Category Archives: Music & Movies

Frothy Pop or Why I Don’t Listen to Britney Spears

This morning around 4 am, suddenly awoken by what I am sure was the past date Long Trail Belgian White I drank, I casually rolled over onto my remote to MTV AM. (Shocking, but MTV does still broadcast music videos. And at 4 am, N Sync serenaded me sweetly with “Pop.”) Do you remember N Sync? I do. I wish I didn’t, though.

This got me thinking. Britney Spears, perhaps the artist who ushered in the recent age of pop music, doesn’t particularly make good music. If you ran my low-alto three note range voice through auto-tune, I wouldn’t sound half bad either. Sex and music have always been tied together (Elvis’ hips. Amen.) But I still want music along with my visual of gyrating.

I like pop music. Much as this ruins my street cred, I adore Lily Allen. When she “retired” from the music business, I was devastated. I love her music and her voice and her unabashed confrontation of issues. Britney “sang” a thinly veiled song about threesomes, but Lily Allen wrote and sang a song called “Fuck You” — literally calling out people on being assholes.

I like my pop to be frothy and fun. And not overly processed. I don’t like auto-tune or want auto-tune. I want it to lift my spirits with its cheerful bounciness. I want to feel good when I plug myself into my iPod, not dirty and processed. (Miley Cyrus? Lollerskates.)

In addition to Lily Allen, my boyfriend got me into Swedish singer Annie. She’s got some processed beats, sure, but you can hear her voice. And it is so undeniably and adorably Swedish. (And I can say this with some authority, as I’m friends with an au pair who is undeniably and adorably Swedish.) Annie lifted my spirits today.

So, for those of you reading this, turn off Britney and Miley and all those Disney tweens. And listen to these:

You’re welcome.

Sad Songs – Titled Inspired by the Frames

Before I start this post I’d like to give a huge shout out and thank you to the folks at General Motors who supported the heck out of my last post. It means so much to me.

Now, onto business!

At nearly 22 years old, I was recently the recipient of my very first broken heart. Ah yes, my first one. Oh, the perils of youth. Moving on! Music is often my refuge in painful situations, but I have discovered that some music rubs salt in the wound. And I don’t mean cooking salt, I mean rock salt. Or ice-melting salt. Or a sick combination of the two.

So with my reasonably extensive knowledge of music, and frequent recent music choice fails, I have compiled a brief list of music to be avoided for those of you in similar situations.

1. 80% of any songs by Stars.
2. Avoid the Frames at all costs.
3. The Smiths can be taken in small doses. Pick songs at your discretion.
4. Death Cab for Cutie songs are frequently a poor choice.
5. Coldplay. But honestly, you shouldn’t be listening to Coldplay anyway.
6. The Cure. That’s an obvious one.
7. Any Simon & Garfunkel songs with a woman’s name in the title. Or angst-induced melancholy.
8. Mindless Self Indulgence. The music may be crap, but it will also bring you to the anger stage of grief far faster than you’d like. Also, will exponentially increase the level of said anger.
9. Anything by She & Him. Especially “Sentimental Heart.”
10. Happy music. It will make you bitter.

So, you may ask, if happy music is banned entirely, what do you suggest?
Well, that’s easy.
Put in your ear buds (because they bring the music most directly) and play The Misfits. No, don’t play the Misfits. Blast The Misfits. Rattle your eardrums. Listening to The Misfits renders your brain completely incapable of any thought (and I mean that in a positive way). The music is too fast and too loud to think about anything else.

This is my musical cure. If your ears start ringing, turn the music down. If your eardrums start bleeding, go see a doctor.

A Word for Johnny Cash

Who saw the movie “Walk The Line”? I did. It was excellent. It introduced me to the music of Johnny Cash which I have since carried close to my heart. Music critics will define him as a country singer, but I think he transcends country music and genre specifications entirely.

Johnny Cash writes songs that make heartbreak understandable and bearable. The pain in his voice is the pain you feel, and even though he has long since passed, you know he understood you. I first thought this when he covered Nine Inch Nail’s song “Hurt” after his wife had passed. I felt it again in the car today listening to “Solitary Man”.

I have mentioned in prior posts that I give great credit to a movie that, when it’s over, feels like your life and everyone’s life. I’d like now to give the same credit to Johnny Cash’s music. He gave new life and new perspective to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” You can sit in your car or on the floor of your apartment and just know that you’re not alone. Such is the power of Johnny Cash’s music.

And knowing that someone, even though you and he had nothing in common, has felt the same way you have — it makes you feel far less alone in the world.

Summer Music

Disclaimer: LFO’s “Summer Girls” is completely barred from this list.

Every summer, I have music that I love. Some summers are entirely centered around one artist, some summers have a rotation of favorites, but every summer has its sound.

In Summer 2006, I had an internship in Greenwich, and it was a beautiful summer. Greenwich was a 30 minutes venture down the parkway from my parents’ house. For 60 minutes every day (round-trip), I have fond memories of blue skies and sunshine, open windows on my Hyundai Elantra, listening to Tom Petty’s “Highway Companion.” Side note: I’m completely over that album. (Said with a shallow, high school air.)

