Archive for the tag “Music”

Shuffle Up and Deal: Pinback–Bbtone

Wherein I mash that shuffle button and use the song as writing prompt.

Sometimes the ol’ shuffle deals you a song that has layers of meanings for you. I got into Pinback during some difficult times and found great comfort in them. Some people find the band to be a bit gloomy and I get that. I appreciate their subtle humor and experimentalism. They are so fun to see live and I happened to move to their hometown so my appreciation of them has grown over time.


best pic i could find from last show Mari and I went to at Belly Up.

I associate Bbtone with the daily struggle of the cluttered mind and brain chemistry issues. The lyrics seem to reference the claustrophobic feelings that come from dealing with said struggle and the frustration of approaching feeling good or “normal” but not quite making it there. The last verse spells this out well:

Forever wishing
Someone near the goal
Forever pushing
Sisyphus would know
Forever wasting
Promise as it goes
Foresenics (sic) show
A summer in the hole, buddy

This isn’t a “sad” song for me though or one that puts me in a sad place. The struggle IS the point. Life is difficult, people are difficult, your own brain can be difficult.  But the drive to get by and endeavor to make things better is amazing. I take not only that lesson from this song, but also the thought that better or “normal” will (and should be) always over the next ridge.

Escalades, Maces and Snakes. We know what’s hip.


Mike and I will be having our first overnight date sans kiddos since Michaela was born.  At the ripe age of 3.5 months and Bailey boasting 3 years they can pretty much fend for themselves…

Needless to say, we have strong reinforcements coming in to take over kid/dog duty while Mike and I have our first big adventure!

Where to, you may be asking? I am SO glad you asked!

Mike introduced me to an amazing band about a year ago. Grimes.  He saw a video of a fierce little lady cruising an Escalade, wielding a Mace complete with large snakes, metal ensembles and schoolgirl innocence. He sent me a video link, with a preface of something like, “Babe, Grimes is right up your alley. I think she may be one of the girls”. “The girls” are an elite group of women artists who I hold close and will play at any moment. Sometimes on repeat.

I clicked the link and was hooked.  Since then, I have all of Grimes music and listen to her daily.  One night after too much wine, I contacted her via her facebook page and begged her to visit San Diego and offered her a place to stay. Does that make me a stalker? For the first time I understand why people are crazy over an artist 🙂

Last year, Grimes played Coachella but I was pregnant.  From what I can see on her website she mainly plays at music festivals.  However, a few weeks ago I received a band alert that she was playing at House of Blues in Hollywood. For one night. I couldn’t believe it.  I told Mike about it and the next day he was working on tickets, a hotel and ample childcare.  My husband seriously rocks my universe.

We have hotel reservations on Sunset, are dining at a über hip restaurant and going to see Grimes at House of Blues.  I wonder if we will be the oldest fans? I have no idea what to wear. I want to look cool but not trying too hard.  I told Mike to be ready because I will be the girl up front, tearing up the dance floor (Thanks Lizzie/Tana for the cool term).  I am so excited I feel like a little kid.

Onto Grimes.  Her name is Claire and she is 25 and Canadian.  I love Canadians. In fact, I have never met a Canadian I didn’t like.   I have read up on her a bit, and know she isn’t the kind of girl who likes to be called tiny or adorable.  I can only describe her as a unicorn, which is the highest praise in my world(I have only deemed one other person a unicorn, which is my fabulous friend Molly, truly a magical unicorn inside and out).

Her videos remind me of my best friend Eva and I when we were 25.  I recently played her music for Eva and she said, “Her voice reminds me of Enya with amazing dance music”.  I think Claire has a much stronger voice but definitely understand Eva’s sentiments.  Her music gives me goose bumps and I find myself putting on Grimes for when I want to dance, relax, or work.   I don’t have any other musician in my humble music library that works for all emotions.

I love how simple this video is, the delicious man candy and the emotion of underlying gender stereotypes.

