Music

Submitted for your viewing pleasure…


I’m sitting here cracking up all alone in a cold room while a crushing winter wind freezes the world outside my bedroom window in total contrast to the warmth of all this hilarity.

JOIN ME IT’S TOTALLY HEALTHY AND NOT AT ALL STRANGE!!

By which I mean to say: I’m in the middle of a rewatch of a web series I was introduced to this past summer – Research – and even now on my second go ’round I’m laughing at it like a crazy person.

Yes. That’s right. Barry Bostwick and Doug Jones. No lie.

Research is the brainchild of the folks at Mildly Fearsome Films, the same people who brought you Sudden Death! (“Finally, a musical where everyone dies.”)

Listen: I would not. steer. you wrong. Okay? Just press play. Trust me. Shh, shh… It’s okay, it’s okay…

“It’s always summer in the songs.”


(Linked site is spoiler heavy. Proceed at your own peril.)

Date. The Right. People.

I cannot stress the importance of this enough, folks.

Not only will you gain much higher caliber mutual friends if you date someone you honest-to-God believe is cool, but everything afterward will also be way better when years later you’re still friends with them and with their super cool wife and the two of them mail you a “pop culture care package” out of the blue for absolutely no reason whatsoever thereby causing a beautifully sunny day to suddenly feel that much brighter and amazinger.

You: What comes in a “pop culture care package,” Ruth?

Me: That’s… a little nosy, don’t you think?

You: I don’t– You said you got this package thing and I’m just wondering what’s in it. You’re going to, what, just not say? *pause* Is this a control thing?

Me: A control thi…? No! No. I just don’t feel like I should have to tell you things just because you ask. Or– Did you ever think maybe I wanted to tell you what was in it but that I wanted to be able to volunteer the information instead of having you drag it out of

You: Drag? Whoa, how was that “dragging”–

Me: Yes, drag it out of me. Maybe I wanted to give you the information, huh? You know? Maybe I wanted to give it. To gift it.

You: Okay, you know what I think? I think this is a control thing and that for someone who keeps a public blog you are taking your privacy way too seriou-

Me: DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S IN THE BOX OR NOT?

You: *close tab*

Right then. Now that we’re alone…

Or "P4k" if you prefer your sweaters threadbare.

CDs
Nick Jaina‘s The Beanstalks That Have Brought Us Here Are Gone
Yeasayer‘s Odd Blood
Portugal. The Man‘s In the Mountain In the Cloud
Vampire Weekend‘s Contra
Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues
Elbow‘s Build A Rocket Boys
The Black KeysBrother

I’m hoping to take a road trip to Montana later this fall (*crosses fingers* *hopes really hard*) and was psyched about all the new music I’d have to listen to during the drive out there after my trip to HPB yesterday. And now with this new stack of CDs? Yeah. This is officially the best road trip soundtrack ever.

Let me know if you want to schedule a speakerphone call with me during the drive. (Rates double during peak hours. Now accepting cash and Paypal. Requests to skip ahead will not be honored.)

(Linked site is spoiler heavy. Proceed at your own peril.)

DVDs
MST3K, Volume 18 (featuring one of my all time faves, Jack Frost)
Game of Thrones, Season 1

Game of Thrones is HBO’s attempt at creating something which could in some way measure up to the incredible work of fiction that is A Game of Thrones, the first book in the seven book series of George R. R. Martin’s gift to the world, the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The HBO series may very well be awesome, but I wonder if it could ever truly match the heights or the depths to which my imagination traveled when reading the book itself.

By which I mean, of course: OMG I AM SO EXCITED OMG OMG I CAN’T WAIT TO PUT THIS IN AND WATCH ALL OF IT ALL IN ONE SITTING GAHHHHHHHH OMG OMG!!!

Note I Want To Frame Because Friendship Makes Me Happy
“This pop culture care package is courtesy of Laura & James. Enjoy!”

I have to admit I am in a bit of a pickle over getting started on the DVDs, however. I’m just over half way through watching Moonlighting, which will be due back at the library soon. While I know the DVDs I received today are wildly awesomer than anything that could possibly befall Maddie Hayes and David Addison in the remaining episodes of the 80s favorite fourth-wall-buster, I’m hesitant to start something new that I know I won’t be able to turn off until it’s finished, thus guaranteeing me overdue fines for hanging on to the tales of the Blue Moon Detective Agency longer than is allowed.

On the other hand, I received these DVDs for free. I could consider any potential late fees to be the “cost” of ownership. Yeah? Yeah?? Yeah.

All right, then. Lay it on me, HBO…

*************

The rest of this post is for James and Laura…

*************

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS ARE ABSOLUTELY THE COOLEST! This box seriously made my day! I went to leave my apartment and saw the package leaning against my door and I was so confused because I couldn’t remember ordering anything. And then I opened it and  my jaw dropped and I got all Kristen Stewart breathe-y before jumping up and down all over the living room trying not to drop everything as I zipped through the stack of discs! So exciting!! :D Let me know if you want to come over and watch any of this with me. I just picked up a bunch of frozen pizzas and Diet Mt. Dew this afternoon. You can park in the lot or anywhere out on the street. OMG OMG OMG I AM SO EXCITED! YOU GUYS ROCK SO HARD!!!

*The title of this post is taken from Martin’s A Clash of Kings. “Winter will never come for the likes of us. Should we die in battle, they will surely sing of us, and it’s always summer in the songs. In the songs all knights are gallant, all maids are beautiful, and the sun is always shining.” – Brienne

Half Price Books Haul


My Half Price Books

Half Price Books‘ Labor Day weekend 20% off sale is my Christmas. Already awesomely priced books available at even lower prices than usual, a cozy shelf-packed shop buzzing with book lovers sharing recommendations with each other over what to read next; it’s like a physical manifestation of Nerdfighteria.

Today’s highly successful haul demands yet another post wherein I brag about my awesome finds. (Scroll to the bottom for a full list of HPB posts.)

Link-clicking fingers ready? Let’s go!

Books | Grand Total: $8.48
Dune Messiah
, by Frank Herbert ($0.80)
God Emperor of Dune, by Frank Herbert ($0.80)
Heretics of Dune, by Frank Herbert($0.80)
The Word for World is Forest, by Ursula K. Le Guin ($0.90)
Something with “mumpsimus” and “hobnail” on the cover and which I can’t name because it’s a present! ($5.18)

Grand, ain’t it?! I’m especially thrilled to be making such good progress on filling my Frank Herbert shelf. So far all I owned were Dune, and the Atreides, Dune, and Harkonnen chapterhouse books after having read the rest of the original novels via the library. In fact– now that I think about it, all I need now is Children of Dune and I’ll have completed my set of Frank’s originals. I just get cooler and cooler…

Also: I wish I’d been trained as a Bene Gesserit (by Donna Kummer).

There. I said it.

The Ditty Bops

CDs | Grand Total: $12.80
On My Way
, by Ben Kweller ($1.60)
A Passage in Time, by Dead Can Dance ($1.60)
To Venus and Back, by Tori Amos ($1.60)
The Hour of Bewilderbeast, by Badly Drawn Boy ($1.60)
Whatever and Ever Amen*, by Ben Folds Five ($1.60)
Seven Swans, by Sufjan Stevens ($1.60)
Moon Over the Freeway, by The Ditty Bops ($1.60)
O Brother, Where Art Thou Soundtrack ($1.60)

*I might already have this. If I do, this one’s all yours, bro.

And after all that I still have $6 left on a gift card I received for “actual” Christmas. I’m fighting the urge to go back tomorrow and put the remainder toward completing my Dune collection. Ah Life and all her accompanying difficult decisions!

**************************

Previous Half Price Books mega-haul braggy posts:
See Change
All things on earth point home in old October
Resting Before I Get Tired
“How much do you love me?” and “Who’s in charge?”

1,830 Days Late: Thoughts on Fiona Apple


On June 16, 2006, cheekypinky and the 24 year old version of myself met up outside the back lot of the Jimmy Kimmel show to watch Fiona Apple tape the music portion of that night’s show. Several warm hours and one $40 parking ticket later I wrote down an un-edited version of the following first-response thoughts on her performance.

Which I then lost for five years and five days.

