Musings @musicandmeaning.com

I'm not gonna take it easy. I'm gonna go to bed mad.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'Music' category

Life-fuel.


Thursday, 22 April 2004

Music to keep me sane and healthy V

Wow. I can’t believe I haven’t done this since October ’03.

I’m going to take a different approach this time, though. Instead of writing a standard list of artists, I’m going to try to be more helpful and link the music to specific examples you can download free (and legally), so if you’ve never heard of the artist/song, you can experience first-hand what I’m talking about.

  • Jay FarrarTerroir Blues (2003). This may be the first time I’ve mentioned Jay Farrar by name here — he’s the songwriter/main guy of the band Son Volt, one of my favorites. There are three alternate takes from this album that are available as free MP3 downloads from his site. Do not miss "All of Your Might" and "No Rolling Back" — they probably are my two favorites songs from the album (and I think I prefer these alternate takes!). Mark Spencer plays beautiful lap steel accompaniment on these tracks. I know I’ve mentioned pedal steel guitarist Eric Heywood in my blog a number of times — you can hear his work on this album. And if you haven’t already, you might be interested in the other downloads on the page as well.
       » Go to the downloads from jayfarrar.net. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "All of Your Might")
     
  • Rosie Thomas – This is the first time I’ve mentioned Ms. Thomas, and it’s because I didn’t know about her until a few months ago, when I heard her music on Weekend Becomes Eclectic. Her label Sub Pop offers a treasure trove of MP3s from its artists. One of these days I’ll download all of them, but for now I heartily recommend picking up "I Play Music" and "Two Dollar Shoes."
       » Go to the downloads from Sub Pop. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: both are really good, but "Two Dollar Shoes" is a shorter song/a smaller file.)
     
  • Iron & Wine – While we’re on the Sub Pop Records page, there are four MP3s by the solo artist also known as Samuel Beam. I prefer the earlier songs, which are ultra lo-fi tracks (he recorded them at home on a four-track): "Southern Anthem" and "Lion’s Mane" but take a listen to all of them if you can.
       » Go to the downloads from Sub Pop. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Lion’s Mane")
     
  • Hem – The band’s site offers a beautiful song called "Pacific Street" that didn’t make it onto the debut album — I actually listened to this download a year or two ago, and bought the CD solely based on how much I loved this song. Pick up "Beautiful Sea" as well.
       » Go to the downloads from rabbitsongs.com (click "MP3s" at the bottom of the band’s home page). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Pacific Street")
     
  • Alison Krauss & Union Station – Krauss and her backing band have a bunch of free MP3 downloads at Amazon. My favorite by far is one of the best they’ve ever done: "The Lucky One". For a change of pace, there’s also "New Favorite" (penned by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings).
       » Go to the downloads from Amazon. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "The Lucky One")
     

Of course, please do Google the artists listed above to find out more about them, tour dates, etc. There’s a lot more music to recommend, but I’ll save them for a little later. If you’re hungry for more right now, check out more free downloads from Amazon and also the huge selection (lots of Elliott Smith and Pedro the Lion) from PasteMusic!

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of the above, plus Wilco and (of course) Richard Buckner (particularly Bloomed). If you’ve never heard Buckner, the even-numbered tracks of The Hill is available as lo-fi Flash audio streams from his site richardbuckner.com. It’s definitely his darkest album, with his original music set to poems from The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. If you’re not familiar with the poetry collection, each poem is a posthumous epitaph from the point of view of the deceased. The highlight of the album is "Julia Miller" (#6) — certainly a somber tune, but one of Buckner’s best and most beautiful songs.

You can also hear Wilco’s upcoming album, A Ghost is Born, online (streaming Quicktime) at the band’s site. I’ve only heard it once, and haven’t decided what to think yet…

Posted at 8:09 pm | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |  

Sunday, 21 March 2004

Mylar magic (or, to be more accurate, digital magic)

Weekend Becomes Eclectic is undoubtedly pre-taped this weekend. It’s the same deal today as yesterday.

[Image captured by the KCRW webcam, during "Weekend Becomes Eclectic" at about 2:22 p.m.]Witness the KCRW webcam: I saved this shot this afternoon while I was listening to Anne Litt speaking on air (about 2:22 p.m.). There’s no one at the mic, no CDs piled around, and if you look at the board, only the last fader is up…and it hasn’t changed position (as far as I can tell) since the show began.

Earlier today I finally realized where Litt might be, if not in the KCRW basement: the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival! I don’t know how or why I didn’t make the connection earlier — even after thinking of Richard Buckner playing there this year, and reading Scott Andrew‘s blog (he made it to SxSW this time), and knowing that Nic Harcourt is there himself, I somehow failed to mull over the possibility that Litt might be in Austin. (Perhaps that’s why she played Buckner yesterday — because he’s on the billing for the conference.)