For me, Grimes makes me feel young and careless. Her music makes me want to dance, but also encourages me to know the lyrics because I know they are much more than a pop song.  I feel happy when I listen to Claire.  It isn’t often I find a talented artist who writes her lyrics, has a phenomenal voice and puts together amazing music.  The best part? It sounds like she is a really cool person.  I have read interviews and she is honest when she describes her music.  One of my favorite songs, Vowels and Space made me think it was super deep only to find this candid interview from Pitchfork:

“The song “Vowels = space and time” was actually me angrily writing about the fact that people were always getting on me for not writing songs about things. It’s based on a theory from Russian Zaum philosophy, which is this weird, obscure pre-Dada early-1900s surrealist group that believed language was false because vocal expression had inherent emotional meanings or qualities. I was like, “This justifies my other records!” 

I could write so much more about Claire. Her rider requests puppies. She is eco-friendly and polite.  Her videos are tops, and quite honestly her music just makes me happy.

I cannot wait to see Grimes.  Can you tell?

xo Mari

Shuffle up and Deal

The National — Sea of Love

I resisted liking The National for some time. Resisted them even though I admitted to myself that I liked a bunch of their songs. Eventually I got around to asking myself why I was resisting them and it came down to the stupidest of all reasons: Some people that I am not fans of or actively dislike were singing the praises of the National (and rightfully so) and I transferred my dislike to the band. Poor choice.

Sea of Love was the song that made me ask myself why I didn’t like them. I love the arrangement, the tempo, and the urgency embedded in the song. The chorus bored into my skull like a superheated drill bit:

Hey Jo sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don’t they?

Been on both sides of that equation and there is a lot of tough-to-come-by wisdom in there.

I heartily encourage you to check them out. Cool video for this song too.

Shuffle up and deal

The Raveonettes — Love in a Trashcan

Hi, y’allz. Sorry for the lack of posting. We added another baby girl condiment to our condiment tray so exciting times around our house. We’ll be back with inane (mine) and useful (Mari’s) posts shortly.

So, this is the only song by the Raveonettes that I have on any of my devices. I’m thinking that’s a shame and I should do some more digging. I find Sharon Foo to be quite lovely. 🙂 Now to the music itself….. I love the interplay between the jangly guitars (I’m fairly on record with my love for the jangle) and the xylophone as well as the harmonizing between the two vocalists. Also, love the unexpectedly cool guitar solo.

This song has kind of a Velvet Underground feel (R.I.P. Lou Reed), which is a bonus for me. I have seen the video described as “an early 60’s cosmetic commercial”, which I sorta get. I can’t tell if they deliberately misstated some of the “slogans” such as “Sneak a Peak” or whether that’s due to the band and the director being Belgian.

Lyrics are short so I’m putting them all here:

If you touch that girl, you know it’s okay
People say she’s a whore anyway
I think she looks like a nice vamp
Looking for love in a trashcan

If you kiss that girl, you won’t be caught dead
She’s the coolest girl you think you ever met
I think she fits right into my life
On the road till the end of time
On the road till the end of time

Now the time is right and you feel the need
To go down low and receive a treat
The jukebox churns out songs about sex
Come on baby you’re my best fix
Come on baby you’re my best fix

Love, love in a trashcan
Love, love in a trashcan

Shuffle up and deal

Billy Bragg & Wilco — California Stars

We had this song in our wedding playlist. It’s an old Woody Guthrie song so the imagery of the vocals is great and the arrangement is beautiful. While I’m not the biggest Guthrie fan, I do love Wilco and Jeff Tweedy’s vocals hit the spot for me. Also, I would give this world just to dream a dream with my lovely wife in our bed of California stars. 🙂

Some lyrics:

I’d like to dream
My troubles all away
On a bed of California stars

Jump up from my star bed
Make another day
Underneath my California stars

They hang like grapes
On vines that shine
And warm the lovers’ glass
Like friendly wine

So I’d give this world
Just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars

Shuffle up and deal

Modest Mouse — Dramamine

For some reason, Modest Mouse is one of my favorite bands that I never consider one of my favorite bands. When asked to list my favorite bands I never think of them but after I hear a song or listen through an album I’m happy because they put out a really good product.

