Song for 2012 (Let's hope)


The past few 'song[s] of the year' haven't been too hopeful (more like this than anything). Maybe this one will stick.

I'm always dragging that horse around...tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground.

(Though to be honest, I don't love the line: it's always darkest before the dawn. I prefer the The Mountain Goats' line in "No Children": Our friends say it's darkest before the sun rises, we're pretty sure they're all wrong.)

Anyway, happy 2012.

Oz's Christmas Duties


Oz had a lot on his plate this Christmas.

First, he had some spying to do on the family dog, Bubba.

He made sure the plants were properly watered.

And that the couch was structurally sound.

He tested out the softness of the tree skirt.

And searched for cobwebs in the high corners of the family room.

He spent HOURS checking in with the fish.

And preparing new hiding places from which to watch the dog's every move.

He overlooked the smoking of the turkey (from indoors).

And paused with my dad for a few moments to contemplate the meaning of life.

After all this hard work, he took several well-deserved naps.

This post is dedicated to Lisa, whose sister Laura told me she wanted more posts of my cat! Always happy to oblige.

I hope you guys like my cat.


Because I got a new camera for Christmas, and he will be my main subject.

This was the very first shot I took! More to come soon. (Thanks so much to my dad for bringing me into the world of SLR cameras!)

My favorite Christmas song for 2011.


My Christmas was fanstastic--one of the best I've had in years and years. This song kept coming up on my iPod, and it's a new favorite, by local Oregon band Misty River, "Don't Take Down the Mistletoe."

I hope your Christmas was especially merry.

Song of the day.


"Gospel" by The National.

Hang your holiday rainbow lights in the garden.

First Miracle

Her body like a pomegranate torn
Wide open, somehow bears what must be born,

The irony where a stranger small enough
To bed down in the ox-tongue-polished trough

Erupts into the world and breaks the spell
Of the ancient, numbered hours with his yell.

Now her breasts ache and weep and soak her shirt
Whenever she hears his hunger or his hurt;

She can't change water into wine; instead
She fashions sweet milk out of her own blood.

- A.E. Stallings

from Poetry, December 2011

#293: Weezer by Weezer

Weezer by Weezer (1994)

Favorite Track(s): "My Name Is Jonas" and the first 9 seconds of "In the Garage" and "Holiday"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) I've only ever heard Weezer on the radio or in movies/TV shows, so this will be my first intentional listen. So it's nice that we're starting (and ending? Who knows if we'll see them again?) with their debut album (self-titled of course). I have to say though that what little I have heard of Weezer, I'm not a huge fan of. I could really take or leave it. Let's see if I've been missing out all this time.

(Post-Listening) Yeah, I didn't loathe it, but I think I still associate this kind of alt rock with Blink 182 and teenage boys. That's not a bad thing, it's just not music I take easily too. Listening to it felt like looking in from the outside to the world of an adolescent in the 90s, rather than actually transporting me there in first-person. I'd probably like it better the more I listened to it, but the chance of that happening is slim.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Nope.

All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life


— where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.

- Miranda July, It Chooses You

#294: Master of Reality by Black Sabbath

Master of Reality by Black Sabbath (1971)

Favorite Track(s): "Sweet Leaf" and "Children of the Grave" and "Orchid" and "Solitude"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) Another 1971 album! It's a good day. True confession: I used to confuse Meat Loaf with Ozzie Osbourne. I think it had to do with bats. Ozzie bit the head off one (right?) but Meat Loaf's album was Bat Out of Hell. Plus, they both had long hair. But I'm confused no more! I adore Meat Loaf. Let's see if Ozzie can match him. This is my first intentional listen to Black Sabbath, ever!

(Post-Listening) Well, if this is heavy metal, I guess I'm into it! The guitar solo halfway through "Sweet Leaf" was more than enough to convince me.

The lyrics to "After Forever" were quite surprising!