It is interesting, though, that both shows are pre-taped and that no other hosts filled in live. I wonder what the policy is on substitute hosts. Of course, no offense to the other hosts, but when I tune in to WBE I do it because of Litt’s playlist, so I actually prefer pre-taped WBE shows when she’s away. I think I’ve only heard her pre-taped one other weekend, but I can’t be certain.


Saturday, 20 March 2004

Either way, it’s still WBE

I can’t be certain, but it seems as though today’s edition of Weekend Becomes Eclectic (KCRW) was pre-recorded. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell, except I checked the main studio cam, and Anne Litt isn’t spinning the discs — in fact, no one was sitting in the chair for the beginning of the show, anyway. I did notice very minimal talking from her between song sets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s pre-taped her show.

Either way, it’s good to hear her music selections again, since for the first time this calendar year, I missed listening to any part of her show one day (last Sunday).

Update, 15:47: I should have said, Either way, it’s great to hear WBE again. She’s playing Richard Buckner‘s "Lil Wallet Picture" from Devotion + Doubt! It might be the first time she’s played Buckner in 2004. It’s certainly the first time I’ve heard her play this particular track. I was just listening, and I heard the unmistakable sounds of that pedal steel guitar (I think by Lloyd Maines?) over Buckner’s steel-string guitar.

It’s always good to hear Buckner getting airplay.


Thursday, 22 January 2004

Various tidbits

Just a number of random and not-so-random thoughts.

Over the holidays, I missed a bunch of Charlie Rose shows that I wanted to watch. So far, I’ve listened to the 8 Kbps Real(bad)Audio streams of his interviews with Cate Blanchett (30 Dec. 2003) and Naomi Watts (19 Nov. 2003) in the show audio archives. If you’re a Blanchett fan, I highly recommend catching this latest interview with her. Not that I’ve seen/heard many, but it’s by far the best Cate Blanchett interview I’ve heard, including the one on Fresh Air. And of the ones I’ve witnessed, I think it’s one of the best interviews that Rose has conducted, with an actor or not. I hope it airs on television again soon. The one with Watts isn’t bad, but I don’t know if I’d listen to it again at 8 kbps… Another decent Rose interview is of Nicole Kidman on 27 Dec. 2002 (also in the audio archives), when she was doing press for The Hours. Hmm. I just noticed that I’ve mentioned only Australian actresses in this paragraph…

I can’t believe we’re already in an election year. The presidential candidates seem to be cancelling each other out. Who’s it going to be? It’s still early to tell, despite what polls say. Please, please, vote this year. If you think your vote doesn’t make a difference, let me say two words: Florida, 2000.

Music still helps keep me sane. I think taping Anne Litt‘s show is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. These days she’s pretty good about playing Alison Krauss (and she played the Sting song from Cold Mountain…and I still think that "The Scarlet Tide" is a better song), and Norah Jones‘ new song "Sunrise" as well as Clem Snide.

A few weeks ago, I watched Howards End for the first time in at least four years, and was amazed by how much it still moves me, and how beautiful and lonely and powerful it is. It must have been my ninth or tenth time watching the movie, but I still noticed new things. They really don’t make movies like it anymore, and it was made in 1991. I picked up E. M. Forster‘s novel and read bits and pieces. I have a terrible memory when it comes to books, ironically, and so even if I’ve read and studied a book intensely, a year or two later I will have forgotten much of it. So I will re-read, and I will remember some things, but I will rediscover, as "new" many more things. Howards End is an excellent book, and still my favorite. It’s interesting that something I loved as a teenager, I still love so strongly — I guess some things don’t change.


Saturday, 20 December 2003

Anne Litt = best DJ ever

IMO, of course. It’s no secret that I love KCRW’s Weekend Becomes Eclectic, but during the holidays it’s can’t-miss. Today Anne Litt played (in no particular order):

  • Nat King Cole, "These Foolish Things"
  • Peggy Lee, "Happy Holidays"
  • Tom Jones, "It’s Not Unusual"
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Sarah Vaughan, "Whatever Lola Wants" remix
  • Charlie Parker, "White Christmas"
  • Chet Baker
  • Patrick Park
  • Alison Krauss, "The Scarlet Tide" from the Cold Mountain soundtrack (Sting’s song was nominated for a Globe over this? Incomprehensible, but of course I haven’t heard his song yet)
  • Ryan Adams
  • Aimee Mann
  • Talking Heads
  • …and a good mix of bluegrass, rock and even some Yiddish music! Also some songs I’d love to hear again (but I missed their IDs, so I’ll have to wait until she does play them again or I look for them on the show’s official playlist).

And this is just one day! I hope I’ll be here to listen tomorrow.