I think that part of this is that once Johnny Marr joined, I started to enjoy them on another level because I really dig his signature jangly guitar sound. But, I’ve always thought that Isaac Brock is a pretty amazing lyricist. He’s unconventional as a front-man and his voice can be offputting. But the lyrics are gold.

Lyrics I enjoy in this song:

Traveling swallowing Dramamine
Look at your face like you’re killed in a dream
And you think you’ve figured out everything
I think I know my geography pretty damn well

Shuffle up and Deal

A Tribe Called Quest — Electric Relaxation

One of my all time favorite hip hop songs. Classic jazz bass line sample with a funk sample laid on top. The lyrics are outstanding and Phife really shines on this record. Q-Tip has some gems in this track as well, but Phife starts off thundering with:

I like ’em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitan
Name’s Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation

And ends up with:

Let me hit it from the back, girl I won’t catch a hernia
Bust off on your couch, now you got Seaman’s furniture

The play on words with Seaman’s furniture is just awesome. For context:

If you’re at all into ATCQ, check out the Beats Rhymes and Life documentary. Well worth your time.

Shuffle up and deal

Blondfire — Where the Kids Are

This is our daughter’s current favorite song. She loves to pick up the ipod or phone or speaker that’s playing this song, close her eyes and start dancing. So far, Blondfire is the only band she’ll request by name. We have also decided that “blondfire” is the perfect descriptor for our daughter’s hair color–with the mixture of blonde and red.

bailey shopping

I saw another one just the other day. A special new band.

It was early 1997. I had a glorious pony tail and lived in the mountains. One day during idle work conversation some one asked, “What’s your favorite band?” Really didn’t have an answer. I liked bands. I was possibly “in to” some bands. Nothing that approached being a singular favorite. I must have sputtered out some answer as the conversation moved on. But it stuck with me as one of those “that’s not right” moments.

I wrestled with choosing a band from the music then in heavy rotation for me. None of them seemed right and in hindsight those choices may have been rather embarrassing today. It felt like I would be reaching back when I wanted to go forward. So, I decided that the next band that grabbed my attention I’d look into. I thought that I’d hear someone new that bowl me over with awesomeness. It ended up that it was a band whose CD I already owned, but I hadn’t given a chance.

Mountain living requires some driving around. Things aren’t always close. Music helped with that. My girlfriend kept putting The Bends in the CD player. I initially dismissed Radiohead because the ubiquity of Creep in 1993 wore on me. Creep is a song that seems clever at first and then gets progressively irritating with subsequent listens. I bought the conventional wisdom that they were a one hit wonder after listening to the rest of the Pablo Honey (I did appreciate the Jerky Boys reference. Also, worst album cover ever). I heard some songs that I liked from The Bends when it came out in 1995. Enough to buy the CD. But it didn’t really work its way into my preferred music until I ceded some control over the CD player.

I began to notice that there were moments in some songs that “gripped” me. The beginning of the album and the song Planet Telex has a whooshing noise over some atmospheric guitars. The way that the guitars come in at the end of Fake Plastic Trees. The creepy, but not in the context of the lyrics, “I used to fly like Peter Pan. All the children flew when I touched their hands” crescendo at the end of Bones. The lyrics overall weren’t as corny. The production was better. The musicianship was tighter. They were rounding out nicely. Maybe I was just finally paying attention.

In the summer of 1997 I was flipping through the channels one night and saw a live show from Ireland concurrent with the U.S. release date of OK Computer. Thom Yorke was doing some heroically bad dancing and was wobbling his head like the Chicken Lady from the Kids in the Hall or Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray. Weird, but good weird. I bought the album shortly thereafter.

OK Computer is at or near the top of a whole bunch of Best of the 1990’s lists and is mostly a concept album about the fear and ennui that accompanied the oncoming technological age. I say mostly because a couple of songs don’t fit that for me. Needless to say, I loved it and I was hooked.

It would be a fair criticism to say, “Congratulations, you managed to pick out the band that a boatload of other emo/indie/hipster/your insult of choice people like. How utterly average. Also, Radiohead is whiny crap”. Cant argue with that. But that’s not the point here. It wasn’t as important which band I chose. It was that I decided to choose.

