TWiF Theme Song Showdown!

On Friday's episode of TWiF, Martin and I played (and danced to) our very first TWiF theme song submission. Gotta say, it was pretty rad. Today I received what I consider the first worthy challenger, totally different but also pretty rad. At this point, I think it's only fair to let you all choose who advances to the next round. TWiF is a democracy, after all. Or something like that.

CHAMP: TWiF by GabeMcG

CHALLENGER: TWiF by Stewart Peck

Post your favorite in the comments section. Winner takes all. Oh, and if you think you can beat both these songs, post a link to your effort in the comments section or email me.

Adventures in Flip Camming

I take my little Flip Cam everywhere these days, and by golly, the videos are starting to pile up! Luckily for you, I'm in a sharing mood. Shot this crappy footage at a recent TV on the Radio concert at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco...mostly crappy because I forgot to stop dancing in my seat while recording, though the A/V leaves a lot to be desired (can't wait to get my hands on an HD Flip!).

Tv on the Radio put on an interesting live show. In person their harmonies were spot-on and they had a lot of energy, though in the videos you can see a lot of people sort of standing there and watching, even right up front. That's unusual. I'm not sure if the audience was mesmerized, or confused, or just stoned. Probably all of the above.

The Warfield Theater is old, beautiful, and has a great balcony, but you can't bring your drinks to your seat, which is ridiculous and reduces otherwise mature adults to lobby dwelling, drink pounding savages. I may or may not be talking about myself. Ok fine, I am. EVERYONE KNOWS YOU CANNOT ENJOY LIVE MUSIC WITHOUT DRINKING IN YOUR SEAT. Just kidding, sort of.

If you're interested, here are links to my three favorite TVotR albums in Amazon's mp3 store:

In more live music news, I'm going to see Yeasayer tonight at Bimbo's 365. Caught their show at Austin City Limits back in September and thought they were incredible. Can't wait!! Will report back.

You are SMRT!

I got roughly five billion responses about songs containing lots of counting lyrics (see previous post). Thanks! You all know a lot more counting songs than I ever could. Now comes the fun part of going through them all and compiling a list of the Best Counting Songs Ever Recorded. Or something like that. Because I have all this free time, see? And I need to do stupid things to fill my boredom. Never mind those 247 unread inbox items. They'll expire, right?

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Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light Go

I know I've been on a musical kick here recently, although if you complained about that I'd argue that I'm always on a musical kick and only hold back from writing about music on this blog every five minutes so that I don't have to admit that it's all I think about. Well, that and cat hair.

Picture it: Sebastopol, California, 1988. 7th grade. I'm at Sequoia Verducci's dance party. Events like these were usually organized around someone's birthday and consisted of about 20 kids standing awkwardly along the perimeter of a living room during the fast songs and pairing up to experiment with boy-girl body contact for the slow songs. I know, it seems ridiculous to me now, too. No wonder my mom was always reading from "The Hurried Child", sipping Bushmill's and weeping.

Anyway, Sequoia had the best house for dance parties because her parents let us dance in the bonus room, kind of like a detached garage, a good 100 feet from the main house. Oh, I'm sure Mrs. Verducci was hovering the whole time, but back then it felt like we were left alone as hedonists, free to put our hands on each other's shoulders and waists, far away from the prying eyes of anyone over thirteen. Of course, this pre-dates alcohol, which any self-respecting fourteen year old knows is the only way to party. Just kidding. Not really.

Of course, in 1988 being a DJ was a huge challenge, since nobody even had CD players yet. Instead, an assortment of cassette tapes had to be cued up, played, and then quickly swapped out before the dead air made partygoers want to call their parents for early rides home. If a host wanted to play the same song twice in one night, well, that could be tricky. There was rewinding involved. Mix tapes were an option, though in the end less flexible. How did we even get out of bed in the morning?

Are you wondering if this post has a point? My point (and I do have one) is that at this particular dance party at Sequoia Verducci's house, we all wanted to slow dance to "Love Bites" by Def Leppard, because at that time it was the Best Slow Dancing Song Ever Made, the kind of song that made every girl who didn't get asked to dance cry in the shadows of the bonus room. Except that if you're familiar with "Hysteria", which is the album that "Love Bites" is on, then you know that right after "Love Bites" comes one of the Best Obnoxious Hair Metal Songs Ever Made, and that song is called "Pour Some Sugar On Me". That song made 7th graders go completely apeshit. Arms flailing, screaming, wrestling, the works. We all kind of knew it was about sex, but it seemed more like an appropriate excuse to spit fruit punch on each other.

