Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wolf Larsen offers a new take on 'Billie Jean'

I haven't been in a writing mood lately, but a lovely songwriter, Wolf Larsen, just released her debut album this week, and I've been submerging myself in her work. I'm sure you're all quite familiar with this song:

After accessing Wolf's YouTube uploads from her Bandcamp page (where you can get her new release, Quiet at the Kitchen Door for $1 right now) and found her very stripped-down cover version:

Just wanted to throw that out there. Because it's gorgeous, is all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stop being ashamed that you like things! You sound like a tool.

So sick of the term "guilty pleasure." You either like stuff or you don't. If you have to explain it to people as a guilty pleasure, all you're doing is saying you're afraid to own that you like something because you fear you'll be judged for it. If you're afraid of being judged for liking things that you like, then you don't deserve to like stuff.

For example:

Always a pleasure, and nothing less.

Monday, October 17, 2011

'Lonesome Ghosts'

Old cartoons really help put me in the Halloween spirit. Not that I need any help. But it's a special feeling all its own.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The ceaseless appeal of 2010 music

On the music blog I keep for the newspaper that employs me, I provided a mix of my favorite songs (from my favorite albums) of 2010 (10 of which you can read about at Radio Free Chicago, where I also write about music). But after making the list and looking at everything that was left off, it occurred to me that I should probably make a second mix to include a lot of what came close to ending up on the first list.

So listen ahead to this mix of the 22 that deserve a mention, despite not making the top 21. In all honesty, I started out with enough for two secondary mixes, but decided I have to draw the line somewhere, and I'm pleased with the result, which includes some rock, pop, R&B, folk and even a kickass cover ("Enjoy the Silence" by Nada Surf), so there's pretty much something for everybody.

1. "Garbage Truck" by Sex Bob-Omb
2. "Wrong Things" by Noun
3. "TiK ToK" by Ke$ha
4. "We Will Always Be" by Hurrah! A Bolt of Light!
5. "Enjoy the Silence" by Nada Surf
6. "We Need New Transportation" by Winter Gloves
7. "F*** You" by Cee Lo Green
8. "Neckbrace" by Ratatat
9. "Run From the Gun" by Dead Confederate
10. "Demon" by Jaill
11. "No Regrets" by Lovers
12. "Only Girl (In the World)" by Rihanna
13. "Pickin' Up the Pieces" by Fitz and the Tantrums
14. "Holiday" by Fran Healy
15. "Betrayed by Bones" by Hellogoodbye
16. "Money in the Bank" by Dawn Landes
17. "They're In Love, Where Am I?" by the Weepies
18. "Marianne, You've Done It Now" by Vandaveer
19. "Fairytale Lullaby" by Bombay Bicycle Club
20. "Maps of War" by Branches
21. "Millionaire" by Audra Mae
22. "The One I Love Is Gone" by Katie Melua

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pucker up for 'Kiss Me, Stupid'

When I was about 15 or 16, I developed a great fondness for handsome crooner Dean Martin. I bought his music and watched Martin & Lewis films on AMC. Admittedly, I was smitten with the smooth-talking ladies' man with a voice like honey rolling off a bee's wings. However, I happened to miss out on many of his movies post-1960.

Last night, I watched the 1964 comedy "Kiss Me, Stupid," starring Martin, Ray Walston, Kim Novak and Felicia Farr. Dino plays himself (or a variation thereof) in the story of jealous husband Orville (Walston) who can't stand the thought of men talking, being near or even thinking about his hot wife Zelda (Farr). Orville and his friend Barney (Cliff Osmond) are songwriters, hoping to see their music make it big someday. To their great fortune, Dino stops into their small town of Climax, Nev., on his way from Vegas to Hollywood for gas and smokes when his car just so happens to break down after leaving Barney's station (in other words, Barney disconnected the fuel line) — turns out it will take Barney until the next morning to "repair" the vehicle. He'll have to spend the night in town, and hey, Dino, would you like to hear some of our awesome music while you're stuck here all night?

While Zelda is out running a mysterious errand (having a laugh with the dentist or boffing a teenaged piano pupil? Orville wonders), Orville shows Dino the guest room in his house where he'll be able to crash, and mentions his wife. Dino's interest perks and Orville feels suddenly threatened — no way can she meet Dino, or he'll certainly charm the wedding ring right off her wanton little finger.

Of course, the only solution is when Zelda returns, he needs to drive her away by being a total jackass and then send Barney to bring home a hooker to pretend to be his actual wife so that Dino can sleep with her. I mean, really, that just makes the most sense. To be fair, it's certainly an entertaining premise, and brings the lovely Novak into the picture as Polly the Pistol.

