Archive for the ‘column’ Category

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Ray LaMontagne: What Is He?

October 21, 2008

So because a) there is a song called Meg White on it and b) a particular young lady likes his stuff, I downloaded and listened to Ray LaMontagne’s newest album, Gossip In the Grain.

This was a good choice.  It’s a fantastic album.  I’m not going to review it though.  I’m going to figure out what the hell it is/he is.

The first song grabbed me, which is always good, but not in a way I was expecting.  Allmusic compares LaMontagne to Justin Townes Earle, A.A. Bondy, and (<3) Ryan Adams.  So I click play.  And…it’s soul.  Well, not actual soul.  Neo-soul.  Like, neo-Memphis soul.  Hm, what’s an easier way to say this?  I expected Sam Cooke or Al Green to sing, if that gives you an idea.

Here’s an Al Green song, for reference.

Here’s the opening track of Gossip In the Grain.

Can you hear it?  I mean, it’s not a copy, but it’s very soul influenced.  In fact, the thing that it reminded me of most was Donavan Frankenreiter’s Move By Yourself, both the album and the individual song.

However I’ve been assured that’s not Ray’s sound or style.  So I then go to YouTube to further understand this, and pull up the title track from Trouble, which I guess is his most well known album:

A little less soulish, but damn if that ain’t a Frankenreiterish sound.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing.  In fact, this is a very good thing, it works for him.  So, am I missing something?  I really do want to know if I have completely misunderstood Ray LaMontagne.  I mean, not all of his stuff sounds this way, like Hey Me, Hey Mama on the aforementioned Gossip In The Grain.  But it’s there, Let It Be Me proves this isn’t just a coincidence between Trouble and You Are the Best Thing.

Anyways, I highly recommend this album.  It’s fine.  It is the best thing.

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Non Music Post: This Political Cycle

October 14, 2008

I am 20 years old.  A college student.  Male.  I fit every category of traditional non-voters.  And this November I will prove that stereotype right, since I’m not going to vote.  But here’s the kicker: I have a reason, hell- motivation, to not vote.  And it’s not laziness.  I mean, I registered, followed the primaries, argued with the local registrar as to why I should be legally allowed to vote here in Fredericksburg, and so on.  I was excited- it was my first presidential election!

Then August rolled around and the real campaigning started.  I remember back in May when both candidates were promising to run clean positive campaigns.  Oh how quickly that went down the toilet.  I can’t watch prime time TV without being told McCain is old and out of touch and probably has Alzheimer’s and Obama is a secret terrorist hiding in my closet.  I can’t walk down campus with out being told Obama is a bleeding heart liberal and McCain is another Bush waiting to happen.

I don’t want that.  I’m a happy person, I think.  And I like being happy.  And helping other people be happy.  But this political season is so negative and really bringing out the worst in people.  From out-right lies to subtle slanders, it doesn’t stop.  I couldn’t pick a candidate to support without being judged.  And the worst part was, it was more about parties than about the actual candidates.  The former Hilary supporters who would rather burn their pant-suits than vote Obama in the primaries are all about him now.  And the former hard-line right wingers who’d rather buy pant-suits than vote McCain in the primaries are completely in love with McCain.  Politics became more about issue voting than about responsible voting for the best candidate.  And that’s not how it should be.  If I’m going to vote for someone, I want to do it because I believe that they’re the best for the job, not because they agree with me on abortion or economic policies or who’s the better duck: Donald or Daffy.  And I’m not given that option.  I have to pick based on what they say they believe.

So no, I’m not playing this little political game anymore.  I’m tired of it.  And no, I haven’t become a cynic.  I believe that both McCain and Obama truly want what’s best for this country.  But they aren’t doing anything to show it.

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No. 19: Ed Harcourt

September 28, 2008

So I’m a day really late.  I failed before I even started.  C’est la vie.