I do do things, you see, it just takes me a while to finish them sometimes.

************************************

Fiona Apple wasn’t the only one getting kind of freaked out during her show that night.

There was also, well– everybody else.

Fiona Apple on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, 6/16/06

Packed into a heavily accessorized crowd of sweating 20-somethings — inhaling, exhaling, pontificating — we waited for the giggling brunette from the projection screen to come outside to tape the music portion of that evening’s episode of the Jimmy Kimmel Show. In the meantime there was talk of Rob Zombie, the heat, and the location of the uvula, interrupted only by a stocky white boy in thick glasses and an emo beard shrugging his shoulders at his own guesses of what song titles he thought he might’ve glimpsed on the set list.

For the record: None of his guesses were correct.

About a minute and a half before the crowd got uglier, Magic Johnson appeared off stage right, waved, and seated himself on a couch on stage. Cue: A collective intake of breath from the crowd, at which point this tiny woman tip-toed out to receive a tide of love and laughter that threatened to drown her in the spit of two hundred smiles.

We were here together, all of us, and we knew the music– the music we’d braved the parking, the crowd, and the heat to hear– was on its way. Cue: A collective exhale.

And perhaps I was alone in this, but I didn’t know what to expect of the receptacle for that music, only that each isolated spark of it shook me like the tears you don’t let yourself cry because it doesn’t fit to break down weeping in the ordering line at Panda Express.

Before her fear and music, there was her dress: floor length, sky blue gauze, straps like suggestions, and a sash on loan from the Anti-Sex League. There was the way she clutched at it while rocking, creating wrinkles in its fine flies and shimmers. There was the way she pulled it up past her knee before flinging it back into place. There was the swaying as she hit herself in the chest like a child reluctantly killing a bird, before holding her breastbone in place so it would not slide out between ribs installed akimbo.

Between verses she turned her face from the mic, with an expression fit for cursing out demons; yelling, pounding, creating poetry in some dark language of self flagellation, until the next verse demanded her attention. She vexed her soul at the top of her lungs. And were it not for the music- who knows? Perhaps we would have heard her cursing us, too.

And every time she’d jump up and down, or beat her fists against herself, or scream or grunt or cry, the crowd would cheer like she had swallowed swords of fire. We were applauding a gladiator unaware the lion wasn’t dead after all.

She covered her mouth as she sang, covered her face, let her hair fall across it. And the way she’d huddle around her mug on the piano, you hoped there was alcohol in it so maybe her nerves would relax. After one song she ducked behind the piano to drink from the mug. Squatting low she looked out from behind the bars of the foot peddles at the crowd now at eye level. I silently prayed no one had caught her eye and spooked her.  I silently prayed she would not decide to stay there.

"I'll be sure to stay wary of you, love/ To save the pain of once my flame and twice my burn." (Shadowboxer)

The next song began. She approached the mic like an aging dog fearing physical reproach after years of perfect behavior followed by a sudden, unexpected swat. And then, every now and again, she’d laugh and shout and raise her arms high in the air like a toddler begging to be picked up.

She said during the interview inside the studio that she has amazingly strong hands, and that she worries tremendously about everything, that she’s starting a tour soon, and that the only thing she knows about it is that the first stop is in Vegas. She said she has to pretend she’s not performing or she can’t go through with it. Seeing her on stage then– with the wilting heat and the waving crowd– my heart sank for her, sure her words were no exaggeration.

And my fear? My fear was that she would be amazing. That she would outshine old greats, current greats, greats to come. That the dress would be every dress, that the nerves would be her soul, that the woman would be a phenom. And when she dropped to her first growl I knew my fear was well founded. And when that growl soared higher than the whirling pink lights overhead could ever reach, well– what is life without a little fear, right?

Fiona Apple is this real… thing, you know? She’s got the magic that’s in paint that makes canvas stretch its fibers to make room for more picture. She’s the wink in the angel tarnished by circumstance. And she abandons her hands to the sky because it’s the only way she knows how to beg to be picked up.

My Haphazard, Poorly Researched “Best Albums of 2009”


I was recently asked about my favorite record of 2009. (Thanks, Anonymous Asker.) 2009 was pretty slow for me music-wise. Kind of in a weird head space these past few… years?… so I haven’t really been out seeking too many new tunes to which to groove.  My bad. That said I’m going to be honest with you: I had to Google “albums released in 2009” to even begin to make comparisons for my reply. To be more honest still? I haven’t even heard all the round, spinny things that made the list below.

ZOMFG!!!!1!!

*meh* Who cares?

In order of release date, the following are albums that came out last year that I’ve either heard and know are great, or that I assume are great because the people who made ’em rock pretty hard. And shame on us all if we don’t go out and at least give them a quick listen.

Andrew Bird

1. Andrew Bird: Noble Beast (Released 01/09)

Andrew Bird got a nod on my Top 25 Most Influential Albums list, but not a slot of his own, which is really a shame and actually kind of surprising to me as the album of his I know best, Weather Systems, really is amazing and beautiful and lofty and plinky and all those other lovely things an Andrew Bird album should be. And what’s more influential than that lot? Regardless: I submit for your approval my peace offering of putting his latest endeavor on my list without even having heard it.

I’ve been checking out tracks from it on YouTube just to make sure I’m not just feeding you a line here, and so far every song I’ve heard really delivers. If you like one of them you’ll like all of them. And if you like all of them you’ll like his other albums as well. Go buy them and enjoy them. Or just leave them out on your coffee table to impress that smart girl who keeps turning you down for coffee. (Caramel Macchiato, 1%, no whip.)

(Click here to listen to “Masterswarm,” and here to listen to “Anonanimal.”)

 

Matt and Kim

2. Matt and Kim: Grand (Released 01/09)

I just know I’ve liked what I’ve heard from these guys, and there’s a more than fair chance if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll dig ’em too. All I could tell you about these two, where they got their start, and what they’re currently up to is whatever you and I both would find if we Googled them, and what’s the point of just repeating what you’d read for yourself? At the very least let me do the leg work for you and direct you to an interview Red Fence conducted with the duo in March of ’09 shortly after this album debuted.

(Click here to listen to “Lessons Learned” and here to listen to “Don’t Slow Down,” your new favorite freeway-with-no-traffic driving song.)

 

Clem Snide

3. Clem Snide: Hungry Bird (Released 02/09)

After a few years apart doing their own thing, the boys are back and making more music, drinking more stage beers, and cracking more jokes with throngs of 32 year olds in cardigans. They were promoting the release of this album with a tour throughout the US and Elsewhere this past Spring and Summer and yours truly was totally guest-listed for their gig in Madison, WI. Blog? Video? The works right here.

It’s a different sound from their earlier stuff. I wouldn’t put it on the same level as The Ghost of Fashion or Your Favorite Music which are y’alt-rock masterpieces, but it’s so much like it’s another band with the same lead singer that I almost don’t think it’s fair to try matching it against their earlier records. So much time has passed. If it were the same they’d be dead artistically. I think the freshness is what made me like it so much.

And what’s this I hear about another album coming out shortly? Or– is it already out? Someone sent me a link which I promptly lost. Bail me out, people. I need to know what’s the haps.

(Click here to listen to “Me No,” and here to listen to “Hum.”)

 

The Mountain Goats

4. The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World To Come (Released 10/09)

I don’t think I’d even heard of the Mountain Goats until they were referenced in a Vlog Brothers video in some capacity. All I remember about that experience was three minutes of frantic Googling and OMG-ing as I conducted lyric searches to track down who I was hearing because I was so fanatically enthralled. What song was it? I can’t even remember.

I foresee ownership of Mountain Goats albums in my future, probably starting with their latest offering. In the meantime: What’s the deal, Red Fence? Where’s your Mountain Goats interview? Tick tock tick tock!

(Click here to listen to “Ezekiel 7 (And the Permanent Efficacy of Grace),” and here to listen to “I John 4:16.”)

 

Shakira

5. Shakira: She Wolf (Released 11/09)

You haven’t really appreciated the video for the title track of this album until you’ve watched it with straight men or lesbians who lose all ability to speak coherently as soon as those boots go on. And the thing about Shakira is she is almost inhuman in how absolutely beautiful she is, but even in this distractingly provocative video there are moments where she’s laughing and you know the camera guy was just lucky enough to have caught her having a legitimately grand old time. I like that.