Have you ever thought about your soul - can it be saved?
Or perhaps you think that when you're dead you just stay in your grave
Is God just a thought within your head or is he a part of you?
Is Christ just a name that you read in a book when you were in school?

When you think about death do you lose your breath or do you keep your cool?
Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope - do you think he's a fool?
Well I have seen the truth, yes I've seen the light and I've changed my ways
And I'll be prepared when you're lonely and scared at the end of our days

Could it be you're afraid of what your friends might say
If they knew you believe in God above?
They should realize before they criticize
that God is the only way to love

Is your mind so small that you have to fall
In with the pack wherever they run
Will you still sneer when death is near
And say they may as well worship the sun?

I think it was true it was people like you that crucified Christ
I think it is sad the opinion you had was the only one voiced
Will you be so sure when your day is near, say you don't believe?
You had the chance but you turned it down, now you can't retrieve

Perhaps you'll think before you say that God is dead and gone
Open your eyes, just realize that he's the one
The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate
Or will you still jeer at all you hear? Yes! I think it's too late.

Right? I mean, I don't personally agree with all the theology there, but wow! Black Sabbath! If only more 'Christian music' sounded like this.

"Children of the Grave" rocks soooo hard. "Orchid" is gorgeous and would work as a wedding processional. All in all, a fantastic album. I'm now a Black Sabbath fan!

Is This Better Than Help!?:



#295: Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton

Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton (1971)

Favorite Track(s): "Coat of Many Colors" and "My Blue Tears" and "Early Mornin' Breeze" and "Here I Am"

Thoughts: Yesssssss. I love Dolly Parton, and I hope this isn't the last we see of her on this list. I almost don't think of her as a classic country artist because her songs are all so different...unlike many classic country that rude? Oh well, I don't care. Give me Dolly over Conway, Merle, Hank, or dare I say it, even Johnny and June.

Obviously she's at the tail end of the classic era anyway, so I guess that makes sense, given my preference for folk-country over straight-up country. Wow, this got boring really fast!

Anyway, wonderful stuff. The album was over too soon.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Just as good, in my opinion!

#296: Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy


Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy (1990)

Favorite Track(s): "Contract on the World Love Jam" and "911 Is a Joke" and "Welcome to the Terrordome" and "Pollywanacraka" and "Burn Hollywood Burn" and "Who Stole the Soul" and "Revolutionary Generation" and "Fight the Power"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) Well, I really enjoyed Yo! Bum Rush the Show so since this is a whopping 193 spots closer to #1, I think I'm in for a treat. Unless of course by this point the group decided to go in a drastically different direction (which is their right). The album cover's a great start!

(Post-Listening) With samples from James Brown, Prince, Sly & the Family Stone, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Parliament, The Time, The Beatles, Hall & Oates, Bob Marley, and--people of all people--Esther Williams, how could I not love this album? It's just happening.

Clever, thought-provoking, fresh, creative, infectious, varied, and angry without being hateful. And "Fight the Power" is of course, a force of nature. I think I first heard it when I saw Do the Right Thing in my high school film class.

This album will be around forever.

Is This Better Than Help!?:

Just as good to me!


#297: John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan


John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan (1967)

Favorite Track(s): "John Wesley Harding" and "As I Went Out One Morning" and "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" and "All Along the Watchtower" and "I Am A Lonesome Hobo" and "Down Along the Cove" and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight"

Thoughts: Thank God for Bob Dylan. And thank God for the harmonica. Why aren't harmonicas in more music? Someday I will do a post of my favorite artists who use harmonicas. (It's not going to be a very surprising list.)

We should all own this album.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Yes!

Laurence Olivier should have been in more musicals.


Even without singing, he can charm your pants off. Or...some other item of clothing if that's too graphic for you.

Gloria Swanson sings "I Love You So Much That I Hate You" From Perfect Understanding (1933).

"You're frightening the fishes!"

In case you were wondering what scene of 50/50 made me lose my sh*t.


