Saturday, April 26, 2008

Did you hear? Polaris - Music from the Adventures of Pete & Pete

In the unlikely event that a terrorist puts a gun to my head and forces me to choose between Nickelodeon’s first-rate 90’s show, The Adventures of Pete & Pete and its soundtrack, I would probably choose the soundtrack.

Polaris was the “house band” on Pete & Pete, which basically means they provided most of the background music. This strikes me as unusual, and I doubt many other shows hire bands to create the music that goes into the episodes.

Think back to the opening credits of Pete & Pete. In the credits, a band jams on the Wrigley’s lawn in the late summer. That is Polaris. The footage and music compliment each other well, and I feel like Polaris is somehow part of the soundtrack to my youth, even if I just got the record last year.

The record starts off with a short message to the space cadets and then “Hey Sandy,” the theme song to the show kicks in. I would describe Polaris’s sound as a blend between R.E.M.’s Murmur and a band like the Gin Blossoms. It’s jangly and melodic. There are harmonica solos and more pieces of advice to space travelers sprinkled throughout. They nailed the nineties alternative sound. Kudos to lead singer and songwriter Mark Mulcahy. Polaris is a one-album wonder; there is nothing else by them. My favorite moments include:

- “Waiting for October.” The quick start and the backing vocals in the chorus.

- The harmonica solo in “Everywhere”

- The last chorus in “Ashamed of the Story I Told”

- The last chorus in “The Monster’s Loose”. Honestly, they did not have to do it once more, but they got indulgent, and it works.

My biggest complaint is that the record is not perfect. I could do without “As Usual” and the long outro on “Waiting for October.” I’m willing to look past these shortcomings. This record is a classic, even if you haven’t heard it before. Favorite tracks: “Hey Sandy,” “Ashamed of the Story I Told,” and “The Monster’s Loose.”

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Did you hear? Jimmy Buffett - "Lone Palm"

I get a lot of criticism for enjoying Jimmy Buffett’s music, and I’ve heard all of the arguments for why he’s not a good artist. You can’t change 21 years of programming and conditioning. I like him, and you don’t have to read on if you don’t.

My mom visits this blog occasionally, but she is not interested in reading about The Dodos or Blacklisted or whatever else I dribble on about. So hi mom! I extend my welcome to any other visitors of her age persuasion. Apartment Story: not just for kids.

I want to talk about this Buffett song for a little bit. It’s called “Lone Palm” and you can find it on Fruitcakes. The record came out in 1994, and just putting my head around that makes me feel old. Next year it turns 15! I can still remember when it came out. I loved the title track then, but now I prefer “Lone Palm.”

Call him gimmicky, fine, but I don’t think this song is gimmicky at all. The music conjures images of hammocks and the setting sun, not chugging margaritas in a shark suit. The melody is understated, and I love the quiet acoustic guitar strumming. It reminds me of his best songs from the seventies like “Come Monday” and “He Went to Paris.”

Most importantly, I really like the lyrics. The second chorus is magnificent. Jimmy tells the (sad) story of a girl he only knows a little bit. The line, “from under my lone palm/I think about her today,” captures the mood of the song. The lone palm is a nice symbol for the quiet contemplation that goes hand in hand with living. We all need to sort out our problems once in awhile. And yeah, we contemplate different endings. The future might be uncertain, but at least we have the past to guide us. I guess getting old has some serious advantages.

Friday, April 18, 2008

30 Minute Weekend Playlist (4/18/08)

I lost my pedometer at Murphy’s yesterday, so this entry is a tribute to that. The Pedometer Challenge rages on without me, but do not worry, it’s still in my mind and heart. I’m counting steps in my head as I walk down the street. Believe that.

Check out the track listing, see what I did? Clever right? The list goes off with a classic Cannonball live cut. I dig what that guy says at the start of his records. Oh, to see him live. Total master. I was listening to that first Against Me! yesterday and taking in how good that thing was. In twenty years, people will still be listening to it. New Wave will be in the trash though! Speaking of songs that stand up with time, “Walking in the Rain” by the Ronettes does. I may be involved in the Pedometer Challenge with 200+ library employees, but I’m still out of step with the world. Hence the closer (and photo).