BTW, KCRW has amazing music hosts, don’t get me wrong. Nic Harcourt, Gary Calamar and Chris Douridas are great, as are Liza Richardson and Tom Schnabel and the list just goes on…but Litt plays a very eclectic selection, from varied time periods, not just styles, and they match my own musical foundation, and I would hope quite a few other people’s. I really don’t understand why her show is not archived at KCRW’s site.


Friday, 24 October 2003

And the air was beautiful

Three or four years ago, I attempted to learn how to play Nick Drake‘s "From the Morning" (one of my favorite songs). I gave up after a few tries. Maybe it was because I didn’t have the patience to "get" it, or maybe I just wasn’t ready. In any case, the song basically kicked my wump.

For whatever reason, about three weeks ago I found myself digging up the music for it, retuning my guitar, and getting set to have my wump kicked again. Not surprisingly, I was pretty awful. Managing each measure was a fight. Welcome to discouragement. But the next night, I picked up the guitar again (one good sign was that I didn’t tune it back to standard) and tackled that first measure, and the second, and the third… Still a fierce fight. But maybe not as impossible.

As each day passed, discouragement made way for the motto of eventually: I’ll get this arpeggio, eventually. I’ll remember the next phrase, eventually. I’ll play p m p i and not p m i m, eventually. And each time I reached a point where I could dispense an "eventually" sentence, I felt the enthusiasm burn that much brighter.

I still haven’t retuned the guitar to standard. And it’s amazing that I now can play most of the song without having to look at the music, and even sing at the same time. It’s sloppy playing — still plenty of missing or sour notes — but I think I’ve persevered through the most difficult stages of learning the piece. I find myself picking up the guitar to work on tough measures more than once a day sometimes — maybe for a few minutes while I’m waiting for some water to boil, or sometimes right after I wake up in the morning. It’ll take me at least another month or two to really grow comfortable with the song, but I’m looking forward to the days ahead, tossing away old "eventually"s and creating new ones. Ultimately, I look forward to having this song become even more a part of my life: in my playing, in my thoughts, and understanding more about music and the musician who wrote and played this song.

Nick Drake’s playing was always a mystery to me, and in turn, I suppose he himself was a mystery as well; as a songwriter, as a guitarist, as a person. Maybe I was too awed or overwhelmed by him to learn this song when I first tried. But now that I’m finally able to play a little of it, I have a better understanding of his music, and his guitar playing, and him. Perhaps not a clear or close understanding, but certainly a tiny bit more than before. I’m no painter, but I imagine it’s sort of like finding the unique brushstroke of a famous artist, and getting a sense of how that brushstroke could create such a work of art.

Posted at 5:49 pm | Filed under Favorite posts, Music |  

Monday, 20 October 2003

Music to keep me sane and healthy IV

I haven’t done this in a while either…I did manage to update the "What’s in my CD player?" page recently.

Music to keep me sane and healthy: (much of this is the same from June, but I won’t repeat everything)

  • Richard Buckner (all albums, really…although I still can’t get over how powerful Since is, and how all of his songs transcend their lyrics and stories)
  • Jayhawks
  • David Gray
  • Son Volt
  • Wilco
  • Pedro the Lion
  • Linda Thompson
  • Beth Orton
  • Clem Snide
  • Jack Hylton
  • Benny Goodman + Peggy Lee
  • Brad Mehldau
  • Tom Waits
  • Whiskeytown
  • Ryan Adams
  • HEM
  • Coldplay
  • New Order
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim, again in many incarnations
  • Ivy
  • Beck
  • Nick Drake
  • Hawksley Workman
  • Frou Frou
  • Erin McKeown

Thanks, as always, go to KCRW and especially Weekend Becomes Eclectic with Anne Litt. It’s like a six-hour dose of music with a dreamy effect that lasts much, much longer.

Concert recommendations: I would be remiss not to plug KCRW’s third annual A Sounds Eclectic Evening concert, which is on 22 November at the Universal Amphitheatre. Admittedly, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend it in the past, but if you love the music that KCRW tends to play and can shell out 50 bucks, do yourself a favor and go to the show. It’s basically a KCRW benefit concert and features some great artists, including some that aren’t listed (secret guests — last year, one was Pete Yorn). A few of the currently-listed headliners this year: Beck, Jurassic 5 and Damien Rice. If you can go higher than $50, you can get even better seats and access to the exclusive dance party after the show — an opportunity to mingle with some of the artists and KCRW folks.

Before that, though, there’s also Mojave 3 at the Troubadour on the 7th and 8th of November; Lucinda Williams at El Rey on 17th-18th November. And yup, Richard Buckner is still on tour, this time with a band, but no shows scheduled for the west coast yet. Check out Backyard Dusk for tour date links.