It was this one:

(Just replace the greyhound with an orange cat and Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a sobbing pre-surgeries me, and the scene is identical to real life.

(image, image)

Great Choices I've Made in the Last 48 Hours

- I decided I could make an important phone call regarding a bill that needed paying while I drove through the car wash

- I left the cap off my toothpaste, and left it right next to the almost identical cap for my prescription-strength rash cream

- I bought some super-strongly-scented bath salts along with food items and left them in a bag together

#298: The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem (AKA The Post I Hijacked In the Name of Meat Loaf and Goodness)


The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem (2000)

Favorite Track(s): No favorite songs, but I did have some favorite lyrics that I think will be relevant for years to come: "I'm not Mr. NSYNC" and then in another song, "And by the way, NSYNC, why do they sing?"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) No, no, no, no, no, no. We JUST had an Eminem album. And it was tortuous. My heart is crying. My heart is crying. My heart. Is crying. I REJECT EMINEM AND ALL HIS WORKS.

(Post-Listening) Eminem's music and career thrives on negative attention and how much he thinks people hate him (and I don't hate him, I just don't think about him, period). I could get nitty-gritty into all the issues I have with Eminem's music, but I don't want to waste that energy on him. So you know what I'd rather talk about? MEAT LOAF. I just got his albums Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell and Dead Ringer. And even though I should be listening to Christmas music, I'm driving around in my car screaming "A wasted youth is better by far than a wise and productive old age!" and "Come on, come on, and there'll be no turning back/ You were only killing time and it can kill you right back!" Or this gem of a bridge:

Somebody bless all the girls in the sand on the beach
They're dreamin' of boys and staying just out of reach
Bless all the cheerleaders down on the track

They're glistening like diamonds with sweat on their backs

Bless all the girls in the gangs on the street

They're looking for danger and they're holding their peace
Bless all the girls staying late after school

They're playing with fire and oh they're playing it cool

And bless all the shy girls who're learning to dance

They stare in the mirror and they conjure romance

Bless all the girls who are always alone

They kneel down in prayer and they wait up by the phone

Bless all the homecoming queens of the night

They're looking for magic in gymnasium lights

And bless all the girls who know what love is about

They try not to cry and then they try to put out

I mean, COME ON. And don't even get me started on "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)." It's currently on non-stop repeat in my car and on my iPod.

Jim Steinman wrote the songs for both the albums and Bat Out of Hell and the man's a twisted, poetic, talented genius. But Meat Loaf's voice is the main event. His voice, his voice, his voice. I think he must have been John the Baptist in a former life, because his is a voice crying out in the wilderness (is that sentence uber blasphemous or just kind of?). I want to cry this music is so full and alive and epic and gorgeous. The piano! The backing choirs! The changing tempos! It's theatrical rock.

So I'm PISSED OFF that there isn't more Meat Loaf on the Rolling Stone 500 list. And that every Eminem album IS. So to Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman I say, your work makes me do this:

And this:

And it's a fucking travesty that more people didn't vote the rest of your albums on the list.

To Eminem, I say this: people are always telling me that you're so talented and influential. That you can rap like nobody else. So if everyone thinks you deserve a round of applause for that despite your violent, misogynistic, homophobic, hateful lyrics, here you go:

Is This Better Than Help!?:

(image, image, image, image)

Maryann's Top 5 Most Satisfying Uses of the F-Word in Folk Rock*


Last night I got to see Mumford & Sons for the second time, and one of their songs uses the f-word so well, that I remembered I had been wanting to make this post for ages. It's time.

1.) "Little Lion Man" by Mumford & Sons

The line: But it was not your fault, but mine and it was your heart on the line, I really fucked it up this time, didn't I, my dear?

The f-word use in this song is so satisfying because it's sung in a bitterly angry and bitterly regretful way. The juxtaposition of the f-word with calling someone 'my dear' is very appealing. And the fact that Mumford uses very little swearing in their songs makes it feel more 'special.' The song is, as you might imagine, very cathartic live.