I wish I could remember where I picked up Ed Harcourt from.  It was probably Allmusic.com or something similar. Regardless, it was a good choice.  He’s incredibly talented as a songwriter, and his performing is spot on too.  He’s like Ryan Adams without the twang and a little bit more in the way of pop hooks.  I started listening to him at the beginning of the summer when I was bored out of my mind, and he filled about a week, which is impressive.  I have a pretty short attention span.  Anyways, I first listened to the album From Every Sphere (2003, Heavenly Recording).  It was good.  None of the tracks particularly blew me away, but I liked them all.  Some were a little too discordant for me to really like them, but it was still good.  This led me to Here Be Monsters (2001, Heavenly) which was his debut album.

This blew me away.  Something In Your Eye was absolutely gorgeous, but two tracks later, is what is now one of my favorite songs ever: She Fell Into My Arms.  That song has every thing a song needs for me to love it.  Poppiness, but not too much, fantastic songwriting, but it doesn’t dwell on itself.  It builds well, goes somewhere, and has fun doing it, while not being a joke song.

Next is number 18: John Butler Trio, G. Love, and Tristan Prettyman in concert.

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How To Become A Sports Fan, pt. 1

August 28, 2008

So you want to be a sports fan.  Congratulations, you have chosen a very rewarding path in life.  Maybe stressful at times, in fact, always stressful.  And it’s a moneyhole.  But very rewarding. But this decision also comes with questions.  What sport do I watch?  Which league?  What team?  Do I like players not on my team?  Why does everyone hate the commissioner of every sport?

This series of posts will answer all these questions.

The first decision you must make is “”Which sport do I like?”

This is a very critical decision, as it says a lot about you as a person and will cause everyone you know to judge you.

I will cover the big five sports.

Baseball: A sport rich in history, tradition, steroids, and way too much thinking.  To be a baseball fan you have to decide how you feel about a million and one issues.  Inter-league play, steroid usage, instant replay, flavors of chew, Barry Bonds, the list goes on.  But wait, you have to think more.  To be a serious fan you need to learn statistics, sabermetrics, and the entire history of the sport.  You have to know every single World Series, every single record.  And every single douchebag move Bud Selig has made.

Football (the American variety): The cool guy’s sport.  You can take it seriously, but other football fans will think you’re a nerd.  So how do you watch football if you’re not thinking seriously?  You buy a jersey and get drunk.  Football is all about being a man. You watch sweaty men tackle other sweaty men and yell when the wrong ones get tackled.  Some would argue this is a simplistic view of the sport.  Guess what?  They’re nerds.

Football (soccer): Be careful when picking this sport.  If you are from Europe or Australia or South America or anywhere that’s not USA, it’s totally cool and normal to pick this sport.  In fact, pretend the entry about American football is about your football.  For the Americans, this is the emo sport.  You buy scarves and pretend to watch games for teams that you probably can’t even pronounce properly.  Madrid Real is not said like reel, douches.  It’s said “Ray-ahl”

Hockey:  This is a tricky one.  It’s an exciting game with both history and violence, but you have to complain about abso-freaking-lutely everything.  Did fights go up this month?  There’s too much fighting in the NHL.  Did it go down?  There needs to be more, so get rid of penalties.  Is the league shrinking?  Stop denying small markets their rightful teams.  Is the league expanding?  We should be playing with the Original 6.  But most of all, you must complain about Gary Bettman.  He’s the commisioner of the NHL, and everything he’s done is flat out wrong.

Finally, Basketball: This is the most expensive of games.  You must own a jersey of your team, a Kobe Bryant jersey, and a pair of shoes designed by every NBA superstar, starting with Michael Jordan.  But you have to hate him, while admitting he was the best.  It’s a fine line to walk.

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Plastiques?

August 11, 2008

I like vinyls. I think they’re pretty nifty. I also like CDs. But the vast vast majority of my collection is mp3 format. And this is the strange life I live with my music.

The thing I can’t stand is people who “only” listen to vinyl. Or claim it sounds better. Or whatever. Because it’s blatantly not true. Yes, a very good quality vinyl will sound better than a song 96 kbps encoded mp3 downloaded off of limewire or wherever kids are getting their illegal mp3’s these days, but so will an 8-track. Fact is, most vinyls are recorded on recycled plastic and contain a lot of errors, and the ones that aren’t are older and just poorer quality. Most of the time the sound is only as good as the receiver and speakers it’s piped through, and because hipsters don’t understand this, they have poor quality equipment a lot of the time.