For a while I was stuck in Shakira- limbo; I enjoyed Laundry Service and Oral Fixation, but for my money neither held a candle to ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? The technical finesse definitely increased, and the number of beeping, clinking, electronic bits and bites certainly soared. I think I just missed her natural impressiveness. She Wolf is great  in that it bridges the gap between the English version of Laundry Service and Ladrones for me.

(Click here to listen to (and marvel at the choreography of) “Did It Again,” and here to listen to the slightly Nelly Furtado-esque “Give It Up To Me.”)

Lady Gaga

6. Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster (Released 11/09)

My introduction to Lady Gaga was a video of a group of comedians commenting on (read: mocking) her video for “Just Dance.” Not in a mean-spirited way; just for laughs. And the people dissecting her video, pointing out the weirdness, questioning the absurdity– they weren’t wrong. But what they were talking about also wasn’t the point.

I’m not going to attempt to justify Lady Gaga here. I’ve found people either love her or hate her and few seem willing to switch sides. Lord knows this post isn’t going to change any minds! So why bother defending somebody who doesn’t need it and hasn’t asked for it? I will say, though, that I think she’s fantastic. I think she’s refreshing and brilliant and fun, and that she provides a much needed respite from the likes of Britney Spears, the Pussycat Dolls, and all their ilk. Google her. Google a thousand reviews by better writers than I praising her merits and downplaying her faults. And, love her or hate her, appreciate the fact that thousands of reviews actually exist, which says something in and of itself.

I got this album from my sister for Christmas and there are so many tracks on it just begging to become the world’s next “OMG this is mah supah fave” song. Thanks my Rose. I love it.

(Click here to listen to “Bad Romance,” and here to listen to “Paparazi.”)

What albums from 2009 make your list?

The Jello Covered Grapes Annual Volunteer Choice Awards


Sunset Playhouse‘s Annual Volunteer Choice Awards were last night and everything about them made me feel so proud, so utterly delighted, to be connected with such a fabulous network of people. But before I begin delivering my run-down of the evening’s events I must first share my amazing new culinary discovery from the reception for those of you who can’t abide reading more than a paragraph or two of blogs: Tim Gensler’s much discussed and highly sought after…

Jell-o Powder Covered Grapes

grapesAccording to Gensler, one of Sunset’s resident Jacques-of-All-Trades and chef extraordinaire for the evening’s appetizers, you take the grapes, right? And you get ’em a little wet– not too wet or they get all clumpy– and dust them with Jell-o powder; cherry for the red grapes, lime for the green. Pop ’em in the fridge or the freezer for about an hour to get them to firm up a little, and voilà: A tasty summertime snack guaranteed to get a hundred+ people asking “what those little grape looking things are” and then coming back for seconds, and thirds, of “whatever the heck they are.”

“Let’s go out to the lobby…”

Sunset’s special night officially began at 6pm with a wine/ beer/ soda bar in the lobby, catering to some of the choicest mingling this actress is likely to experience until next year’s awards show. Everywhere you turned was a person, a conversation, a memory which served as a brilliant reminder of why this room was filled with all these people in the first place: We love creating theatre together.

What a place!

(And thank you thank you thank you to Jean J. and Chuck U. for the wonderful conversation and the extremely kind words. You warmed my heart more than you can possibly know!)

The Awards Ceremony…

…got rolling at 7pm with a song from Vasiliki Fafalios, an area high school student participating in Sunset’s “Rising Stars” program. It sounded like no one in the audience realized she was so young until we were told as much after her delightful rendition of “You’re the Top,” at which time the audience was filled with whispers of “She’s in high school?!” I’m fairly certain it’s a good sign when you leave an entire audience shocked by your age in the wake of your obvious talent.

Next on the stage was MC Ken Smith, presumably given the honor because he has the best beard on the Board of Directors. Hey: When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. He introduced Inge Adams who was to present the award for Best Supporting Actor. It went to David Kaye for his performance as Tim Allgood in Noises Off, but unfortunately dude wasn’t there to receive it. I made sure to give him what for on Facebook as soon as I got home, though, so that’s all taken care of.

Cindy Zauner then floated onto the stage in a lovely… in a colorful… in… in– well in just a joltingly godawful mess of a bridesmaid’s dress to sing “Always A Bridesmaid” from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! As though I didn’t have enough reasons for being terribly disappointed in myself for not seeing that show, I can now add this little number to my list of reasons to kick myself for missing it. Cindy was too stinkin’ funny. The audience ate her up.

The only award one can give when dressed in something so, so, so terribly unattractive is, naturally, the award for Best Costume Design, which went to Sue Fromm for her work on Escanaba in da Moonlight. Rock on, Sue! Besides being one of the sweetest people on Sunset’s volunteer roster, she’s also quite the talented hand at dressin’ folks it would seem. She certainly got my vote.

Social Security: S. Loveridge, B. Krah

Social Security: S. Loveridge, B. Krah

Bryce Lord, director of this Spring’s Social Security, had the opportunity to present the award for Best Supporting Actress to one of his own: Bonnie Krah. I could fill an entire blog entry with praise for Bonnie, but I would no doubt lose the few of you still reading due to the length of it, so I’ll leave it at this: Bonnie Krah was hands down the best choice for this award. She gave a fantastic performance and the voting could not possibly have gone any other way. Bonnie was also not in attendance, much to my dismay, so I shall have to rib her good naturedly for it the next time I see her before proceeding with my usual Bonnie Accolades.

Another musical number to keep things hoppin’? Don’t mind if I do! Kyle Breitzman performed “Luck Be A Lady” because he figured, as Ken Smith shared with us, “It’s short, easy, and relevant.” Smart fellow, that Breitzman. Smart indeed.

Brenda Gravelle, last year’s recipient of the Unsung Hero Award, presented this year’s to Sue Fromm, who you may remember from such awards as Best Costume Design. Way to rake ’em in, Sue. There’s a lot of heart and a lot of drive in that woman. An asset to any company and dearly appreciated by Sunset.

Best Lighting Design went to Marty Wallner for Escanaba, presented via a flip tablet by Erika Navin, winner of the Ruth Arnell’s Annual Best Glasses Award. Marty really pulled off some pretty neat effects in this one that were hopefully as much fun for him to put together as they were for us in the audience to watch.

Escanaba: R. Zimmerman, A. Lien, J. Bloomingdale, M. Patten, G. Villa

Escanaba in da Moonlight: R. Zimmerman, A. Lien, J. Bloomingdale, M. Patten, G. Villa

Mark Salentine’s remarks on the importance of sound design in theatre, a fun little giggle-inducer to remind us all how much we truly depend on ringing phones and Jan Pritzl, was delightfully punctuated by Matthew Patten, the presenter of the Old-Timer Award to Inge Tiberius Adams. Wait- scratch that. Make that the Newcomer Award to Andy Lien. Lien swears up and down he hasn’t acted since high school, but his spot on comic timing and delivery in Escanaba sure do make a body wonder. Terrific actor, friendly guy, can grow a decent beard; Lien’s a gem and Sunset’s all the better for having found him.

More music? Bring it on! The fourth song of the evening was from next season’s Mid-life! The Crisis Musical, with Mark Salentine and Doug Jarecki as Mary DeBattista’s hapless, helpless would-be lovers. There’s something so charming about a woman who can maintain artistic composure and powerful breath support while straddling a park bench…

Jacquelyn Ranallo and Lena Tomaszek went home with the No Small Parts Award from Anne Gorski for their contributions in I Love You… It was kind of a cute award to see given as the adorable Tomaszek had been the one actually handing out all of the evening’s awards. It was nice seeing her finally get to hang on to one!

Doug Jarecki and Jason Powell were up next with a little improv game (the Alphabet Game, for the curious among you) to entertain the troops, who were duly entertained. Incidentally, JASON POWELL’S HILARIOUS ORIGINAL MUSICAL COMEDY INVADER? I HARDLY KNOW HER! OPENS AT THE ALCHEMIST THEATER ON SEPTEMBER 10, 2009, which is cool.