I’m a little unclear on Summer 2007. Most of my summer music exists within my car, and I was working at Borders, about 8 minutes from my parents’ house. So, there wasn’t enough time for a particular love of music, and no particular sunshine-filled times of day in which to enjoy music in my car.

Summer 2008 was a rockin’ summer. Literally. I was taking care of two absolutely intolerable children, so time in my car free of them absolutely demanded loud, loud music. Summer 2008 was Kaiser Chiefs – “Yours, Truly Angry Mob” and The Libertines – “A Time for Heroes.” I’m 80% sure there was a little Beck – “Modern Guilt” throw in there occasionally, but only for the benefit of the intolerable children and shutting them the hell up.

And now we come to this summer. Summer 2009. And what a summer it was — full of rain and gloom and summer classes and.. and.. yes, it’s been a terribly dull summer. But this summer was the proud owner of The Virgins – “The Virgins”, The Wombats – “A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation” and a whole lot of Dirty Pretty Things – “Waterloo to Anywhere.” Now, before you accuse me of being a one genre kind of girl, let me allow wikipedia to defend me. This website, a paragon of accuracy, defines the Virgins as dance-rock, The Wombats as indie rock (I disagree), and Dirty Pretty Things as British post-punk revival. So I will thank you to take a moderately long pause and refrain from pigeon-holing me. (Is that actually a verb?)

So, now I have a question for you — my blog followers and Twitter followers who will be linked to this entry —

What is your summer music today? And what is the summer music of your past?

The Great Turntable: Like the Great Pumpkin … but REAL

Since high school, there was a shrine in my parents’ basement. Okay, maybe shrine is a bit of a hyperbolic overstatement, but I can accept that. When I was in high school my dad introduced me to vinyl records. And his turntable in the basement.

I do believe in material love, but not in the flowers and candy sense. In the sense that this turntable and my father’s records have never, in my entire history with them, ever let me down. Lying on the floor in the basement in high school between his speakers, listening to the Doors on vinyl, was the most therapeutic survival skill I’ve learned to date.

Then I went away to college, moved back home, went away to college, then moved out again. I had my iPod, of course, effectively referred to as the outward extension of my soul, but there was something missing. Sure I love everything about my iPod, right down to the tie-dye skin. But there was a warmth lacking. The lying on the floor with my eyes closed, feeling every aspect of the music, that certain sound that you can only get from vinyl.

And now I have it. My dad passed on all his vinyl to me when I moved out, but mostly they just stood on shelves as a collection instead of having any use. (I was able to use them on my radio show, but not in the privacy of my own home.)

Yesterday night, my father, reading glasses on, flashlight in hand, plugs galore, installed his 1976 turntable in my apartment. (Special appearance by his 1968 amplifier that he bought with his newspaper route money. Seriously.) To be a little personal here, recently I’ve been really close to rock bottom. Don’t feel like getting out of bed, mopey, cranky, and grumpy. And then we spun the first vinyl. Simon & Garfunkel Live in Central Park 1981. And everything just felt right again. A completely harmonic aligning of all the points in my life. Not a heavenly chorus, just Art Garfunkel.

The Great Turntable

And I thanked my father with the biggest hug I could muster and a – “Well it’s not like you could use the turntable anyway, you already gave me all your records.”

(500) Days of Summer: The Review

Since I first saw (500) Days of Summer in pre-production on IMDB.com I have wanted to see it. This (possibly) transcends my hopeless adoration of Zooey Deschanel, but just because of the simple concept. As the film posters state: “This is not a love story. This is a story about love.” And it’s true, it’s bittersweet and refreshing.

I rarely call films perfect. Almost Famous, yes. But not most films. This film was perfect. From the colors (frequent use of blue) to the changing of mediums (occasionally incorporating sketches as images, type of film used), to the dialogue, to the acting right down to the soundtrack – everything was perfect. The soundtrack was a Cameron Crowe quality soundtrack and I believe that no one can put a soundtrack to a film quite like Cameron Crowe.

Aside from the outstanding aforementioned qualities of the film, there’s another level. The sign of a perfect film, in my opinion, is that when the film is over, even though it was complete fiction, it felt like my life. It had absolutely no connection to me in the slightest but it felt like my life. It was everyone’s life. Everyone’s experiences and everyone’s heartbreaks.

Tom and Summer, the main characters, are special and unique, but at the same time are the archetype of all of us. (Young or old.) Those of us who don’t believe in love or fate and those of us who believe in the one. (Yes, that was over simplified.)

Personally, I think I’m Summer. But then again, maybe I’m Tom.

I recommend this film without any trepidation or worries to everyone.

500DaysPoster

The Blues: In Film & Music: Part II

This song has a bad case of the blues. Courtesy of my other indie idol, Zooey Deschanel, from her first venture into music, teaming up with M. Ward to become She & Him. This comes from the album “Volume One”. (Lauded by Paste Magazine as Album of the Year.)