Quote for the time being:

"I kept your poem here,
with all my other gear.
But, in the end?
– I missed what it meant."

– from "Ariel Ramirez" on Richard Buckner’s Since. Dang I love this song.


Sunday, 6 July 2003

The WBE Drinking Game

I was writing over at my other journal about today’s Weekend Becomes Eclectic show, and just how many cool things Anne Litt is putting on the air.

So I thought I’d bring over the WBE Drinking Game idea I’d written about there. (This is a version revised to better suit reality):

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Okay. Now Anne Litt is playing Peggy Lee‘s "I’m Gonna Go Fishin’."

Unbelievably cool. Will she play Richard Buckner? If she hasn’t already today…

I should create a WBE drinking game of sorts. Problem is, I don’t drink. In any case here’s a starting point:

– playing a Lizzie West song…1 drink.
– switching genres in one set…1 drinks. (Chet Baker –> Coldplay)
– switching genres twice in one set…2 drinks. (Chet Baker –> Coldplay –> Patsy Cline)
– switching genres thrice in one set…3 drinks. (Chet Baker –> Coldplay –> Patsy Cline –> Yo-Yo Ma)
– playing a Richard Buckner song…3 drinks.
– playing a Richard Buckner song from The Hill…4 drinks.
– playing Richard Buckner, David Gray, Coldplay, Peggy Lee, Oscar Peterson, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Jayhawks, Whiskeytown/Ryan Adams in one show…have a nice trip, baby.


Monday, 16 June 2003

More musical musings / Music to keep me sane and healthy III

Missed Weekend Becomes Eclectic again the past two weekends, except for about 10 bright minutes of music and chat from Anne Litt, spent sitting/waiting in the car on Sunday. It feels like it’s been way too long — three weeks, after all! My withdrawal is starting to build…

Music to keep me sane and healthy:

  • Richard Buckner, of course; in his current tour there’s no stop local for me, but I hope that’ll change
  • Hem, a group I really really want to see in concert
  • Whiskeytown
  • Ryan Adams
  • Jayhawks
  • Wilco
  • Coldplay
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim, in many incarnations, including the Morelenbaums/Sakamoto
  • Beck
  • Nick Drake
  • Leonard Bernstein‘s West Side Story and its incarnations by Oscar Peterson
  • Zero 7

Friday, 23 May 2003

Someone is listening…

Late Wednesday night, I found myself wanting to listen to some upbeat music. I listened to a few things but then thought, "David Gray. I think what I need right now is White Ladder" — so I rummaged around and found pretty much every other one of my DG discs except for that one. It had been at least five or six months since I’d listened to the album, so it wasn’t in my room but in some other place (the living room somewhere?) probably. But when I couldn’t find the CD right away, I just thought "Never mind" and went without that particular DG. It was getting late anyway, so I just ended up going to sleep.

The next morning (yesterday), I remembered to make a mental note to find my DG disc. Then as I was making breakfast, I suddenly began humming/singing Peggy Lee & Dave Barbour‘s song, "It’s a Good Day." I’d listened to the original tune from the 1940s many times — but not recently — and I think that may have been the first time it popped into my head spontaneously somehow, and the first time I actually sang it on my own like that.

That was breakfast, and I didn’t think any more of it all…until later that afternoon. I finally persuaded myself to go grocery shopping, and just a few minutes after I stepped into Trader Joe’s, guess whose voice came over the speakers? David Gray. And singing "Babylon" from White Ladder, no less. What a weird coincidence…but still, it’s probably his most popular song, so it wasn’t completely unprecedented.

About a half hour or so later, I was about ready to go to checkout when I heard a very familiar opening electric guitar arpeggio introduce a song. My reaction: "What the heck? Am I really hearing this?"

A few measures later, Peggy Lee started singing "It’s a Good Day" as Dave Barbour continued to accompany her on guitar.

Now, I’ve always loved the eclectic music played at Trader Joe’s…I’ve heard a bunch of tunes from my own collection played while I shopped, as well as some nifty titles I’d never heard before. But those two instances of DG and "It’s a Good Day" (the original version, too!) on this visit…it was just spooky.

Posted at 3:21 pm | Filed under Music, Musings & everything else |  

Monday, 12 May 2003

Time, the revelator

Hope everyone had a nice Mother’s Day weekend.

I haven’t included concert recommendations in what seems like ages; let’s remedy that right now. If you’re in SoCal, you can catch Gillian Welch & David Rawlings this week, as they tour throughout California to promote their new album, Soul Journey (released 3 June). Check out their official tour dates page for more info. Next month, they’ll move on to southern states and will also open for Norah Jones in her east coast tour (isn’t that a relatively odd combo?).

Posted at 1:50 pm | Filed under Music |