Same Time...: C. Gamino, S. Hughes

Same Time…: C. Gamino, S. Hughes

Doug was also there to present this year’s Best Actress Award to a very talented young woman, Sarah Laak Hughes, for her performance in Same Time Next Year. This was another show I did not get to see, but having seen Sarah’s work elsewhere I can only agree wholeheartedly with the vote on this one as I’m sure she was teriffic in the role. Not to mention the mad props you’re almost duty-bound to give to any actor who survives a two person show with their sanity so graciously intact.

The Best Actor Award, presented by Mary DeBattista, went to Matthew Patten for his performance in Escanaba and I figure there’d’ve been a bona fide mutiny had he not won for his work in that show. You want a brilliant character actor? This guy’s the real deal, and he works flatullance-joke-loving audiences like a charm. And no, they did not let him keep the red long underwear.

An Awards Night tradition I was glad to see continue was that of Mark Salentine delivering a review of the season as a whole to the tune of a well known song from a musical. This year’s review, to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, allowed us to reminisce together about the joys of Sarah Laak Hughes, and the pain of patrons who are shocked at the idea that infidelity might make its way into a plot. Ah theatre.

A Sunset original, the Rudy Award, is presented every year by Rudy Miskowitch to a volunteer who goes above and beyond the call of duty to bring the season’s productions to a whole new level of quality through their hard work and dedication. This year’s recipient was Marty Wallner, a man who embodies the phrase “to know ‘im is to love ‘im.” Congratulations Marty!

Escanaba: J. Bloomingdale, A. Lien, M. Patten, R. Zimmerman

Escanaba in da Moonlight: J. Bloomingdale, A. Lien, M. Patten, R. Zimmerman

The biggest award of the night, Best Show, was presented by Sunset’s new Managing Director Jonathan West, he of bow-ties-and-blogging fame. The top three nominees were Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner, Escanaba in da Moonlight, and Noises Off. And the award goes to: ESCANABA IN DA MOONLIGHT!

I couldn’t see this award going anywhere else. If Sunset could remount one production to present year after year with the same direction, actors, and set, it would have to be this one. Featuring an absolute dream cast under the delightful direction of Mark Salentine (and my God do you see the costumes and the set in these pictures?! Gorgeous!), this was far and away my favorite show of the year and a true testament to the professional quality theatre one finds at Sunset Playhouse.

Another “Rising Star” at Sunset, high school student Allie Babich, brought the awards ceremony to a close with a performance of “Stars and Moon” which I heard one audience member say brought tears to his eyes. When people tell this young lady “You’ll go places, kid!” I sure hope she knows they aren’t just whistlin’ Dixie. Beautiful voice, lovely presentation. Thank you Allie.

Reception

Tosa Jazz, directed by Donna Kummer, serenaded the audience into the studio theatre for a swingin’ reception. One thing for which you can always count on Sunset Playhouse is a delicious, buffet style spread at every event they host. Last night’s was no exception, and yes I went back for thirds. Oh and happy anniversary to Jim and Susan Loveridge! Y’all were so cute out there on the dance floor.

Music, dancing, food, wine, art, friends, laughter. We who had the opportunity to enjoy such things together on a warm, summer night should be thanking our lucky stars. And for those still looking for such a place of their own, well it’s real easy…

You take 94 West from Milwaukee and get off at the Mooreland Rd. North exit over by Brookfield Square Mall. Hang a right on Bluemound, a left on Elm Grove Rd., and a right on Wall St. Sunset Playhouse will be on your right. Shouldn’t miss it. ;)

Catching the moon in their hands


"Fame" at Sunset Playhouse - Photo by Mark Frohna

"Fame" at Sunset Playhouse - Photo by Mark Frohna

Saw “Fame” at Sunset Playhouse the other day. If you know me at all you know I’m a huge fan of Sunset and a supporter of all they do, but I’m gonna level with you on this one: I’m kinda glad I saw it for half price. I laughed, I clapped, I had fun, but $10? That’s about right.

The show has some really nice things going for it, namely that it features genuinely young actors playing genuinely young characters. There’s something that’s always struck me as a little false about seeing a 26 year old try to deliver the energy of a 15 year old, so it was nice not having to sit through that charade in this production.

The downside to using younger performers, of course, is that you run into a lot more “young actor pitfalls,” ie. singing through the nose, substituting faux nervous laughter for introspection and development of empathy, turning off your face until it’s your turn to talk and then firing up the pearly whites. You could see a lot of potential in some of the performers, but the lisps, the front-talking, the VERY HEAVY presentationalism (even for musical theatre), the waiting-til-it’s-their-turn-to-talk, the frequent looks into the audience… Some very nice, genuine efforts, but some of them really have their work cut out for them.

Because some of the folks involved in the show are fairly young (or maybe they just make me feel old?), I’m only going to name names for the parts that really stood out for me in a positive way. Not that these were the only good folks in the show, but a few other standouts also have some significant “they were good, but…” statements attached to them in my mind that I couldn’t not include as qualifiers, so I’d just as soon stick to the positives. ‘S’nice? ‘S’nice.

Deidra Fabian (ensemble): You want actors like this in your ensemble. Loads of energy, beautiful smile, but never act-y, never scene stealingly hyper. You know the kind I mean, right? This girl was lovely and fresh and fun and a fantastic support to the production. Keep it up, Deidra. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing.

Ashley Levells (Mabel Washington): I’d watch this young woman in anything. Always in the moment, original, fun, energetic, but with a clear understanding that she’s part of a cast and not in a one woman show. Though Lord knows she could be. Great soloist. Her big song was easily (far and away) the best number in the show. And her non-verbals? Funny as hell.

Cameron Meilicke (Nick Piazza): Either this guy *is* Nick, or he just really nailed this production’s interpretation of the character. Gave a charming performance, very sweet voice, and some of the better acting moments in the show. I like this guy.

Samantha Moyer (Grace “Lambchops” Lamb): Maybe it’s because I know a girl whom this character reminded me of a great deal, but I couldn’t get enough of this kid. Just cute as a button, loads of energy, another team player. Seemed very comfortable in whatever she was doing, and you can’t teach that.

Mary Rodgers (Miss Esther Sherman): I don’t envy actors playing teacher roles in shows like this one. People go to see the kids dance around and sing on lunch tables, not to feel the frustration of the adults monitoring those tables during their free period. Mary really worked that dichotomy in her favor, however, by keeping her scenes strong, and her songs memorably performed. She was an endearing respite from the chaos, and never once fell into some of the more common traps actors tend to fall into when playing parts significantly older than their actual age.

"Fame" at Sunset Playhouse - Pic by Mark Frohna

"Fame" at Sunset Playhouse - Photo by Mark Frohna

The production also benefited from the beautiful work (as always) of artists Michael Desper (Scenic Designer) and John Dolphin (Lighting Designer). Everything on the set worked; you could see everything you were supposed to see, there were construction surprises built in to even the simplest scenes, and half the set was made from styrofoam and pool noodles. Where I come from that’s not just art- that’s genius. The lighting on the set was bright and colorful without looking like you’d walked into a disco. Some really beautiful mood effects were created without loss of visibility, and the multitude of cues kept things fun, moving, and alive. As for the costumes? I hope you understand the compliment in this statement when I say the costumes made me not mind the prospect of 80s fashions making an even stronger resurgence into the general public in the near future. Yes: they were actually that cute.

As of right now there are four performances left; this Thursday the 6th at 7:30, Friday the 7th at 8:00, Saturday the 8th at 8:00 and Sunday the 9th at 2:00. I’d recommend it for anyone with kids who are into the whole High School Musical/ Jonas Brothers/ Miley Cyrus thing, but I’d suggest you leave the very youngest ones at home as some of the language and topics covered are, well– they’re accurate for high school aged kids, which means there might be a few more curse words and pelvic thrusts than you really want to bring you 7 year old around for. I guarantee it’s cleaner by a long shot than the upcoming movie version will be, but something about seeing pelvic thrusts live makes them all the more jarring and slightly giggle inducing…

Click here to read Express Milwaukee’s mini blog review of the show, and here to read the Waukesha Freeman’s review.