  1. Cannonball Atterley – Walk Tall (Live)
  2. Kanye West – Jesus Walks
  3. The Dodos - Walking
  4. October Fall – It Was Summer (Baby Steps)
  5. Husker Du – One Step at a Time
  6. Against Me! – Walking is Still Honest
  7. The Ronettes – Walking in the Rain
  8. Shipwreck – Walk in the Woods
  9. Saturday Looks Good To Me – Keep Walking
  10. Minor Threat – Out of Step (With the World)
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Monday, April 14, 2008

Review: The Dodos - Visiter

When I first saw the cover of The Dodos’ Visiter on the front page of Pitchfork, I dismissed it, guessing that it would be crappy electronica or spastic noise music. Fortunately, my friend John suggested I give it a try, and I discovered that I was completely wrong.

Visiter is the kind of record that sounds like it was concocted in basements and apartment living rooms, the musicians adding subtle nuances each time they rehearse. I can imagine the (incredible) drummer practicing his parts over and over again to make them more unique, intricate, and also useful. The drums and the guitar weave in and out and then strike in unison at just the right times.

Perhaps the best thing about Visister is that there are only two principle instruments used: the acoustic guitar and drum set. The guitarist (I think his name is Meric) is really great. He switches from furious strumming to confident fingerpicking without batting a lash, and tailors the vocals to compliment it all. Still, the beauty is in the simplicity.

The Dodos’ sound is difficult to describe. It is unlike most acoustic guitar-centered indie music that comes out these days. Forget Iron & Wine or Owen. I have heard Visiter described as psychedelic-pop that is in touch with Animal Collective’s sensibilities. I do not hear psychedelic so much, but I definitely can hear hints of Panda Bear’s drumming on Visiter. The Dodos one-up Animal Collective in vocal execution (and nearly everywhere else). Listening to Visiter is like listening to your friends play music for you. Each melody is deeply personal, a testament to the craft. Did I mention that this record sounds loud? Because it does. This is not meek Dashboard Confessional bullshit. Get this record if you like great drumming, acoustic guitar, lo-fi production, cohesive records, and damn good songs. Favorite tracks are “Red and Purple” and the amazing “Undeclared.”

Friday, April 11, 2008

30 Minute Weekend Playlist (4/11/08)

Welcome University of Illinois mothers to my blog! It’s Mom’s Weekend- a very special time for students to bond with their moms through alcohol and the Staysh. My mom’s not coming, but if she was, we’d definitely listen to my weekend playlist.

We’re not classy people, but we can listen to classy music. Jazz is classy. I’ve put on a song from Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus to bring the class up. It’s jazzy, hip, and in the groove. Didn’t Spoon rip off Mingus recently? The other song is from Sunday at the Village Vanguard by Bill Evans and his trio. The bassist died a few weeks (or days) after recording this record, and it’s pretty much legendary. So get into it (the groove).

I must also point out that this week’s playlist has two songs from Dodos. Dodos just put out a record called Visiter that is really cool. Figure out how to get a hold of that and let’s talk about it. Let’s work it out. Happy Friday, happy Mom’s Weekend, see ya’ll on Green St. Keep it classy Champaign, and if you can’t, pretend.

  1. New Found Glory – Shadow
  2. Clipse ft. Spanish Lee – We Got it 4 Cheap
  3. Charles Mingus – Theme for Lester Young
  4. Dodos – Park Song
  5. The National – Brainy (Alternate)
  6. Bill Evans Trio – My Romance (Take One)
  7. Dodos - Undeclared
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Did you hear? Nightmare of You - "Yuengling"

Nightmare of You is a four-piece band from Long Island, New York. They have released nothing but incredible music in their short career, and I hope they continue to make records. Their debut LP (Nightmare of You) ranks among my favorite debuts of all time, and their follow-up EP, Bang, is no sophomore slump. The members have a long history of music greatness having played in bands like The Movielife, Youth of Today, and Judge.

If you’ve heard Nightmare of You before, you can vouch for me when I say that each song is great. Even “Thumbelina” has its moments. The standout song for me is, “I Want to be Buried in your Backyard.” It was the first single from the record. It evokes the sounds of The Smiths, jangly eighties pop, and modern pop-punk.

