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#274: Aladdin Sane by David Bowie

1.31.2012


Aladdin Sane by David Bowie (1973)

Favorite Track(s): "Watch That Man" and "Drive-In Saturday" and "Panic in Detroit" and "Time" and "The Prettiest Star" and "Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Jean Genie" and "Lady Grinning Soul"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) Yay! 3rd Bowie album. We didn't love Station to Station, and ChangesOneBowie was technically a compilation album, so really it's more like our 2nd.

I'm excited about this one because I think I love Ziggy Stardust (or this supposed version of him, Aladdin Sane) much better than The Thin White Duke. (And I may have said it before but I will say it again, I owe the birth of my Bowie-appreciation to my ex-roommate Amber--who just had a baby boy!--who showed me Labyrinth.)

(Post-Listening) Yes, this is the classic glam(with a splash of hillbilly)rock I love. The songs are varied, unique, and his voice is so iconic. The album actually rocked harder than I expected (save for "Time" and "Lady Grinning Soul"), but I didn't mind. It was other-worldly without sounding lazy or boring--my favorite kind of Bowie.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Yes.


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#275: The Immaculate Collection by Madonna


The Immaculate Collection by Madonna (1990)

Favorite Track(s): "Holiday" and "Borderline" and "Like A Virgin" and "Crazy for You" and "Like A Prayer" and "Cherish" and "Vogue"

Thoughts: This is quite an appropriate album to listen to this week since Madonna is doing the Superbowl halftime show on Sunday.

As I've discussed before, Madonna is not my number one diva. When I think of incredible women whose music has touched my life forever, or even the face of music, she wouldn't come up on the list for a good long while. She can be fun for dance parties, karaoke, or celebrity gossip, but I don't take her very seriously as an artist. There's not enough substance to balance out the 'shock' for me.

Anyway, many of these songs were fun and nostalgic. I remember many a late night hearing "Crazy for You" coming on K103fm, 'Soft Rock Favorites.' This collection was fun and a good time.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Because it's a compilation album, yes. If these songs were standing alone on their individual albums, I would think definetely not. 60s/70s songwriters come back....

Song of the day.

1.30.2012


"Fearsome Crowd" by Kat Flint. (Sorry the quality's not better. I couldn't find a studio version video.)

In a sea of eyes that look but never smile we're heading home
so we can all be alone
oh, won't you fight the fearsome crowd?
I am waiting for you

Sweet scanner action














The scanner makes these things look loads better than me trying to photograph them (always too dark or too washed out). Unfortunately the 11 x 14 sheets don't fit completely in the scanner, so I might only be drawing on 8 x10s from here on out.

Also I got some new pens at Target, but I'm not sure I love them. Sure, they're more varied than my current primary colors, but they bleed like a b*tch and aren't as fine-tipped as I'd like. On the other hand, they make a fun design on the back (the one on the left).

#276: My Life by Mary J. Blige


My Life by Mary J. Blige (1994)

Favorite Track(s): "I'm Goin' Down"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) The other day one of my co-workers was acting exasperated, and when I asked her what was wrong she said, "Drama, drama, drama." So I said, "You need to be Mary J. Blige, and say, 'no more drama.'" And she said, "Who's Mary J. Blige?" and then I became exasperated too.

Personally, this is my first intentional listen to Mary. I've only ever heard her songs on the radio and seen some of her videos. She once was in a phone commercial and she was wearing this really great sweater. That's about all I've got on Mary J. Blige. To the album!

(Post-Listening) Hmm. I liked it well enough, it's good, quality R&B. Her voice was great, the production sound, the music pleasant. But I'm afraid #276 feels way too generous. I expected the album to more adventurous or surprising or gritty or heart-wrenching. Or maybe it was and that just didn't come across to me? Personally, I think Miseducation of Lauryn Hill should be here instead (if not in the top 100). I found this album very under-whelming.

Is This Better Than Help!?: No. This needed to be much closer to 500.

#277: Folk Singer by Muddy Waters

1.28.2012


Folk Singer by Muddy Waters (1964)

Favorite Track(s): "Good Morning Little School Girl" and "Big Leg Woman"

Thoughts: I like blues, but I can love folk, acoustic blues. However, I think I'm at a place in my life where blues songs still all sound the same, and get boring quickly. I like to imagine there will be a time when I'm older where the blues will seem like the truest form of music and the human condition. But for now, I only appreciate them on a surface level.

Is This Better Than Help!?: In terms of its importance in the history of music, yes, in terms of listen-ability, no.