Incidentally, I just realized this Mark Frohna guy who took the above pictures (which I yoinked from Sunset’s Facebook page) is the same guy who did my friend Libby’s new headshots. I don’t know what his rates are, but if you live in the Milwaukee area and you’re looking for headshots you should check this guy out. Libby’s pics turned out gorgeously, and while I attribute a huge percentage of her headshot success to the fact that she is a beautiful woman and any picture taken of her is bound to look great, what this Frohna fellow supplied skill-wise is no small shakes. You can check him out at frophoto.com.

But wait! There’s more!

Since my last post I went to the Renaissance Faire, bought a beautiful new corset, got my credit card number stolen, watched about 15 travel DVDs from the library, dreamed I ran a writers’ retreat visited by a couple whose race kept changing, and finally began saving my CDs onto my hard drive. As it is 11:27 pm on a Monday night, however, I am going to leave it to you to just imagine how exciting each of those topics would be were I to extrapolate upon them here.

“How much do you love me?” And “Who’s in charge?”


Quite the successful trip to Half Price Books today. Allow me a post to gloat over my fantastic- and fantastically priced- finds…

BOOKS

1. Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert: $3

This doesn’t impress me at first glance as the type of book I’d generally get into, but after watching Gilbert’s TED talk I realized I rather enjoy the woman herself and so ought to give her tome a try.

2. Myths, Lies, And Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know Is Wrong” by John Stossel: $3

I always dug Stossel on 20/20, and the more I hear from him as I get older, the more interested I am in what he has to say. That is: As I get progressively more boring, world worn, and crows footed, the more I find merit in his opinions.

3.The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations” by Charles Harrington Elster: $3

calm KAHM. The l is properly silent. Do not say KAHLM or KAWLM.
salmon SAM-un. L is silent, a as in ham. Anything else is beastly — er, fishy.
pianist pee-AN-ist (or PYAN-ist). PEE-uh-nist is chiefly British.

4.The Complete Book of Fitness” by the Editors of Fitness Magazine with Karen Andes: $3

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was followed by another good idea: A Kona Mocha chocolate shake from Kopp’s. My ideas: they just get better and better and better…

MUSIC

1. Animaniacs by a bunch of insane voice actors: $2

2. Ok Goby Ok Go: $2

3. The Book of Secrets by Loreena McKennitt: $2

4. Dilateby Ani DiFranco: $2

5.Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie by Alanis Morisette: $2

6. Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor: $2

All for a grand total of $25.34, which I put on a gift card. A good feeling, my friends. An exceptionally good feeling on an exceptionally beautiful day. A day which I need to get back outside and enjoy a little more before it’s over…

********************************

“I met an old lady once, almost one hundred years old, and she told me, “There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in charge?” Everything else is somehow manageable.”
– “Eat, Pray, Love,” p. 157

“It’s a Kafka high. You feel like a bug.”


Here’s the long-story-short-too-late version of last week’s adventure: I went to a Clem Snide show in Madison. It was fantastic.

My head is all over the place right now so I’m kinda having a hard time settling down and writing about it. To further emphasize that point I apparently can’t type either… (which I originally typed as “My head is all over the place3 right now so I’m kida having a hard time settling down and righting about it. Te futher emmphasize that point…”)

There’s just no fixing some people.

Me yammering on about the show before and after my late night jaunt to Madison:

I got some video of a few of the songs played during the show, but I mean to tell ya’: My footage sucks. A lot. My camera just isn’t designed for that sort of environment- by which I mean THE DARK– so you can’t see a bloody thing most of the time. When you can see anything it’s all shaking around like to make a person sick as I had to hold my camera at arm’s length above my head to get a clear shot, all while being jostled about by other patrons who had the good sense not to bother trying to film a show with a digital photo camera.

I also got some pictures, but none of them really turned out either. Just not the night for such things, it would seem. Not for me, anyhow. But I can live with that. Just got to make sure to get it right next time around…

Adios, folksies.

(The title of this post is taken from David’ Cronenberg’s 1991 film Naked Lunch, adapted (sort of…) from a novel of the same  name written by William S. Burroughs.)

CD Review: “Hungry Bird” by Clem Snide


Buy Hungry Bird, available on CD and vinyl, when it comes out this Tuesday (2/24/09). Listen to it a few times. Tell me what you think.

******************

chem-snide-banner-240x400There’s something about this album that doesn’t strike my ears the same way previous Clem Snide albums did. Not in a bad way, and not that I expect, or desire, them all to sound the same. Stylistic tendencies aside, none of them do sound the same and I’m glad for that. Still and all- there *is* a difference here.

There seems to be less of the brutal, brittle indie-feel of the group’s first three albums that made them the cool band to listen to before the tween army commandeered “emo.” Which is not to say it’s veered into the love-is-good-and-possible realms of Soft Spot or the easy-breezy-beautiful End of Love by any means. It’s more of a chilled out, y’alt-folked, jazz lounged, ever so slightly bluegrassed, heart freeze of whatever art students turn into after their first divorce. And I like that.

Lead singer and songwriter Eef Barzelay has been quoted as seeing Hungry Bird as a “loosely-conceived, post-apocalyptic fairytale.” Yeah- or a jazz lounged heart freeze. Tomayto tomahto.

Perhaps the band was just in that much different a place by the time they recorded Hungry Bird in 2006 than they’d been when You Were A Diamond first hit shelves in ’98. After all, a lot happened in the interim, including multiple changes to the group’s roster, and the marriage of Barzelay.* For those of us who view such major changes as impending contracts for bands to appear on “Where Are They Now?” we could’ve anticipated the group’s dissolution as early as the birth of Barzelay’s son and the subsequent ’03 release of the noticeably affected Soft Spot. You know- if we were cynical like that. But we weren’t (always) so we held on through the release of End of Love and hoped for the best. “The best” being a break up of the band three years later after Hungry Bird was recorded but before it could be released.

Sometimes life’s just like that. On to the review.

Some Hungry Bird songs had to really work to grab me after slower intros that seemed not directionless so much as… omnipresent? They had sounds that were everywhere, but not quite anywhere in particular. I had to wait for the lyrics and the musical “pick-ups” to tell me where we were going. This isn’t something I mind. In fact I rather enjoy it. But like I said- it takes a little longer to grab my attention when I have to wait so long to be told where we’re headed. Case in point? The Hawaiian lounge act sound of “Born A Man.” Sample: “And those who are the most afraid say courage is a sin,/ And we are just bracing for the impact by loosening our limbs.” I was ready to write it off until I stopped poo-pooing the sunset piano and started listening to the story.

That guy. Honestly. Writes poetry teachers’ dream lesson plans.

clempressphotoHungry Bird also lacks some of the more immediate accessibility of past albums’ easier hits like “Moment In The Sun” and “Your Night To Shine.” This is not to say Hungry Bird won’t be a hit among fans and draw in a new generation of listeners. Songs like “Me No” and “Pray” don’t go gently into that good night. They get re-listened to, drag-and-dropped into playlists, and discussed at great length over Parliaments. I’m just saying: You’ve got to work a little more for this album both musically and lyrically. There’s something intrinsically fulfilling about that kind of participation, however, so I imagine many of you will get as much a kick out of doing so as I have.

There’s a Bob Dylan-y feel to it at times as well. Earlier Dylan, before time made him Older Dylan. And I can’t quite decide if I think this for any reason other than that it sometimes sounds like Dylan’s mouth is forming word sounds via Barzelay’s voicebox. But do you hear it too? Have a listen to “With All My Heart” and get back to me. Sample: “‘Give back what you took from me,’/ You whispered in your sleep./ And who but me would write it down?/ So now it’s mine to keep./ And if you call me, I’ll be there./ And man I’ll get there fast/ With tender words I’ve memorized/ About how nothing lasts.”

Incidentally, I think that may be the most consistent exact rhyme of any Clem Snide song…

July(?) 2003 Post-Concert Performance at Atomic Records in Milwaukee, WI

E. Barzelay and P. Fitzpatrick at a Post-Concert Performance in July(?) of '03 at Atomic Records in Milwaukee, WI

For those of you Clem Snide fans reading this, as opposed to the misdirected Google searchers who are skimming this page out of mild curiosity, I really think you’re going to dig “The Endless Endings” and the 8 minute quasi-epic “Pray.” And the undeniable familiarity “Our Time Will Come” feels for “Don’t Be Afraid of Your Anger” and “Beard of Bees” feels for “Loneliness Finds Her Own Way” will be like coming home to what you’ve always loved about these blokes.