So this past weekend I'm innocently watching a VH1's "Greatest 80's Songs Countdown", to which list "Pour Some Sugar On Me" has naturally been included, and DO YOU KNOW WHAT I REALIZE ABOUT THE LYRICS FOR THE FIRST TIME?

That:

Cause I'm hot (hot, so hot) sticky sweet, from my head (head, head) to my feet...
Do you take sugar? Waa duh cah taaaaaaah!

...is actually not at all correct. Here's what's correct:

Cause I'm hot (hot, so hot) sticky sweet, from my head (head, head) to my feet...
Do you take sugar? ONE LUMP OR TWO?

Please, someone tell me that they're also experiencing an epiphany here. It's just so, obvious. One lump or two! Of course! Right under my nose for 20 mother effing years. Am I the only one? One lump or two!

I need a burrito.

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Nostalgia on a Sunday

You go ahead and fight me on this one if you like, but George Michael's "Freedom '90" is one of the Best Songs Ever Made. The interesting thing is that he released it before most of his fans knew he was gay (yes, I know he was 1/2 of Wham!, but come on, I was eight), and it still took me about a decade to realize the song was his coming-out-of-the-closet anthem.

I can't believe this video is 18 YEARS OLD.

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It's Just a Kiss Away

Has anyone else noticed a surge in usage of The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" in film soundtracks over the last few years? Maybe it's just a case of standard probability. I've been stuck inside with The Cruel, Cruel Cold for three days now, and I've watched roughly 1,700 On Demand movies. I guess I was bound to hear it a few times.

Where I've come across it, in case you're wondering:

  • Opening sequence in "The Departed"
  • Sex/kidnapping scene in "Layer Cake"
  • I forget which part in "The War"

I should add that in my mucus-laden opinion, "Gimme Shelter" is the best Rolling Stones song ever recorded, so I'm not complaining. Just bored out of my skull and noticing the little things.

Because it goes nicely with my currently feverish state, here's "Gimme Shelter" dubbed over the ending scene of "Taxi Driver". Though Martin Scorcese obviously loves the song and has used it in several of his movies, it wasn't originally featured in this one. Works nicely though, doesn't it? Oh, and don't watch if you're under 17. And if you do, it's only ketchup.

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Oh. Huh.

So I'm driving along the avenues as I often do, trying my best to hit the timed lights and minding my own business. The ClashShould I Stay or Should I Go comes on the radio. I like this one. I turn it up.

Except that halfway through the song, I realize something rather obvious and disturbing. He doesn't actually sing the line: "Don't think your witch clothes even fit me"

What he sings is: "Don't you know which clothes even fit me?"

And just like that, my head explodes. See, I always wondered why he was considering staying with a witch in the first place. I mean, she's a witch. He should obviously go, right? Plus, the cross-dressing thing is kind of perplexing. He seems to want to wear her stuff, but they aren't in the right size. And the statement kind of comes out of nowhere. He likes her, but the relationship is difficult, he doesn't know if she wants him around, he's confused, oh and by the way, HE DOESN'T THINK HER WITCH CLOTHES EVEN FIT HIM. For the record, I've always imagined his girlfriend as a Stevie Nicks lookalike. I've also sung this particular line loudly in mixed company at least a handful of times over the past 20 years.

And now I feel a little silly.

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A Life-or-Death Game of iPod Shuffle

Sometimes when I feel you're not being attentive enough, I write stupid titles like that. To wake your ass up. This is a life-or-death blog! I'm lying, of course. But did it work?

And sometimes when I've got nothing to say, I call out to the Internet for some inspiration. And by call out I mean that I spend several hours reading dlisted and icanhascheezburger and postsecret and call it research. With very little guilt attached, if any. It's research.

