Archive for the 'music' Category

Waiting for the thaw

Monday in the middle of winter. 
Spent the previous weekend drinking to excess and sleeping a lot.
Typical winter activities.

Started the morning off with some Amy Winehouse (how appropriate), moved on to Etta James, then to United We Funk’s live album recorded in Detroit.  Currently on the player – Christina Aguilera. 

I’m in a Neo-Soul kind of mood today.
Did I mention it’s winter and I’m restless?

I’m vowing not to talk about politics here, due to the personal nature of everyone’s opinions. That said, I’m currently very pleased with the outcomes of the elections so far. Seems my master plan to install a puppet government that will do only my bidding is working.

In my quest to see every single Oscar-nominated movie for Best Picture, I’ve been drowning in serious cinema.  Alas, my next Netflix movie is The Assassination of Jesse James… What I need now is a comedic dork-fest of movies to lighten things up. Perhaps it’s time to pull out my Christopher Guest stash.

I just spent the last two weeks teaching myself how to crochet. I can’t think of anything actually useful I can do with this skill except make an afghan, which would probably end up looking like something a clumsy second-grader with poor hand-eye coordination would crochet. Anyway, it’s something to do in front of the TV, as I watch the increasingly bad selection of reality programming being foisted on us.

I’m glad the writer’s strike is finally over, but it’ll be awhile before they pull the latest revival of American Gladiator off the air. And none too soon, either.

In the meantime, winter marches on, as I drink heavily and crochet my way through skein after skein of worsted, making nothing in particular, watching some of the worst TV ever produced, waiting for spring.

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Observant’s Favorite Things – 2007

As promised, Observant will now list her Best of 2007 CD (I just know you’ve all been holding your breath, waiting for this!)  There were so many wonderful new CD’s released in 2007 (contrary to what some of the other so-called experts have said about the preceding year’s music selection).  I found a lot to like, and my wallet can attest mightily to that fact.

10.  Guggenheim Grotto: Waltzing Alone –  This 3-member folk/pop band from Dublin sounds like CSN at times.  Great harmonies all around; check out Philosophia and Vertigo.

9.  KT Tunstall: Drastic Fantastic – Album cover aside (one of the worst I’ve seen), this is a nice, solid followup to Eye to the Telescope.  Little Favours got 4 stars from me. 

8.  Rilo Kiley: Under the Blacklight – Jenny Lewis’ band is back with a new release, after taking a break to record with Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins.  Favorite track is Close Call.

7.  Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrphya – I feel all floaty and melancholy when I listen to Andrew Bird (his voice sometimes reminds me of Rufus Wainwright’s), and this new album doesn’t disappoint the emo in me.  Very good for those gloomy Mondays when all you want to do is pull the covers over your head and suck on a bottle of Wild Turkey.

6.  The Decemberists:  The Crane Wife  – I know, I know. This album is supposed to represent The Decemberist’s selling out to a more corporate sound, but I don’t buy that.  Accessible? Yes, but also very smart and dark enough for my tastes.  Take Shankill Butchers, for instance:

The Shankill butchers ride tonight
You better shut your windows tight
They’re sharpening their cleavers and their knives
And taking all their whisky by the pint

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about; all killing and maiming and shit.

5.  Arctic Monkeys: Favourite Worst Nightmare – Very nice sophomore album by this band from Sheffield, England.  Lots of great tracks on this one (Fluorescent Adolescent, Teddy Picker, 505, Old Yellow Bricks, etc).  Love, love, love Alex Turner’s Yorkshire accent.

4.  Silversun Pickups: Carnavas – OK, it’s officially a 2006 release, but this just hit my radar screen last summer.  Absolutely cannot get enough of Lazy Eye or Rusted Wheel, but the voice….the voice will freak you out once you realize it’s a man’s voice. 

3.  Yeasayer:  All Hour Cymbals – OK, I just discovered this band the other day but I was an instant convert after hearing Sunrise, the first track on the album.  This is a post-modern-middle-eastern-meets-dreampop-meets-electronica mashup that appeals to the old hippie chick in me.  Also check out 2080.  The album kind of drags about midway, but a few more listens will probably cure that.

2.  The Kooks: Inside In/Inside Out – OK, officially another late-2006 release, but again, it just hit my radar.  Like Silversun’s Lazy Eye, the Kook’s song OohLa cannot be played too much on Observant’s IPod.   Great, upbeat pop hook that will make you wish you were 20 and single again (oh to have that kind of energy!).