Ah these blokes…

In the end it really does feel like the same people made this album as the people who made the previous releases, but only after spending all night reading three too many good reviews, and three too many bad on the work they’d done together thus far. This seems to have resulted in kind of a “Fuck it let’s just make music” feel to the disc that’s instantly refreshing, if a bit lacking in overall track-to-track cohesion.

The boys are as adept as ever at inciting simultaneous hope and depression while maintaining the high music and lyric quality to which we’ve grown accustomed. All told I’d probably peg it dead even with End of Love.

Hungry Bird. Don’t quibble; purchase. And purchase soon. Now that they’re back together the gang is hitting the road to tour the US this Spring and Europe this summer. You don’t want to be the only hanger on at the after-bar with a Sharpie and nothing to get signed…

(My thanks to Bruce Rosendahl over at Savoy for sending me a copy of the album to review. You rock, dude.)

*The Marriage of Barzelay = A fantastic name for an eyeliner pop band from Haifa or a dystopian graphic novel

My Top 25 Most Influential Albums


A friend recently tagged me in his response to a Facebook meme I had no choice but to follow: The “25 Albums” meme. I do recognize that nostalgia greatly influences what I’ve chosen, but bear with me. Because really: It’s not that I think The Postal Service is better than the Rolling Stones. It’s that I heard the Postal Service instead of the Stones when I was ready to be influenced.

And there are a lot of great albums which did influence me which I could’ve added to the list but didn’t because they didn’t come to mind before I hit the limit of the meme. So rest assured that I realize albums like The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” are just flat out better than, say, Letters to Cleo’s “Aurora Gory Alice” (which I don’t list but do mention). These albums are just apparently less likely to get stuck on repeat in my head as I process internet memes. Wha’cha gonna do?

Per my friend’s post, here’s how the list works:

“Think of 25 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of, they musically shaped your world. They stood up, they lasted, they mattered. They still matter, in some way (even if only in memory). Doesn’t have to be THE 25. Just THE 25 RIGHT NOW, as memory and listening demand.”

************************************

My Top 25 Most Influential Albums

1. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill

alanismorissettejaggedlittlepillAfter growing up listening to Amy Grant and a lot of Oldies, “Jagged Little Pill” was the first secular CD I ever purchased. (The first secular *album* I ever purchased was Ace of Base’s “The Sign,” which I bought on cassette tape from a Meijer’s grocery store on a trip home from Michigan with my grandmother when I was in 6th grade.) I have always and probably will always love this CD. From “All I Really Want’s” growling drive for peace to “Mary Jane’s” haunting plea for survival, this is a lyrical masterpiece of the then burgeoning Grrl Power artistic movement* of chick folk melting into chick alt-rock. I still thrill at the sound of every last rant, whine, cry, and wheeze of comeuppance. (*Yes. I know. I meant the *1990s* version.)

I also wish I had known better at 14 than to pay $18 for it at Sam Goody.

2. The Beatles – Abbey Road / The Beatles (The White Album)

beatles-abbey-roadI’m torn on these two as I like them both pretty much equally and they stand shoulder to shoulder as far as their influence on me.

On the one hand there’s Abbey Road’s contributions of “Come Together,” “Because,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” and “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” You simply cannot deny the power of an album that introduces you to both a man who keeps a ten bob note up his nose, and a woman with a habit of entering homes through unconventional means via the protection of costly flatware. Abby Road could’ve been a one-sider featuring only “Come Together” and still been a rock classic, you know?

beatles-the-white-albumBut where would we be without “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” “Blackbird,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the achingly hippie-sexy “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?,” and “Sexy Sadie” from the White Album? She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand indeed. Kudos to the most/least successful firearm marketing campaign ever conceived.

I’m “not a girl who misses much,” including the necessity of including the existence of the song “Honey Pie” on a Top 25 Albums list. And Rolling Stone Magazine’s 2003 “Top 500 Albums of All Time” list pegs the White Album at #10 and Abbey Road at #14, so I guess errbody keeps these two kinda close.

3. The Beatles – Revolver

beatles-revolver“Even though you know what you know/ I know that I’m ready to leave/ ‘Cause you’re making me feel like I’ve never been born.”

Something about listening to this album just always made me feel cool. Made me feel connected to music. Made me feel like I had tapped into that thing, whatever it was, that made the ever present “then” so much better than “now.” Especially after I received it on vinyl for Christmas in 8th grade and could lay back on my bedroom floor and rock out to every last pop and crackle the beautiful black disc afforded. This album? This is my number one album. Ever. Of all time. Love me, love my Revolver.

4. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

beatles-sgt-peppers“For the benefit of Mr. Kite/ There will be a show tonight on trampoline./ The Hendersons will all be there/Late of Pablo-Fanques Fair, what a scene!”

Welcome to *drum roll please* Rolling Stone’s #1 Album of All Time. You’ve got LSD, men in shiny nautical uniforms, helpful friends, good mornings, and holes being fixed right and left. When you play this album you just– you’ve really just got to admit it’s getting better- a little better all the time- and that drugs plus mustaches make for some seriously great tunes.

5. Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs

ben-folds-rockin-the-suburbsI first started listening to Ben Folds in college when my then boyfriend introduced me to the work of Ben Folds Five. “Rockin’…” came out the fall of my sophomore year (on 9/11, no less) and was an instant fave. I was so proud of myself for finally getting the claps right on “Annie Waits,” and for finally not crying during “The Luckiest,” possibly one of the most beautiful modern love songs I’ve ever heard. (Click here for lyrics) And you haven’t experienced the ache of a life forgotten- in song form- until you’ve heard “Fred Jones, Pt. 2.” Brilliant album. Fun and funny, touching, memorable, goofy, and genius.

6. Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen

ben-folds-five-whatever-and-ever-amenYou want songs about abortion? We got songs about abortion. You want songs about hippie chicks with monosyllabic names? We got songs about hippie chicks with monosyllabic names. You want songs about angry dwarves and solemn faces? We got those too. Hell- we got 200 solemn faces! Another classic album that reminds me of college. And concerts. And road trips. And sing alongs around the piano. And boyfriends. And break ups. And ex boyfriends. And being 19 again. And that I don’t ever have to be 19 again…

7. Cake – Fashion Nugget and 8. Prolonging the Magic

cake-fashion-nuggetIn a true and lasting testament to my having begun serving my time in a liberal arts college in the early 2000s, when Napster reigned supreme and Morpheus was around as a back up when the first shudders of the RIAA’s lameassness began to strike: I never owned either of these albums outright. Just had gobs of mp3s of their songs- album versions, remastered versions, “clean” radio versions- in tidy yellow folders on my computer under the master heading of “Guys.” (As opposed to my other master headings of “Gals,” “Soundtracks,” “Diverse,” “Spoken Word,” “Comedy”, “Burn for Friends,” and “Chill”…)

cake-prolonging-the-magicI eventually burned copies of both full albums onto CDs, but my favorite Cake discs were the ones that combined the best of both albums onto single discs, alongside filler tunes from They Might Be Giants.

I first started listening to Cake in high school, but it wasn’t until college that they really stuck in my craw. But, you know, in a good way. I’ve been told they’re not as much fun to listen to *quality-wise* in concert because of John McCrea’s sprechstimme-y approach to the songs. I long for an opportunity to verify this for myself. From the front row. With friends. :D

9. Clem Snide – The Ghost of Fashion

clem-snide-the-ghost-of-fashionI was first introduced to Clem Snide when lead singer Eef Barzelay and band member Pete “Can-Make-An-Instrument-Out-of-Anything-Then-Use-It-To-Create-Haunting-Melodies” Fitzpatrick opened for Ben Folds in Madison in 2001. I dug their sound from the get go, but it wasn’t until 2002 when I had my first (and last) crush on a hipster that I realized the gold I’d stumbled upon in hearing this group.