Today's inspiration comes from Heather Armstrong, who I have a mild platonic crush on because she's brave enough to write about things I could never write about, like depression, and religion, and pooping. I mean I could write about all of those things, but I'm not sure how that would affect OUR relationship. That is, yours and mine. Sure, it's possible that you want me to talk about poop, but my gut says the opposite. Gut! Poop! Ha ha ha!

Instead, I'm going to copy Heather's idea of writing about the first ten songs that come up when I put my iPod on shuffle. Which could prove embarrassing, because I impulse-buy Fergie songs, or boring, because at least a third of my music collection is based on what other people assured me I would like but that I've never actually bothered to listen to because I'm busy jogging to Fergie songs. Sorry, real-life friends. I guess it's time you knew I rarely take your musical advice. But I have devoted precious gigabytes to your impeccably good tastes, and that should count for something.

First Song: "Hell is Chrome" - Wilco

Oh nice. I call this Wilco's "Peanuts" song, because of the piano right off the top. Peanuts as in Charlie Brown, not as in baseball. Of course the rest of the song is not at all reminiscent of "Peanuts", just those first three seconds. Wilco does that a lot. See, they want you to pay attention just like I want you to pay attention, except that they're musical geniuses and I'm just annoying. A friend of mine once called Wilco "a band for grown-ups", and while that description would normally have me running for the non-contemporary hills, I have to agree. I feel grown up listening to Wilco.

Second Song: "NARC" - Interpol

You either love Interpol or you want to drown them in their own musical monotony. I happen to be in the former category, mainly because Interpol reminds me of when I used to hang out with the emo-electroclash kids at the Arrow Bar five years ago. Which was a fabulous time in my life, btw. I've never seen Interpol live, but my friend Heather (Frank, not Armstrong) has and she said they were totally unimaginative and played their set exactly like the songs sounded on the album and even in the same order. Which kind of appeals to me because that's exactly what I usually don't like about live shows. Too much guesswork. Too many chances to eff up my favorite track with some some unique spin. Props to Interpol. Up with monotony.

Third Song: "Dumb" - Nirvana

Senior year of high school. My friends and I liked the part where he says "and have a hangoverrrrr", even though our poison of choice was Coors Lite and not actually glue. True story: the day after Kurt Cobain killed himself, a handful of us walked around school with little blue ribbons safety-pinned to our shirts. To memorialize him. I don't make this stuff up.

Fourth Song: "O Maria" - Beck

Eh. I like Beck and am intrigued by what kind of company he'd be if he were, oh, sitting across from me at the Omelette Express for Sunday brunch, but I don't love Beck on the same level as many of my hipster friends. Although to their credits, my hipster friends would probably not put "O Maria" at the tops of their lists. I also dock points from a song with a woman's name as a title. It's difficult not to imagine some chick named Maria squealing when she hears it at a frat party because OMG they're playing that Beck song about her.

Fifth Song: "Horses" - Palace Music

Ok, I've never heard this song. But I know who Palace Music is. Another group that people cooler than me nod their heads in agreement about. It's ok I guess. His voice is a little thin. I know that these days singers with wide ranges of ability can make it and be respected, but I think I could have probably pulled off this song as well as he did. And I'm a terrible singer.

Sixth Song: "Chicago (Multiple Personality Disorder Version)" - Sufjan Stevens

I prefer the original version off the Illinois album. But I definitely like songs with hand-clapping sound effects, so this passes. I've never seen a photo of Sufjan, and I hope that I never do, because my imagination has concocted something very, very specific and I'm almost positive that the real Sufjan will disappoint. Like the first time you see your favorite radio personality on a highway billboard and you're horrified and scarred for life. It should be illegal to do things like that to people.

Seventh Song: "Mercy Mercy Me" - Marvin Gaye

This is unfair, iPod shuffle, because while I really, really love Marvin Gaye, I really, really don't love this particular song. And I'll tell you why. Around 1990, I used to babysit this kid whose parents had a satellite dish (I lived in the sticks and nobody even had cable yet, so this was a technological marvel). Nothing except the Disney Channel ever came through, though. One night I was watching that god-awful Mickey Mouse Club and two kids (possibly Christina and Justin) sang "Mercy Mercy Me" as a duet. And it was so bad and awkward and inappropriately mature that I've hated it ever since. Just one more thing to blame on Disney. Although "Herbie Fully Loaded" was plenty.