Polly is largely unimpressed with Dino's advances (um, hello, Polly, are your ovaries broken? Seriously, meee-ow) and instead finds herself romanced by Orville's devotion to Zelda. Okay, I guess I get that. A guy who really only wants the woman that he's with is kind of a turn-on, though it does sort of lose its potency when you try to steal him away from her because of how turned on you are ... and it works. Well, sort of. Let's just say that she was his wife-for-a-night in every respect. But the night wasn't a total loss! Orville sold a song to Dino, and Dino did get laid afterall!

After Polly's rejection and Orville giving him the ol' heave-ho off the front porch, Dino wandered on over to the friendly neighborhood gentlemen's club and got himself some sweet booty from none other than Zelda, who had gone that way to drown her sorrows in several rounds of Bloody Marys.

At first, I found this movie a little offputting — a couple deeply in love and devoted to one another torn apart so easily by the slightest temptation (though, if Dean Martin was coercing me into bed with him, I think it'd be wholly understandable that I give in. Again, I say meeee-ow!). On second thought however, it was an incredibly pleasing turn of events. Had the movie been made in the past 20 years, that probably would not have been how things ended up. Orville would have done the chivalrous thing and let Polly sleep in his bed while he took the couch for the night saying, "I could never do anything to hurt my wife," and Polly would have cried a little and said, "I understand." Zelda would have almost gone through with a steamy sweat session with Dino, but stopped at the last minute to say, "I'm sorry, but I love my husband." She would have spent the evening showing him their wedding photos and he would have been so impressed with her strength of will that he would dedicate a song to her in honor of her husband. Happily ever after and all that.

But 50 years ago, cinema had way more balls. They'll betray each other, it will be expected, and they'll still just laugh it off in the end like it meant nothing. Right there, balls. Of course, 50 years ago, female characters also said things like, "A woman without a man is like a trailer without a car: Not going anywhere," with a completely straight face. Eh, you win some you lose some.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Love Language exceeds itself on second album

The Love Language blends the classic sounds of doo-wop and surf rock into its breezy sophomore album, "Libraries."

The symphonic quality of album opener "Pedals" remains throughout much of the record, often resembling Phil Spector's Wall of Sound technique. Strings bring heavy drama to "This Blood Is Our Own" and Stuart McLamb's deep vocals balance the celestial lightness of "Blue Angel."

In all of its mellifluous resonance, the album also remains loyal to its era, providing ample drums in "Brittany's Back" and rocking the keys in "Anthophobia." Concise at only 10 songs, "Libraries" fits perfectly among soundtracks for a springtime afternoon or summer night.

The Love Language performs at Seattle's Showbox at the Market 8 p.m. Sept. 24 with Local Natives and the Union Line. Advance tickets are $16; purchase here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Perfect for a Sunday morning hangover

***NOTE: Originally posted on my blog here, but some weird server glitch has compromised my formatting, so I'm reposting it here in its pristine condition.***

I've always had a pretty friendly relationship with alcohol. I don't abuse it, nor does it abuse me. Maybe that's why I don't mind a little hair of the dog on the rare occasion that I actually imbibe any fermented goodies. But really, who doesn't enjoy a little beer with breakfast? Pour it over your Wheaties to feel like an athlete and a rock star all at once!

Too much? Yeah, okay. If you're like me and you aren't much for drinking, now you can feel like you are with this handy compilation of (21) songs named after alcohol. And if you're a bit of a lush, here's your soundtrack for Saturday night.

1. "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)" by the Doors
2. "Brass Monkey" by Beastie Boys
3. "Moonshine Fever" by Mando Diao
4. "Rum to Whiskey" by the Murder City Devils
5. "Gin & Juice" by Snoop Doggy Dogg
6. "Mas Tequila" by Sammy Hagar & the Waboritas
7. "Tears Into Wine" by Billy Talent
8. "Blood, Sex and Booze" by Green Day
9. "It's Martini Time" by The Reverend Horton Heat
10. "Alcohol" by Brad Paisley
11. "Jockey Full of Bourbon" by Joe Bonamassa
12. "Wine, Women, and Song" by Harvey Danger
13. "Two Piña Coladas" by Garth Brooks
14. "Mexican Wine" by Fountains of Wayne
15. "Moonshine" by L7
16. "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" by John Lee Hooker
17. "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" by Champion Jack Dupree
18. "Whiskey Kisser" by Blitzen Trapper
19. "All the Wine" by the National
20. "Bacardi" by Nada Surf
21. "Jellybean Wine" by Bombadil

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The really best TV dads

Last week, Paste Magazine posted a list online of the 10 best (and worst) TV dads. Some of the dads who made the list were hard to argue with, either because they really were great or because I’m not familiar enough with them to say. However, there were some great TV dads that were left off the list, or incorrectly assigned as worst dads. So, I present an amended list of best TV dads, as selected by me:

Goofy Goof
Sure, he’s a little inept, but Goofy’s affection for his son Max could never be denied. A little oblivious, but when it mattered, he always came through for his son. And he did it as a single dad; all in all, he’s a pretty honorable guy, and he raised a great kid.