So… the blushing truth behind my greatest musical discovery? I met a guy who looked like a cross between Eef Barzelay and Bob Saget while attending a party hosted by an actor I barely knew at an apartment downtown. A party full of import beers, girls puking in crushed velvet elevators, and hipsters before there were hipsters. I felt So. Cool. And this guy? This cute guy who told people at the party he was from Haifa? Who drove a forklift and cried during the scene in The Royal Tenenbaums when Richie meets Margot at the bus station? This guy *loved* Clem Snide. So I gave them a different kind of listen.

That different kind of listen completely remolded my taste in music for the rest of my life, and shaped not only my social life in college, but shifted the guys I liked, the poetry I read, the essays I wrote, the dreams I had, to something more holdable, more beautiful, more… me. Thank you Andrew James John K. No matter where you’re from, or how many middle names you really have.

10. Clem Snide – Your Favorite Music

clem-snide-your-favorite-musicLoneliness finds her own way
Cause her skin is so soft
I’m cutting my teeth on her shoulders
And cracking my knuckles while holding her hand…

Loneliness finds her own way
For her I won’t be afraid
I’m holding on to her picture
Cause her good looks have faded from all those parades

11. The Cranberries – No Need to Argue

the-cranberries-no-need-to-argueDolores O’Riordan goes blonde for this one, but fret not: It’s even more kickass than “Everybody Else Is Doing It.” I rocked the eff out to this one in high school. If I had had my license my sophomore year of high school, “Zombie” would’ve been my driving song. Now I listen to it more for songs like “The Icicle Melts” and “Daffodil Lament.” I guess when the hardest decisions you’ve had to make thus far in life involve choosing electives over Study Halls it’s hard to identify with lyrics like “All night long, laid on my pillow./ These things are wrong./ I can’t sleep here./ I have decided to leave you forever.” But oh how I found ways to identify with them over the years…

12. Damien Rice – O

damien-rice-oThe first time I heard a song off this album I was at the home of an area actor/musician for the kind of party I had never before been invited to and haven’t been since. The kind of party that’s not a party. More of a gathering. A gathering of  folks. Folks who are all cooler and more talented than me at everything we have in common, and even more so at everything we don’t. We drank beer. We drank wine. We smoked cigarette after cigarette on the balcony. We ate chocolate syrup straight from the bottle, off each other’s skin, from unwashed spoons. And I listened. A lot.

There was this impromptu jam session at this particular party in which instruments magically appeared from nowhere as voices I’d only ever heard speak began harmonizing to songs I always wished I knew. One girl there in that circle in the darkened dining room… one girl there sang “Volcano.” Acapella? With a guitar? I can’t remember if there was music behind her voice or merely the hush of our collective awe, but I never forgot the song.

Thank you, “O,” for getting me through the heartache of my last month in California. It meant the world to me.

13. Fiona Apple – Tidal

fiona-apple-tidalI wrote about her gig on the Jimmy Kimmel show after I watched her perform for his taping in the parking lot behind his studio. Basically the review says she’s spastic. Beautiful and fragile and strong, but broken and utterly, utterly spastic. I should really post that somewhere… (ETA: Finally found it, finally posted it.)

I dug, and continue to dig, “Tidal” the most out of all three of her albums because it has the greatest number of songs that “work” for me, though really I enjoy everything she’s done. (Her rendition of “Sally’s Song” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is unbelievably sad and sultry.) This album is really all about “Never Is A Promise” as far as I’m concerned. “Never is a promise, and you can’t afford to lie…”

14. Jude – No One Is Really Beautiful (very closely tied with 430 N. Harper Ave.)

jude-no-one-is-really-beautiful1The same boyfriend who turned me on to Ben Folds also got me into Jude. I’ll never forget driving with him one Fall to see Jude play at the Cafe Montmarte in Madison (Michelle Branch was the opening act, can you believe it?) only to be turned away at the door because it was a 21+ show, a fact conveniently missing from all the show’s promo details. But never fear, comrades. Jude’s tour manager, and then Jude himself, came outside and got me into the gig after learning my bf ran a website of tabs and chords for Jude’s tunes.

Fast forward a day and the bf and I are driving to Ann Arbor, MI to see Jude perform again, this time getting in for free along with an invite to have a few beers with the band on the tour bus. We didn’t stay longer than maybe an hour, though, as we had the drive back to Milwaukee ahead of us that same night. It really was just one of the coolest music related experiences I think I’ve ever had.

Every song on “No One…” is great, but I think I like “The Asshole Song” most of all now. Ah but “You Mama You” is also pretty groovy… Hm. If you can find a copy to buy, rip, whatever: Do so. The songs are catchy enough that you’re bound to like at least a few, well penned enough that you’re bound to appreciate the lyrics that keep getting stuck in your head, and beautifully played enough that you won’t mind hearing yourself humming these songs incessantly after your first full-disc run through.

15. Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See

mazzy-star-so-tonight-that-i-might-see1I’m a bit torn on including this one. Like– Mazzy Star? Really? I only get to list 25 albums and I choose to include “So Tonight That I Might See”?

I think I toss groups like Mazzy Star into the same mix as The Murmurs and Letters to Cleo and their ilk when I think back on “that era of influence.” Kinda like how I lump Citizen King and Soul Coughing together in my head, even though their sounds and approaches were fairly different. It’s like they’re on the same shelf in my mind; I just can’t list them all here. It’s not that they necessarily sound the same or make me feel the same way, it’s just that they– well they just go together, okay? You’ve got me all defensive over here. Geez…

16. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

oasis-morning-gloryBetween “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” and “Cast No Shadow,” this album was an easy pick for me to include on this list. Great modern rock. Great music in general. It takes me back in a way few other albums can, and I’m almost always in the mood for a listen (though I’ve been known to skip over the lagging instrumentals of “Champagne Supernova” to give “She’s Electric” another listen before changing the CD). Back in the day I thought Liam Gallagher was just the cutest stinkin’ thing ever, after John Lennon and Chris O’Donnell of course, and singing along to these songs made me feel cool enough to be at least nineteen, maybe twenty.

17. Phranc – Folksinger

phranc-folksingerPhranc could’ve released this with only “Female Mudwrestling” and “Amazons” and it would’ve been a worthwhile record. The rest of the tunes are just icing on the cake. The very, very gay cake. “Lifelover” is a nice touch musically, and a chorus of (presumably) lesbians singing along with a crooning Jewish bulldyke in a crew cut about how they “don’t like female mudwrestling” might serve up more estrogen than some listeners might prefer. *shrugs* To each their own I guess. Personally I dig the hell out of it, though I’m generally more of a Melissa Etheridge/k.d. lang kind of gal. lang’s cover of “Hallelujah”? Priceless. Utterly priceless.

Ooh shoot. Should I have made Alix Olson’s “Built Like That” my #17? There really aren’t enough lesbian artists on this list considering how many have been in constant rotation on my cd player/iTunes for the past 10 years…

18. Poe – Haunted

poe-hauntedBefore we begin: GO BUY MARK DANIELEWSKI’S “HOUSE OF LEAVES” RIGHT NOW. “House of Leaves,” much like “Haunted,” is not for the feint of heart nor the short of attention span. Sure you can find something neat in the mere concept of the novel or of the album, and perhaps even get a kick out of a line or two in them. But to really fall in love with either you’ve got to be willing to commit to, and then be torn apart by both.

This album is glorious on its own; in an indie way, in a creative way, in a creepy way, in a cohesive story way. It’s just not until you read Poe’s brother’s “House of Leaves” with this playing in the background, however, that you are forced to smack yourself in the forehead at how totally and purely and unadulteratedly awesome this album is not only in its artistic integrity but in its massive scope. That and the “Hey Pretty” video is dead sexy.

19. Poe – Hello

poe-helloThough “Hello” was released the same year as Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” and via it’s singles can easily (although inaccurately, in my opinion) be lumped into the same “angry woman bitching about men” genre, it has a distinctly heavier “alternative rock” feel to it which I greatly admire. I didn’t really discover this album until 1997 when I was 15. I was madly in love with “Angry Johnny” and “Choking the Cherry,” (Emo much?), but it wasn’t until college that “That Day” hit me. And it wasn’t until a peacefully sad break up that “Fly Away” busted my shit. That “Fly Away,” man. That’s some real music right there. YouTube it. It’s devastating.