It looks like a white tribble is feeding on my cat.

1.27.2012

#278: Can't Get Enough by Barry White

1.26.2012


Can't Get Enough by Barry White (1974)

Favorite Track(s): "You're My First, My Last, My Everything" and "I Can't Believe You Love Me" and "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe"

Thoughts: Awww yisss. Barry White. Deep, smooth, glorious disco-soul.

It's probably a scientific fact that 1/3 of all babies born between September 1974 and now were conceived to part or all of this album. Seriously.

And "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" is just hands down one of the best songs in the history of ever. You can't listen to it and feel bad.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Yes'm.

#279: The Cars by The Cars


The Cars by The Cars (1978)

Favorite Track(s): "Let the Good Times Roll" and "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Just What I Needed" and "You're All I Got Tonight" and "Bye Bye Love" and "Moving In Stereo" and "All Mixed Up"

Thoughts: When I first saw this album cover I was like, "There is no way this album is from the 70s. That cover is so 80s!" But the more I looked at it, but more it seemed like maaaaaybe it could have come from the 70s. Maybe. (Fascinating stuff.) The point is: ahead of its time.

I've never spent much time with The Cars beyond hearing them on the radio and on soundtracks. But I really enjoyed this album. Power pop-rock is right up my alley. I was a bit reminded of Roxy Music and Queen, but this album was still original and unique in its own way. And who can believe this was a debut album? Very impressive.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Sure!



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#280: Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake


Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake (1969)

Favorite Track(s): "Time Has Told Me" and "River Man" and "Way to Blue" and "Cello Song" and "The Thoughts of Mary Jane" and "Man In A Shed" and "Saturday Sun"

Thoughts: YES! More wonderful music. Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums, can we just stay in this 60s/70s songwriter heaven forever? I don't want to leave. Say we can stay. Please.

I usually like my Nick Drake unaccompanied and simple, but the strings in "River Man" and "The Thoughts of Mary Jane" were divine. I mean, the man's music just makes you want to stop and watch the world go by. It creates such a safe space for memory, for silence, for stillness. Or sobbing. Take your pick.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Yes.



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#281: Music of My Mind by Stevie Wonder

1.25.2012


Music of My Mind by Stevie Wonder (1972)

Favorite Track(s): "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)" and "I Love Every Little Thing About You" and "Happier Than the Morning Sun" and "Girl Blue" and "Seems So Long" and "Evil"

Thoughts: I loooooove Stevie Wonder. His songs are like musical sunshine.

It's about time he showed up, but I applaud the List that he's been absent so long because his albums belong so close to #1! My parents instilled my love for Stevie from a young age, and I have inherited many of his vinyl records from their collection. He masters so many instruments, he writes such sweet love songs AND super funky songs, and his voice is one-of-a-kind.

I need to do a post of my top 5 favorite harmonica players, because he is definitely one of them. Well, it would actually have to be top 3, because I think there are really only 3 of them: Wonder, Dylan, Springsteen. There! I did the post.

To the album!

First, the cover is fabulous. Second, if someone ever puts "I Love Every Little Thing About You" or "Happier Than the Morning Sun" on a mix for you or tells you those songs make them think of you, you are a very lucky person. Just sublime.

I mean, I could just bask in this 70s piano/harmonica/female backing vocals/funky bass/organ light forever. FOREVER. So I also need to do a post about my favorite pop piano players. Spoiler alert: it's basically Wonder, Joel, John, McCartney, Lennon, Springsteen, Mitchell--ok, this isn't going to work. Too many.

Is This Better Than Help!?:



Yes.

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#282: I'm Still in Love With You by Al Green

1.24.2012


I'm Still in Love With You by Al Green (1972)

Favorite Track(s): "I'm Glad You're Mine" and "Love and Happiness" and "What A Wonderful Thing Love Is" and "Simply Beautiful" and "For the Good Times" and "One of These Good Old Days"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) So many thoughts and we haven't even heard it yet! First off, we all saw Obama singing some of "Let's Stay Together", right? I know it's not on this album, but it's relevant anyway. And the POTUS did a very good job if you ask me. I was impressed.

Second-of-ly, at the end of the movie Two Weeks Notice when the couple finally gets together, Al's song "Love is A Beautiful Thing" from Don't Look Back is playing, and there's this amazing segment towards the end of the song when Al sings the titles of 6 of his songs, and it's just when Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant are kissing, and he croons, "Let's stay together, let's stay together...'cause I'm still in love with you." It's exactly at the 4:44 mark:



I'm OBSESSED.