Gomez Addams
From an outsider, the Addams family might look pretty screwed up, but it was an ordinary, functional nuclear family at its heart. Gomez did what any great father should do for his kids: Let them be themselves. Like most good TV dads, he taught them lessons and set boundaries, but he was able to do it all while also standing up for what they believe in.

Frank Lambert
Frank Lambert was the Mike Brady of the ‘90s without the square attitude. Besides being a loving and understanding father to his own children, he also became like a real father to his stepkids. What made Frank especially great was that he wasn’t perfect all the time, but above all he lived for his family.

Red Forman
Paste put him on the list of worst dads, but in many ways he was actually a great dad. He exercised discipline when he felt it was necessary, but it rarely actually became necessary. People like to focus on his “foot in your ass” comments and calling his son a dumbass, but they’re overlooking the moments when Red uses his actions to show his love for Eric. And even though he never said it much, you could always tell by what he was doing that he cared.

Homer Simpson
Another candidate on Paste’s naughty list, Homer Simpson is a pretty great father. He’s not really very smart or mature, but he’s a man who tries to learn from his mistakes. You can often see him making an effort to do a better job, and you know he does it because of how much his family matters to him. He may not always do the right thing, but his heart is always in the right place.

Paul Hennessy
John Ritter plays the well-meaning, protective father to two teenage girls and a boy. He personifies the feelings of most men who have to raise daughters. He wants them to be safe, and spends a lot of energy learning to trust in their own abilities to function in the world as independent women. But he’s also right there when they need him, which is often.

Jim Walsh
Brenda and Brandon’s dad on the original 90210 was an old-fashioned kind of father with the parenting sensibilities of Ward Cleaver if the Beav was a teenager in modern-era Beverly Hills. Jim Walsh was everything a father should be: Understanding, fair, knowledgeable and moral. He wasn’t phased by conflict or change; he seemed to know how to handle any type of situation.

Danny Tanner
Yeah, he may be a goody-two-shoes, and he raised a whole family of goody-two-shoes, which is unrealistic, not to mention a little obnoxious. But it’s undeniable that he was an awesome TV dad. Like Goofy, Danny Tanner was widowed and having to raise children on his own, though thankfully he had help from a couple of longtime friends. His children were his whole life, and that showed in every episode, usually ending with an important lesson for one of his eager-to-please daughters.

Jason Seaver
The most wonderful balance of cool guy and family man, Jason Seaver made Growing Pains one of the best sitcoms of its time. He was really tuned into his kids, always knowing when they were up to something, and knowing exactly how to discipline them for it so they would learn their lesson. He also was really good about knowing what they needed and doing whatever he could to help them out.

Heathcliff Huxtable
It’s hard to deny that Bill Cosby’s Dr. Huxtable is the best of all the TV dads. He’s the funniest, for sure, and the way he’s always playing tricks on his kids is endearing. He was not afraid to be a hardass when he needed to be, either. He was an active part of his kids’ lives, and he was a dad who they were never afraid to go to with problems or questions.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Miley untamed? P'sha.

You'd think Miley Cyrus was the first teen pop star to ever flaunt her sexuality. Whether or not a cleavage-baring, lycra-wearing teen idol is something to be outraged about, it's ridiculous for people to treat this as though it's anything new. The people railing against her risqué dancing and revealing outfits might as well be shouting, "I'm out of touch!"

In fact, whenever anyone in the public eye does anything remotely sexy, someone usually has something to say against it. Pop stars have dealt with it for decades, the females in particular. Before Miley, it was Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Madonna and Cher, to name a handful. But it was a man who really set it off: Elvis Presley. When those hips went swinging, every thrust was like a knife in the hearts of prudes and parents. And he was fully-clothed while doing so. Clearly the standards have changed over time. Unless he was doing it in a banana hammock, people these days probably wouldn't even bat an eye at such an antic.

We have bigger things to worry about now, like Rihanna writhing around in a skin-tight bodysuit for her "Rude Boy" video, or Lady Gaga feigning bedroom behavior with a nearly-naked man in "Alejandro." As though similar things have never been done before by Britney or Christina or Madonna ... or Prince. Michael Jackson might as well have had his hand glued to his crotch with how much time he spent touching himself for the camera, yet people see Miley a little dolled up for "Can't Be Tamed" and chastise her for warping the fragile minds of the younger generation. Judging by my experience as a teenager, I'd guess their minds are probably already a little warped.

Even before Miley was doing a burlesque shimmy in knee-high boots, the girl was discovering her sexuality and using it, to some degree. A lot of people do. When a teen girl realizes she's got the goods, she's usually going to want to show them off. Maybe she'll buy tighter jeans, a push-up bra, a low-cut top or some red lipstick. It may be inappropriate, but it's not unnatural.

And if it's any consolation to parties offended by Miley's new persona, if you'll notice, she very awkwardly pulls it off. Which means that she's probably still just as innocent as one would hope a teen idol to be.