20. The Postal Service – Give Up

postal-service-give-upI hung out with a lot of writers, actors, communists, homosexuals, wiccans, stoners, homeschoolers and democrats in college. And boy do those guys know how to pick good up-and-coming bands. “Give Up” came out my junior year of college and was immediately the most burned album amongst my comrades and me. And when we heard TPS was playing at MSOE like a month later? Dude. We were so there. I wore rainbow belted blue pants from Ragstock to that show and danced my little heart out with moves I couldn’t dredge up now again if I tried. That’s where I first heard Andrew Bird, incidentally. He was one of two opening acts. Him and The Muldoons. I love me some Andrew Bird. I love me some Postal Service. I think I have an autographed copy of “Give Up” somewhere actually. I– I should really find that…

21. Sigur Rós – ( ) / Ágætis byrjun

sigur-rosI don’t know what I can really say about Sigur Rós except that to love them is to– is to love them? I guess…?

I first heard them in 2000, my freshman year of college. I was heavy into downloading music at the time and remember I was downloading some Boards of Canada or Mira Calix or something in that vein from somebody with a fast connection speed, so I checked out that user’s library and they had all these songs by this group whose name I couldn’t pronounce. I grabbed a few songs, had a listen, and was hooked. If I did drugs, this is what I’d do them to.

sigur-ros-agc3a6tis-byrjunIf you’ve got the time, have a listen to them on YouTube so you can take a peek at some of their videos as well. I promise they’ll give you a renewed interest in Iceland. And if you just want to ease into the sound? Nice and sweet and simple like? Want to rest? Want to just lay down all hushed like and drown in soft, soft sounds? Listen to “Staralfur” from “Ágætis byrjun” and sail on. It’s pretty mellow. It’s also only one aspect of their sound, which is quite diverse and… cold? Tight? Quiet? White? Chilly? Sad?

Be sure to check their website for tunes before putting down dough on their music, however. They keep a pretty sizable number of their tracks available for downloading for free on there. Album cuts, live stuff- all there. Have at it. (They are worth a good spend, though. For real.)

22. Soundgarden – Superunknown

soundgarden-superunknownAnd now for something completely different. This was and is my only real “hard” album that I enjoy cover to cover. I’m not much for harder rock tunes, and I know by many accounts even this wouldn’t count, but for an Erin McKeown fan: “Superunknown” is a bit of a stretch.

“Black Hole Sun” was, like, the coolest thing in the world in seventh grade. If you knew the lyrics you were hot shit. If you knew the video? Oh man. You were untouchable. Luckily there’s more to this album than the thing in it that pulls in 12 year olds. That’s when it meant the most to me- from age 12 to about age 15- but it still gets me going even today. “Kickstand” is great for when you’re putting on make-up to go someplace where you know you can’t sit on any of the chairs. “Spoonman” is great for when you’re drinking room temperature beer at clubs where everyone is convinced they’re cooler than you when you know precisely the opposite to be true. “Fell On Black Days” is great for whenever. Just– whenever.

23. Tegan and Sara – This Business of Art / Under Feet Like Ours

tegan-and-sara-this-business-of-artThere’s a lot of overlap in the track listings on these two CDS, the first albums from singers/ songwriters/ twins/ Canadians/ lesbians Tegan and Sara Quin, so I’m including both as #23.

I don’t remember when I first started listening to them. Some time in college, I suppose, since that seems to be the era in my musical history in which I am irredeemably stuck. At the time I was big into feminist artists, female folk singers, chick rockers. And if they were lesbians– all the better. But with these two– Twin lesbians? From Canada?! JACKPOT! I don’t know where this musical attraction came from, to tell you the truth. I like guys. I really do. But boy nobody can rock out vocally to a guitar quite like a woman with a motive and an alibi. Especially if the motive involves your girlfriend…

tegan-and-sara-under-feet-like-oursI don’t listen to them quite as much any more, though I do enjoy watching their videos on YouTube, something I couldn’t do back when they first entered my sphere. (No, James: that is not a euphemism.) I do still dig the sound, but I feel like the part of me that really got into that kind of throaty indie pop was left behind in college, pinned to the shelf above my desk alongside play tickets, lighting project assignments, and phone numbers given to me by boys I had no intention of calling but lacked the guts to turn away when they asked me to call them sometime.

“Fear is the colour you’ve all exposed./Now I gotta get up here/ And prove the importance of my clothes,/ Of my pose/ I suppose/ Again.”

24. Tori Amos – Boys for Pele

tori-amos-boys-for-peleThis is one of those albums that’s got so much on it that’s so diverse in sound, instrumentation, lyrical stylings, etc. from one track to the next that if I’m not in the mood for one song, I can almost guarantee I’ll be in the mood for another. It satisfies most of my thirsts, and I like that in a “Top 25 Albums” album.

You’ve got your easier-to-break-into songs like “Caught A Lite Sneeze” and “Father Lucifer,” your shorties like “Agent Orange,” “Mr. Zebra,” and the choral cut of “Way Down,” and the indie film waiting to be born out of “Little Amsterdam.” In fact… That’s not a bad idea. Who’s reading this who can make a movie happen? I’m ready to be buried with a butter bean bouquet.

In the meantime, YouTube videos from Tori’s “Fade to Red” dvd to watch videos for these tunes, featuring commentary from the artist on the songs and videos. Fascinating stuff.

25. Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes

tori-amos-little-earthquakesI *might* be mistaken on which album it was, but I *think* my high school boyfriend bought me this CD for my 17th birthday. Either this one or “From the Choirgirl Hotel.” But I *think* it was this one. I’m almost always in the mood for some Tori, and “Little Earthquakes” is the easiest one for me to jump right into. “Boys for Pele” I kind of have to ease myself into over time. Flip back and forth between tracks. Work myself up for it. But this one I pop in and I’m rightthere. “Happy Phantom”?  Incredible. “Crucify,” “Silent All These Years,” and “Precious Things”? Poetry. “Me and a Gun”? Haunting. This one was a favorite as early as the first time I heard “Crucify” on the radio, and remains high on my list of must-recommends.

************************************

There it is. My Top 25 Albums. Now go write yours and then tag me! I’m dying to read what makes your lists. ;D

ETA: As I read friends’ lists I’m seeing a lot of albums that definitely deserve a home on my own list. I’m including them as Runners Up, but they’re more influential than just the “honorable mention” feel the title of Runners Up gives them. Perhaps I should expand this to include my Top 30 or Top 50 Most Influential Albums? At any rate- here they are, once again in alphabetical order by artist/band, my “Other Albums I Thought Of Too Late To Include”:

1. Amy Grant – Heart In Motion

2. Indigo Girls – Shaming of the Sun

3. Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack

4. Paula Cole – This Fire

“I was raised by a rapper and rhino that dated.”


I have a post I need to write, but I keep not writing it because I’m lazy. Topics continue to accumulate, ideas continue to swirl, but I don’t do a darn thing with them. It’s just my way, it would seem.

Guilt-free

Guilt-free frozen custard consumption. Yummy.

So this? This is my guilt post. My post I’m writing for myself so that every time I log into my WordPress account I’ll see this and feel bad that this is all I have written here and I’ll feel like I *have* to write something new.

Topics to be covered:

1) Don’t hit on me if you feel a need to make use of a wing man because chances are I’m going to be a lot more into him than into you. Especially if he’s wearing a sweater, a blazer, and a bling necklace featuring a scorpion medallion, loves deep dish pizza… and you’re smoking.

2) Deciding which New Years plans to go with.

3) Threading.

4) How to write honest critiques of artistic endeavors involving people you admire without being a jerk but while still being honest in your opinions.

5) The results of the following poll which you MUST respond to if you’re reading this page:

If it doesn’t show up in Facebook, click the “View original post” link at the bottom of this entry. And if you don’t drink vodka, or aren’t overly familiar with any of the brands listed, just choose whichever one you get the impression you’d probably prefer based on which of your vodka consuming friends argues the most loudly is the best.

Personal feelings of guilt: Inflicted. My work here is done.