So why do I have vinyls? Because they’re fun. They’re big, tangible, and just so very real. I rarely listen to my vinyls. In fact, I don’t know when the last time I did listen to them. Another thing I like is that it’s like having part of history. I have a first edition Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, which I’ve never had a desire to listen to (I’m bizarre and don’t like that album. One of my few faults, I’m sure.). But it’s such an important album in history, it feels really cool to own. I even have the little mustache cut-outs.

What I really like owning though are CDs. They are the perfect music format. They don’t compress the music down, or do so by only a bit. So they have a much better sound than mp3s, but aren’t as awkward to carry around as vinyls. Plus the whole tangibility thing is going on again.

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I have a secret love for country music

July 17, 2008

It’s true.

I mean, not even the hip alt-country stuff like Wilco (overrated, by the way). I mean, I like some alt-country, Ryan Adams would be the prime example, along with the Jayhawks, Son Volt, and Uncle Tupelo. But I mean real country. Buck Owens. Hank Williams Jr. and Sr. Gary Stewart. Gram Parsons. Loretta Lynn. Dolly Parton.

That’s music with a soul. I mean so much of what’s popular and critically well received is this trashy flavor of the month indie/electro/pop sound. Like the Ting Tings. It has no soul, no passion, no heartache. I mean, I love a catchy song as much as the next person, but it gets old quickly. But songs like I’ve posted below- they are eternal.

Buck Owens- Excuse Me, I Think I Have A Heartache

Loretta Lynn- Portland, Oregon

Hank Williams Sr.- Lovesick Blues

Love Hurts- Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris

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Covers: Warm and snuggly or hot and stifling

July 1, 2008

Covers are a controversial thing in the world of music listeners. Some people love them. Some people think they were the first evil let out of Pandora’s Box. Others don’t even realize they exist “Britney didn’t write (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction? What?”

For me, it really depends on the cover. Some I love. Some bother me. But truth be told, I’d rather listen to a cover that sounds nothing like the original than hear it basically remade. Anyhow, the way I see it there are three types of cover songs.

1.) The Tribute cover.
I’m not talking about singing a song for a tribute album or a tribute concert. That’s a different issue entirely. This is more a la Jack White singing Dolly Parton’s Jolene. And not changing the genders because it’s how she would’ve sung it.

These are fine. They may sound similar to the original version, but hopefully not too much.

2.) The “it’s a really good song, so I’m going to put my own spin on it” cover.
This is the most common sort of cover, and is generally not even thought about, since almost everyone does this. For instance, Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen. If I can’t stand his original version, I could go out and listen to a version by any of the following people: Elisa, Maxwell Murder of Saturday’s Car Ride Home, Rea Garvey of Reamonn, Alex Lloyd, Sephira, Adam Nikkel, Keren Ann, Willie Nelson, Beefy, Bono, Bon Jovi, Blake, Bret Darby, Clare Bowditch, Fred Eaglesmith, Steve Acho, Allison Crowe, Patricia O’Callaghan, Jackie Greene, Julie Felix, Damien Leith, Anthony Michael Hall [2], Bettie Serveert, Kenny Zhao, John Owen-Jones, Custard, k d lang, Kevin Max, Gord Downie, Simple Plan, Gov’t Mule, Steffen Brandt/Tina Dickow (in Danish translation), K’s Choice, Enrique Morente (flamenco version, translated to Spanish), Street to Nowhere, Wayne Whittaker, the Prayerbabies, Kevin Christy, Kathryn Williams, Lucky Jim, Over the Rhine, Pat Terlizzi, Myrra Malmberg, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, Michael Wolff, The Brown Derbies, Imogen Heap, Popa Chubby, Jimm Zombie, Joe Wilson, Kristian Meurman (in Finnish), Hilary Scott, The Choir of Hard Knocks and Kate Voegele.

Okay, that was a bit unnecessary, but Wikipedia made it so easy.

Point is, there are songs like this that everyone forgets are covers, because everyone covers them. Another great example would be Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. Or Yesterday by the Beatles.

3.)The Tragedy Cover
This is not so much the reason behind the attempt as it is the failure of said attempt. What exactly do I mean? This and this (not embedded due to awfulness).