I do not know the origins of “Yuengling” except that it an early version of “I Want to Be Buried…” The chorus is intact, but the verse has totally different lyrics. Most importantly, there is an instrumental section before the final chorus that is just incredible. The production is more raw. You must get this song. If you haven’t heard Nightmare of You before, they might be the band you’re looking for. Nightmare of You is the catchiest record, perhaps, that I have ever heard.
Who wants to see them in Chicago on May 21 or in Tinley Park on May 22?

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Live music: Chicago summer festivals

Somehow in the past five years, Chicago has become a hotspot for prominent music festivals. Here’s how I would spend my time at Pitchfork Fest and Lollapalooza if I decide to go.

Pitchfork Fest is from July 18-20 at Grant Park. On Friday night, three seminal bands (Public Enemy, Mission of Burma, +1 TBA) take the stage to perform classic albums. This year’s lineup is weak compared to last year, when GZA spit out Liquid Swords and Sonic Youth ripped through Daydream Nation. I wasn’t there, but I heard it ruled!

On Saturday, I would start by seeing Animal Collective. I don’t even like them, but I do love Panda Bear, and the potential to see a song off Person Pitch would be too great to ignore. If anything, I could catch a few tracks off their lukewarm release, Strawberry Jam (best song: ‘Chores’). I would then follow the footprints of boat shoes and the smell of sea air over to the Vampire Weekend stage. I am interested to see if they’re good live and how the crowd will react. Diego doesn’t like them. If I had to fill time, I’d do it by catching Fleet Foxes’ set, The Ruby Suns’ set, or by eating overpriced concessions.

On Sunday, the festival really heats up. I hope Dinosaur Jr. plays a set late in the day so I can preserve my eardrums. What better way to start a Sunday than by dancing to the jams of El Guincho? Alegranza totally rules! Next, I would position myself as close as possible to the Boris stage. If they play ‘Farewell’, I will leave the weekend a happy man. Finally, Spiritualized is sure to be awesome. In my spare time, I would go see Raekwon, Pretty Toney, and M. Ward.

Lollapalooza. August 1-3. Grant Park. Is it better than Pitchfork? Maybe. Not sure how I feel yet. I’d be down for a set from NiN, but I would rather not watch Radiohead. I’d be down for a set from Rage, but I’d prefer the grooves of Kanye. Wilco? I’ll pass. The most important part of Lolla is the National. If you don’t know, or don’t care, you lose out. I would also check out Brand New’s set, Lupe Fiasco (awesome live), Explosions in the Sky, Girl Talk, Battles, and the Weakerthans. As much as Pitchfork gets criticized for being a hype machine, Lollapalooza is buying right into it. Good work booking MGMT guys!

Wow, that was a lot of typing. Pitchfork will be better because the lineup is better and because it’s cheaper. Lollapalooza will be better if you want to hear a sweeping rendition of “Fake Plastic Trees” or “Crazy”. I’ll probably go to both. See ya there!

Friday, April 4, 2008

30 Minute Weekend Playlist (4/4/08)

Happy Friday loyal readers! It’s April, but who could tell judging from the weather? I wouldn’t be shocked if it started snowing sometime this week.

Spring Break is now a memory, and summer is nowhere in sight. The playlist kind of reflects this. I have been listening to a lot of the Talking Heads and Gang of Four. Their mechanical sound is perfect for dreary Spring weather. The new Panic at the Disco record is surprisingly good, and I have book ended the mix with songs from Pretty. Odd. Everyone is saying it sounds like the Beatles, and I agree. However, it sounds nothing like “Two of Us”. Good song either way. Catch you on the flip side!

1. Panic at the Disco – Do You Know What I’m Seeing?
2. The Format – Do You Believe in Magic (Lovin’ Spoonful Cover)
3. Brian Eno – Sky Saw
4. The Talking Heads – Crosseyed and Painless
5. Gang of Four – Natural’s Not in It
6. R.E.M. – Shaking Through
7. The Beatles – Two Of Us
8. Panic at the Disco – Nine in the Afternoon

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