1.  The Shins: Wincing the Night Away – This was Observant’s most highly anticipated album of the year, and it did not disappoint.  Phantom Limb is superb.  Oh, and Australia.  And Sleeping Lessons.  And Split Needles, and Red Rabbits…  Oh fuck, just buy the album.

Disappointments:  Two of my very favorite artists released albums this year that were just sub-par, in my opinion.  Definitely not up to the caliber I’m used to from them…

Lucinda Williams: West– Girlfriend’s lyrics are just downright bad and the music is monotonous and uninspiring.    The first song, Are You Alright? would be a prime example of the kind of dreck found on the rest of this awful mess:

Are you all right?
All of a sudden you went away
Are you all right?
I hope you come back around someday.
Are you all right?
I haven’t seen you in a real long time
Are you all right?
Could you give me some kind of sign?
Are you all right?
I looked around me and you were gone.
Are you all right?
I feel like there must be something wrong
Are you all right?
Cause it seems like you disappeared
Are you all right?
Cause I’ve been feeling a little scared
Are you all right?

No Lucinda,  I am not alright.  I am fucking bored.

Mark Knopfler: Kill to Get Crimson – Same complaint – bad lyrics coupled with boring, monotonous melodies.  The first track, True Love Will Never Fade starts with Knopfler singing those five words over and over and over about a bazillion times.  He then ends the song singing those 5 words over and over and over a bazillion more times.    I admit I have not listened to the entire album, but I just can’t stay awake past the first 3 songs.    For a man who’s written and recorded masterpieces like Sailing to Philadelphia and Shangri-La, as well as led Dire Straits through a very successful career, this release is doubly disappointing.  Check out One Take Radio Sessions for a better example of his fine guitar work and songwriting.

Whew!  I considered giving you a list of my favorite books, but honestly I like writing about the music I’ve enjoyed this year so much more.    OK, a short list then:

The Terror by Dan Simmons:  Lots of pages, a monster in the Arctic and a shipwreck.

World Without End by Ken Follett:  Sequel to Pillars of the Earth.  Just as good and just as long (1000 pages).

The Post Birthday World by Lionel Schriver:  I wrote about this one earlier in the year.  Superb writing and a great story.

I read a lot of books this year, but those are my top three. 

OK, so there you have it.  Go ahead, take some cheap shots at my lists if you have a mind to.  I can take it.  What were some of your favorites from 2007?

Maximum Horsepower

Federation of Horsepower - Stay Down

My hip cousin, Venus, is married to a very hip (and deliciously handsome) dude named Troy, foptroy.jpglead guitarist for local Kansas City band Federation of Horsepower.  They’re having their CD release party Saturday night.  Today there were not one, but TWO articles in the local papers – The Kansas City Star and The Pitch.  Give ’em a read! 

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Federation, from left: Gregg Todt, John Ferguson, Troy Van Horn, Chris Fugit

So I’m giving Troy and the boys a big shout out here from the Observation Deck.   And for a taste of FOH’s sound, check out their website on Myspace.    Alas, I will miss the CD release party due to a previously planned engagement, but you youngun’s have yourselves a rockin’ good time  – and Congratulations! 

Music Video Thursday: Neko Case – Hold On Hold On

One of the answers on my All About Me(me) was which song I would take to a desert island, and this is it.  I never get tired of listening to this CD, but this song in particular.  Enjoy!

The most tender place in my heart is for strangers
I know it’s unkind but my own blood is much too dangerous
Hangin’ round the ceiling half the time
Hangin’ round the ceiling half the time

Compared to some I’ve been around
But I really tried so hard
That echo chorus lied to me with its
“Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on”

In the end I was the mean girl
Or somebody’s in-between girl
Now it’s the devil I love
And that’s as funny as real love

I leave the party at three a.m.
Alone, thank God
With a valium from the bride
It’s the devil I love
And that’s as funny as real love
And that’s as real as true love

That echo chorus lied to me with its
“Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on”

That echo chorus lied to me with its
“Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on”

All About Me(me)

Prada Pixie has bucked the establishment and made up her own meme and I say Good for her!  It’s a great one, so of course I stole it because I’m lazy and I think I’m coming down with the cold Ken had this weekend and I just spent $200 on my dog’s shots and allergy shot and heartworm pills and, shit – it’s Monday.