Anyway, whenever I hear the name of this album, I think of him singing it exactly like that in the song. But there's a song on this album called "I'm Still in Love With You" and it will probably sound different and replace that version in my mind. To the album!

(Post-Listening) Well, to be honest, I didn't love "I'm Still in Love With You"! I think I'll stick with "Love Is A Beautiful Thing." But that doesn't mean I didn't adore the rest of the album! "Love and Happiness" especially stuck out as pure perfection. The ORGAN! The HORNS! I couldn't get enough. And "Simply Beautiful" was from. another. world. Not of this earth.

Is This Better Than Help!?:



Um, yeah.

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#283: Los Angeles by X


Los Angeles by X (1980)

Favorite Track(s): "Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not" and "Soul Kitchen" and "Sugarlight" and "Sex and Dying in High Society" and "The World's a Mess; It's in My Kiss"

Thoughts: X totally exceeded my expectations with Wild Gift waaaaay back at #330, so it's no surprise Los Angeles was a treat. Somehow "Soul Kitchen" reminded me of "I Wanna Be Your Man" by The Beatles, and the organ in "The World's A Mess; It's In My Kiss" was brilliant.

Loved it and recommend it.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Sure!



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#284: Anthem of the Sun by the Grateful Dead

1.23.2012


Anthem of the Sun by the Grateful Dead (1968)

Favorite Track(s): "Born Cross-Eyed" and parts of "Alligator"?

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) This is my first time with the Dead! I grew up seeing the little rainbow bears on every other car in Oregon. :) I know my dad likes them, but I'm totally--as far as I know--unfamiliar with them. I know Jerry Garcia was a fat bearded man who wore tie-dye, and that he has ice cream named after him. And I completely struggled with this post's title, because I really want to call them the Grateful Dead instead of just 'Anthem of the Sun by Grateful Dead.' That feels wrong. So forgive me if you feel strongly about the matter.

(Post-Listening) Hmm. Well, I didn't hate it by any means, but it was so all over the place (partly due to the mixing I'm led to believe) I couldn't really settle in any of the songs. Which was maybe their intention? But I prefer my musical 'chaos' a bit more ordered than this. "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)" especially was just...a mess. And not a fun one like a food fight. I mean, can completely sober people enjoy this music on a regular basis? If so, power to you.

The good news is they will for sure turn up again on this list, so I'll have more chances to try them out.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Not to me.

Room

After it came in like a dark bird
Out of the snow, barely whistling
The notes father, mother, child,
It was hard to say what made us happiest.

Seeing the branches where it had learned
To stir the air? The air that opened
Without fear? Just the branches
And us in a room of wild things?

Like a shapeless flame, it flew
A dozen times around the room.
And, in a wink, a dozen more.
Into the wall, the window, the door.

You said the world turns to parts.
You said the parts are cunning spheres.
You said you always love the face of sin.
You said it's here, the lips and eyes and skin.

Outside the snow deepened
With heaves of discontent.
Inside, the tremor of our life
Flew in and in and in.




- David Biespiel


From Poetry, February 2012.

It'll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives

1.19.2012




I grew up with Currier and Ives placemats that my parents passed along to me when they moved. Well, they were going to get rid of them and I was like, "Noooo!" Sort of like passing them along.


First snow at my condo.

1.18.2012

We were pretty excited to wake up to this view this morning. I kept waiting all last night, doubtful it would ever come. But it did!

I went out and watched sledders on some of the very steep (closed) streets.

And have been enjoying eating some of my favorite 'winter' foods, like soup with grilled cheese (on the adorable tv trays my mom got me that I'm OBSESSED with).

Oz has been struggling with the boredom that comes from having me around so much, so I told him to build a fort. 4 hours later, this was what he had come up with:

So what I have I done with virtually a week off work (tomorrow as well!)? My cabin fever has taken shape in two ways. First, coloring.


And two, contending for the Guiness Book of World Records for 'Most Pictures Taken of One Cat, EVER.'




My camera loves him.

Compline

That we await a blessed hope, & that we will be struck
With great fear, like a baby taken into the night, that every boot,

Every improvised explosive, Talon & Hornet, Molotov
& rubber-coated bullet, every unexploded cluster bomblet,

Every Kevlar & suicide vest & unpiloted drone raining fire
On wedding parties will be burned as fuel in the dark season.