I think I’d be just as happy if I chose Creed (Cole, I’m looking at you, buddy*). Here’s why. A ton of good things flowed from settling on a band. The nascent wild west internet combined with an, in hindsight, ill advised bet on digital copyright enforcement provided the perfect incubator for fostering an interest in a band. Not only could I wait patiently for my dial up to get every song RH had recorded (I waited 13 minutes for Treefingers and it was really a completely different Muse song!!?!), I could get a poorly recorded live version from a Tel Aviv show of Alligators in the New York Sewers. I read interviews, articles, and pieced together cryptic lyrics and song meanings with other fans. Their music also helped get me through some tough times.

The biggest benefit was exposure to other bands. It was like Pandora before there was Pandora. There were online recommendations from fans and associated acts like the Beta Band and Steven Malkmus which led me to Pavement. That this post is titled with a Pavement lyric and not a Radiohead lyric is a small testament to this. I branched out, at first in a limited space and then progressively outward. My music collection and influences grew. That’s a great result. I would have branched out from Creed as well and achieved it.

So here I am today, happier and wiser, You may think that despite my journey that I still have no taste. But I used to have NO taste. This is better.

*Creed isn’t Cole’s favorite band. Like Mari, it is Tool. Which I think is a great choice.

From Mari:

Mike was surprised to find out my number one band was Tool. I worked for a Rock radio station for a year, and was pimped out as a chick who loves to rock. He actually put on a Tool CD to see if I was legit. I knew all of the words. Eighties rock fans, don’t get too excited. My music taste follows with Tori Amos, Milosh, Husky Rescue, Alice in Chains, and Portishead. OH and, Lady Ga Ga. Eclectic to some people, annoying to others. I also enjoy the reggae stylings presented on Sunday mornings. I love trip hop, hard rock, and female vocals. Recently, I spent a night on repeat with Machine Says Yes, FC/Kahuna .

Mike asked me to go to Radiohead, on his motorcyle. I went, and enjoyed it. We sometimes realize our passion for music is met. Other times it isn’t. There are some Radiohead songs I love. Lotus Flower is one of them. I think it is trip hop, mixed with Mike’s favorite band. Some of the other songs, I just don’t get. What I do understand is Mike’s passion. I watched him, enamored, and it made my heart soar. I love watching him pleased. Radiohead pleases him.

If you know Mike, not much ignites him to a giddy state. Friends of his have told me I do this. Bailey definitely encourages a ridiculous emotion. Radiohead also does this for him. I love watching him get excited. He turned into a child when we went to see Radiohead. I had a similar emotion when we saw Beth this year (Portishead, friends). Thanks for showing your face Beth 🙂

Shuffle up and deal

From time to time Mari or I will go to our ipod, phone, other music player, or computer, hit shuffle and write a bit about what comes up.  I promise we will not cheat.  If the song is embarrassing, we will still post.

Madvillain — Great Day

Madvillain is a collaboration between DOOM f/k/a MF DOOM and the producer Madlib.  Madlib provides some truly weird beats cribbed from old cartoons and DOOM brings his intricate rhyming style and aversion to choruses.  It is verse, verse, verse, verse, done.  I found out about Madvillain from a list that Thom Yorke posted on the Radiohead site of what he was listening to.

This isn’t one of their best songs.  But, it does use an awesome songwriting tool:  deceptive resolution.  Basically, deceptive resolution is a way to negate a person’s brain from completing a rhyming couplet or verse by not rhyming.  Your brain guesses what the lyric will be because it should rhyme.  When it doesn’t it is a weird sensation.  A good example is from Mr. Brightside by the Killers:

Now they’re going to bed.  And my stomach is sick.  And it’s all in my head.  But she’s touching his chest…….

The Killers smartly used this on a song that got a lot of airplay to avoid being censored.

Madvillain uses the technique as follows:

Last wish, I wish I had two more wishes
And I wish they fixed the door to the Matrix’s mad glitches
Spit so many verses sometimes my jaw twitches
One thing this party could use is more..

Love it.

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