2.) "Bloody Motherfucking Asshole" by Martha Wainwright

The line: You bloody motherfucking asshole.

Oh, this song. All the lyrics are actually quite wonderful (poetry has no place for a heart that's a whore--ZING!), and this song is perfect for when you're feeling pissed off but would like to express it without using the music of a crazy, ignorant hateful person (*cough*Eminem*cough*). One time my mom and I were packing up my dorm room and this song came on. "This is a nice song!" she said. I responded, "Wait 'til it gets to the chorus." She was a bit shocked.

3.) "Come Pick Me Up" by Ryan Adams

The line: Come pick me up, take me out, fuck me up, steal my records

THIS SONG. To quote The Weakerthans, this song gave me new words for old desires. Ryan's 'fuck me up' line is so full of surrender and acceptance at the prospect of a broken heart, it's bordering on self-destructive.

4.) "Untouchable Face" by Ani DeFranco

The line: So fuck you and your untouchable face, and fuck you for existing in the first place

I'll let Tom McRae say why this is one of the best: "Not many songs can utilise the word 'fuck' convincingly, but this has to be one of the best. It's such a beautiful, lilting song with such a vicious refrain." This is--hands down--one of the top 5 best 'unrequited love' songs EVER. And it lets you be angry AND sad about it.

5.) "Keep Yourself Warm" by Frightened Rabbit

The line: It takes more than fucking someone you don't know to keep warm

This song is, to borrow a different curse word, THE SHIT. Soooooo good. And the message is a great one: just sleeping with random people isn't enough to 'keep yourself warm'--physically or emotionally. Or, as they put it even more succinctly (and graphically), you won't find love in a hole.

Honorable Mention (Because a Top 6 list doesn't have the same ring to it): "Have You Forgotten?" by Red House Painters

The line: Shut out what they say, 'cause your friends are fucked up anyway

This version of the song, the original, not the weird Vanilla Sky version, is a soft blanket of comfort and reassurance and self-protection. It feels like it goes on forever, and you want it to. The use of the f-word is surprising in such a sweet, cozy song, but it totally works.

What are some of your favorite uses of the f-word (or any other curse word) in folk rock?

* These are my favorites as of December 8th, 2011. My top 5 lists change constantly because I always remember more songs AFTER I've made them.

"Happy songs are rubbish. All of them."


"True happiness can only be experienced by small children, dogs, and the insane. For the rest of us there are the songs of Patty Griffin. She understands."

- Tom McRae

Patty Griffin, the 'rest of us' need you to release a Christmas album, stat.



Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Saw this on Moorea's blog and I just had to share. It gave me chills!

#299: Grace by Jeff Buckley


Grace by Jeff Buckley (1994)

Favorite Track(s): "Mojo Pin" and "Grace" and "Last Goodbye" and "Hallelujah" and "Lover, You Should've Come Over" and "Corpus Christi Carol" and "Dream Brother"

Thoughts: Hey! We made it to the 200s! Remember when I thought that I would finish the list by New Year's 2012? HA! I haven't even made it halfway! I'm not worried about it though. There were some albums on the list that FORCED me to take a hiatus here and there. But let's get to Grace.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jeff Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is the best version ever recorded, with Rufus Wainwright's as a close second. And I didn't know he covered "Lilac Wine"! I've only ever heard Nina Simone's version, but Jeff's topped hers, in my opinion. DIVINE.

Jeff's voice often reminded me of Robert Plant, and oh how I wish more music that came out of the 90s had sounded like this album. I mean, the lyrics alone are incredible (from "Love, You Should've Come Over"):

It's never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
It's never over, all my riches for her smiles when i slept so soft against her
It's never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter
It's never over, she's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever

UNF. And don't get me started on the beauty of "Corpus Christi Carol." This whole album is so worth the hype--definitely recommended.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Yes.