McGerr (drums) and Nick Harmer (bass) finally strip their eight-year-old indie identity and settle into the cushy cushions of Atlantic Records. And with that comes the attendant indignation of long-time fans wearing Death Cab T-shirts stamped with a blood-red SELLOUT! across the chest. To be sure, it's easy to criticize the album. While it's good enough to please tolerant followers like myself -- especially with songs like I Will Follow You Into The Dark -- it offers nothing new and, I can objectively say, is a step down from the glasscutter sharpness of Transatlanticism, where the song Lightness comes from. I'm posting both songs for you to compare and contrast.

Naturally, today's Rock Star Quote of the Day comes from a Cutie, bassist Nick Harmer. This mouthful comes from their cover story on Paste Magazine. "If you have a hard line on bands and major labels, that pretty much says to me that you have the lamest record collection of anyone in the world. I guess you don't buy any Clash records or Talking Heads records or Bowie. I guess you don't have any Stones or Beatles or Pixies or Radiohead or Nirvana...There are a million great bands who have done major-label things and had their souls intact. And if you would tell me that you're not going to buy their records, from the sheer fact that a major label is affiliated with it, I guess that's your prerogative, but I don't want to hang out with you. If you've never danced your ass off to 'Walking on Sunshine' or The Romantics' 'What I Like About You', you're a hollow person. Anyway, whatever, I could go on and on, but I don't want to make it sound like a rant." So there.

Rock Star Boyfriend Joins Model Girlfriend in Shame. From The Guardian: "Pete Doherty, frontman with the band Babyshambles, was released on police bail last night after being arrested earlier in a drugs raid on a venue in Shrewsbury, where he had been playing. Doherty, the on-off boyfriend of supermodel Kate Moss, had been performing at the town's Music Hall on Saturday night shortly before it was raided by detectives with sniffer dogs. A number of items recovered during the raid will be forensically examined; a quantity of what were believed to be class A drugs was also recovered."