That we will learn the awful hunger of God, the nerve-fraying
Cry of God, the curdy vomit of God, the soiled swaddle of God,

The constant wakefulness of God, alongside the sweet scalp
Of God, the contented murmur of God, the limb-twitched dream-

Reaching of God. We're dizzy in every departure, limb-lost.
We cannot sleep in the wake of God, & God will not sleep

The infant dream for long. We lift the blinds, look out into ink
For light. My God, my God, open the spine binding our sight.





- Philip Metres


From Poetry, February 2012



When you live on the side of a very steep hill, snow means you get to spend a lot of time at home.

1.15.2012

And I LOVE it. I'm totally out of cheddar cheese, but I don't even care! I've got loads of firewood and pasta and rum. I'm set.

So Oz and I have been catching up on sleep.


Watched vigilantly for snowfall.


Surfed the web.


Rearranged home decor.


And I drew and drew (or colored and colored?)! Here are some of my latest:


Here's hoping for a few more snow days!

This is unlike the story it was written to be; I was riding its back when it used to ride me.

I have been completely entranced by Joanna Newsom's "Peach, Plum, Pear" and this video of it for the last 72 hours. I saw it awhile ago on my friend David's blog, and when I listened to it I didn't care for it. But he posted it again (elsewhere) and this time when I heard/saw it I was blown away. I've since downloaded 3 different versions of it, and plan to get even more live ones. Her voice could be obnoxious to some, I understand, but then so could Joni Mitchell's to certain ears.

Basically, if you get a mix CD from me in the next few months, expect this to be on it. Maybe twice.


David's description of the video sums it up perfectly:

"I love the unwieldy-ness of her harp, the way it obscures part of her face as it stands between the artist and the audience. It seems so appropriate given the way her confessional lyrics crash up against their vagueness.

Then in the bridge, an admission that often seems impossibly difficult to say so simply: “i was blue / and unwell”.

And at the end, I swear, she’s on the verge of tears. She looks away, regains her composure, finishes the song, demurely thanks the audience, and leaves the stage to wild applause.

I’m hypnotized by the sequence of events every time I watch it."

#285: Something Else by The Kinks by The Kinks

1.12.2012


Something Else by The Kinks by The Kinks (1967)

Favorite Track(s): "David Watts" and "Death of a Clown" and "Two Sisters" and "Situation Vacant" and "Love Me Till the Sun Shines" and "Waterloo Sunset"

Thoughts: Is this the first time we've listened to The Kinks? I think it is. I can't hardly keep track anymore. But I am excited about The Kinks! Great band name, great album name, and fabulous album. I love 60s mod-rock--it's fun and colorful and playful and makes me want to take walks in a beret, pea coat, and ballet flats.

"Death of a Clown" reminded me of Dylan, "No Return" reminded me of The Beatles. And I can't get enough harpiscord in my pop.

"Waterloo Sunset" was on my London 2011 playlist.

Is This Better Than Help!?: It's a tough call. They are definitely equals.



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#286: Call Me by Al Green

1.11.2012


Call Me by Al Green (1973)

Favorite Track(s): "Call Me (Come Back Home)" and "Have You Been Making Out O.K." and "Stand Up" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "You Ought to Be With Me" and "Jesus is Waiting"

Thoughts: So on the list I'm checking off each album on, it just lists the album title and then the artist, so when this one showed up, I thought it said "Call Me Al"! HA! Little Paul Simon humor for you there.

But seriously, I was so excited that this was the first album I got to listen to today. Al Green is such a balm to the ears and soul. The production is sublime, the voice one-of-a-kind, and the music as fresh today as it was I'm sure it was in '73.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Yes.



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Song (and major touch*) of the day.



"Lights Are On But Nobody's Home" by Tom Rosenthal, featuring adorable and hilarious comedian Josie Long, who I know from her guest panel spots on Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

*In college I heard somewhere that we're supposed to get 7 major touches every day. A major touch counts as a hug, kiss, back rub, hand-hold, etc.

#287: Talking Heads: 77 by Talking Heads

1.10.2012


Talking Heads: 77 by Talking Heads

Favorite Track(s): "Tentative Decisions" and "Who Is It?" and "Don't Worry About the Government" and "Psycho Killer" and "Love → Building on Fire"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) Harrumph. We've had Talking Heads on the list twice already, and neither album did anything for me. My only hope is that this one must be better, consider its ranking.

(Post-Listening) Well, as a non-New Wave uber enthusiast, it sounded like a lot of the same song over and over, but as you can see from my favorite tracks a few stood out as memorable or catchy. Still not my bag, but not painful to listen to by any means.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Sorry, no.