  1. What is your all time favourite book, from childhood, as an adult?  Little House on the Prairie/Pillars of the Earth.  I’ve read each numerous times and I even live close to a town that has a Laura Ingalls Wilder day once a year.  They don’t, however have an Observant Bystander day.  Yet.
  2. All time favourite movie as above?  The Wizard of Oz/The Philadelphia Story.  Again, numerous viewings and yes, I’ve done the WOZ/Dark Side of the Moon thing which totally rocks by the way.  A little known fact is that you can do the same thing with The Philadelphia Story and Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours album. 
  3. Favourite type of chocolate, and how much of it do you eat a week?  I only eat Nestle’s chocolate chunks because, well, nothing says big hunk o’ chocolate like chocolate chunks. 
  4. Favourite drink, non alcoholic and alcoholic?  Iced tea with lemon.  Amaretto sour.  No joking around with the liquor, no sir.   
  5. Where is your all time best holiday destination?  For Halloween, I like to go a few blocks over to this big house that looks like a castle and has a blue tile roof (I shit you not, people), because they change the doorbell chime to sound all scary and stuff AND they give out full size Hershey bars. 
  6. Where is your dream holiday destination?  Oh shit, I just realized this was written by a Brit.  Which means I’m supposed to be answering these holiday questiont by substituting the word vacation.  Well, I’m not changing the answer to #5 because it’s truly the best Halloween destination.  As far as dream vacations go – I’d have to vote for a tour of famous cemetaries.   I tried to talk my dad into visiting Jim Morrison’s gravesite in Paris, but even after I explained who Jim Morrison was, he still wasn’t interested.  Oh, and Italy.  Yeah, I’d really like to go to Italy.
  7. Which is the best Beatles track of all time?  I Want You/She’s So Heavy from Abbey Road.  Nuff said.
  8. What are you most proud of having achieved (having children doesn’t count)  Making it out of my twenties alive. 
  9. What would you want for your last supper ever?(assuming it’s food you like now and not liquidized mush when you are 90!)  Cheeseburger, really salty fries, chocolate milkshake.
  10. How old were you when you had your first snog, name of snoggee if you dare?   Haha!  I know what snog means!   OK – 16 and no, I won’t say (cause a lady does NOT kiss and tell – did you hear that Monica Lewinsky???).  He had the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen in my life though.
  11. Do you have an unfulfilled ambition?  Yes!
  12. If so what is it?  Well, besides being a World Famous Blogger, I want to learn how to take pictures well.
  13. What yer gonna do about achieving it?  I’m shopping for a camera as we speak (thanks, Deb!)
  14. Describe the outfit that best describes you as you are.  Soft, wornout bellbottom jeans, gauzy shirt, chunky shoes.  The hippie girl never died.
  15. If you were on Desert Island Discs which one piece of music would you want to keep?  Wow I had to Wiki this one!  ONE PIECE OF MUSIC?  OK, but tomorrow I might now feel the same way – Hold on Hold on by Neko Case.  The words are perfect to me. 
  16.  And what would the luxury item be, as in no use at all, on a desert island?   An art deco still life painting I have.
  17.  Outside of your partner, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Beyonce Knowles, J-lo who do you fantasise about?  You mean I can’t choose George Clooney??   Billy Bob Thornton cause he’s sooooo nasty.
  18. Describe the contents of your purse/wallet, ie receipts/ bus tickets/ plastic you never use/ and if your lucky enough money.(English use of the word purse here)  Gum wrappers, lots of gum wrappers, hair ties and headbands, lotion, big fat red wallet, cell phone (somewhere in the bottom of the purse where I can never find it to answer it), cigarettes (always where I can find them), sunglasses, medications (old women have to carry their medications with them ya know), and various types of paperwork (currently camera research).
  19. Outside of the family what item would you save from the inferno?  Just to be clear here, my dog IS my family so he’s going regardless.  Other than that, my purse. 
  20. How much would you like me to stop now.?  But I LIKE talking about myself…

Music video Thursday: In These Shoes? Kirsty MacColl

Have fun ladies! 

I once met a man with a sense of adventure
He was dressed to thrill wherever he went
He said “Let’s make love on a mountain top
Under the stars on a big hard rock”
I said “In these shoes?
I don’t think so”
I said “Honey, let’s do it here.”

So I’m sitting at a bar in Guadalajara
In walks a guy with a faraway look in his eyes
He said “I’ve got as powerful horse outside
Climb on the back, I’ll take you for a ride
I know a little place, we can get there for the break of day.”
I said “In these shoes?
No way, Jose”
I said “Honey, let’s stay right here.”

No le gusta caminar. No puede montar a caballo
(She doesn’t like to walk, she can’t ride a horse)
Como se puede bailar? Es un escandolo
(But the way she dances, it’s a scandal)

Then I met an Englishman
“Oh” he said
“Won’t you walk up and down my spine,
It makes me feel strangely alive.”
I said “In these shoes?
I doubt you’d survive.”
I said “Honey, let’s do it.
Let’s stay right here.”

No le gusta caminar. No puede montar a caballo
(She doesn’t like to walk, she can’t ride a horse)
Como se puede bailar? Es un escandolo
(But the way she dances, it’s a scandal)

 (Sadly, Kirsty MacColl was killed in a scuba diving accident the year she filmed this live performance in 2000.  The details surrounding her death continue to be a source of controversy)

Don’t know much about fine literature

Because I entered my high school years in the early 1970’s, when education was going through its “progressive phase”, my literary education was what most people would consider to be subpar.  Instead of spending our language arts period studying the works of Shakephere or Dickens, you’d likely find us dissecting the latest rock and roll lyrics for hidden meanings.  More often than not, we students were a lot more savvy than our teachers when it came to popular music.  I remember one class period where, after listening to Neil Young’s Needle and the Damage Done, the teacher popped up out of her seat and brightly said “Well, it sounds to me like this artist is writing about a lost relationship!”  All the heads in the room snapped to attention at this obviously blatant teacher error.

“Yeah, his lost relationship with SMACK.”  said one of boys, whose long hair stamped him as a hippie and therefore in the know about such things.

“Drugs?  Oh I don’t think so” the instructor said doubtfully.

But we knew better.  We didn’t know anything about Milton or Dante or Faust, but we definitely knew rock lyrics.  Besides, we’d all seen Panic in Needle Park by then, with its graphic depiction of New York City heroin addicts, so we knew the scene, man.  Even if we were teenage hippie posers.

My very first introduction to fine literature, though, was well before I started high school.   In 1968, Franco Zeffrelli’s film version of Romeo and Juliet came to town.  The college-age sister of my best friend took us to see it one Saturday afternoon, after it first came out.  This was an experience I will never forget, for it was then that I fell in love with Leonard Whiting’s ass.  His bare naked ass was up there on the big screen for the world to admire and my 11 year old boy crazy eyes got to see it.   It’s likely that my mother had no idea the movie would contain actual nudity (even if it was only like 2 seconds of nudity), because I doubt I would have been able to attend.  No, she was probably thinking Romeo and Juliet was a great way for me to experience the literary greatness of Shakesphere, instead of my usual book fare of The Bobbsey Twins or our collection of ancient Nancy Drews.  Afterwards, I bought the movie soundtrack and spent hours wearing the grooves down on the record while I memorized the dialogue and pretended I was Juliet, instead of that snotty actress, Olivia Hussey. Even her name sounded stuck-up.  She couldn’t possibly appreciate young Romeo’s fine, firm ass they way I could.  

Months later, after wearing out my Romeo and Juliet LP and having convinced myself that this Shakesphere fellow was a damn fine writer, I delved into some of his other works – which I promptly abandoned.  It was hard for me to believe that the same person who wrote such a great love story could have written such dense and nonsensical crap as Hamlet and Macbeth.  No, the only way I was going to appreciate Shakesphere was through the film versions, preferably with some nudity. 

And this is where I stand today regarding the classics.  If it’s not on film, I’m probably not going to know the story.  Period. 

I’m not a literary dummy, I just want my stories entertaining – even desperate and dark will do – but preferably in a language I can understand.  Let’s face it, the English written in the 18th and 19th centuries is NOT what we speak today.  It’s full of stuff like “It would be needless to say, that the gentlemen advanced in the good opinion of each other, as they advanced in each other’s acquaintance, for it could not be otherwise.”

I don’t even know what stuff like that means.  However, when delivered as dialogue in a movie, it’s a lot easier to swallow. 

It’s probable that some exposure to the great literary classics while I was in high school, and held hostage by a grade point, would have been a good idea.  Instead, I’m left clueless when references are made to Hamlet’s ghost, or find myself  wondering which Dickens story the Artful Dodger makes an appearance in.  It’s a problem I’m not terribly keen on remedying anytime soon.   I don’t need the grade and there are so many other great books to read that don’t require a hacksaw to cut through the dense underbrush of language.

Right now, my cousin Alice is reading Bleak House.  I rolled my eyes and told her I was glad somebody was reading it, and that she could give me the high points later.  I missed it when the miniplay ran on PBS.  

Or maybe I was watching Project Runway instead. ..