Eighth Song: "No No No" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Now we're talking. One of my favorite albums ever. Love you, Karen O. Until just now I never noticed the irony of the song title next to the band name.

Ninth Song: "Blue" - Smashing Pumpkins

I don't know what my problem is, but I love this band. Especially the early songs. Again, a high school thing. Billy Corgan was my unlikely hero. Of course I'd never even heard of Billy Corgan until after "Siamese Dream" came out, because at that time I was still discovering music exclusively via MTV. My friend Nicole Atkinson once told me that the song "Today" was about taking ecstacy. I wonder if "Blue" is about getting the shit kicked out of you. Hard to say. I'll ask Billy the next time I see him.

Tenth Song: "Invalid Litter Dept." - At the Drive-In

My old hairdresser used to date the singer in this band. But then I think he went to med school and they got a new singer. Or something. I don't remember her story well enough to know if I'm listening to the guy I don't technically know but feel like I know through her, or the guy I don't know at all. He yells a lot about a wishing well in this song, which is awesome either way.

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sarah.fm

Have you ever wondered if rock bands who don't have a "The" at the beginning of their band name get bent out of shape when people get it wrong? For example, Pixies sing "Where is My Mind?", but if you were to be in my vicinity as I was playing said song and asked me who the band was, I'd probably answer "The Pixies" without hesitation. I obviously know better, so why do I do that? I guess it's a case where wrong sounds right.

Other bands in my music collection that I have the same problem with:

Just kidding about that last one. Dumb band name humor. I don't actually have any The The in my music collection. Nothing against the band itself, but it's a profoundly irksome band name.

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Common Sense

Ok, I've just gotta vent about this whole Ashlee Simpson lip syncing fiasco. And yes, it was a total fiasco, although I really felt bad for the poor girl. Even though she had a record contract thrown at her because of her older sister. Even though the live alternative would have been pretty bad (I saw the MTV Music Awards performance and wouldn't wish it upon anyone). Yes, even though she blamed her band. It's just a level of humiliation that makes my heart hurt.

But - and I say this with 110% conviction and the desire to educate the public on a topic of which I am an expert - you absolutely must realize that pop stars lip sync. It's such a common practice, it might as well be required for the gig. I can't believe that this latest blunder surprised anyone. More importantly, I don't understand why people can't just automatically tell the difference. Isn't it blatantly obvious when a live act isn't kosher?

Take the Destiny's Child opening performance at the Radio City Music Awards tonight. Total, complete lip sync. No question. If any of the group members deny this fact in the face of recent heightened live act scrutiny, they LIE!

Here are a few telltale giveaways that a live performance isn't authentic (in addition to the lips not actually being in sync with the music):

  1. The rendition sounds a lot like the radio edit. No, wait, actually it sounds exactly like the radio edit. That's because it is. And you can tell, because you've heard the song so many times that you're now distinctly aware of where the vocal peaks and valleys are. It's impossible to recreate an identical copy on stage. It simply can't be done. Somewhere, everyone will sound just slightly different. That is, unless they're lip syncing.
  2. You seem to be picking up multiple layers of the same voice. For example, a faint audio illusion of three Britneys singing, but just one Britney on stage. This is so the real Britney doesn't have to try as hard. The backup "voice" will even out the rough spots and allow her to rip off clothing and gyrate without the pesky fear that her voice will crack. Don't deny it, Britney fans!
  3. The performance is accompanied by lots of complicated choreography. I don't even want to hear some lame explanation about how the most hard-working singers are in such good shape that they can pull off strong vocals and aerobic activity simultaneously. If you don't hear Janet Jackson panting and gasping through her lyrics, then it's no surprise that she isn't singing. Accept it and enjoy Rhythm Nation.

Hmm... so what category does the SNL faux pas fit in? None of them specifically. But let's remember that we're in a pop music era where any decent producer can churn out shiny, smooth, fabricated singles with  a little audio software. Most pop stars just aren't that good. They're usually quite cute in their videos, and often related to someone cute and/or famous, but rarely true vocal talents. Ashlee's debut album was a hit, and her record label wants to cash in, so now she has to perform as much as possible to keep record sales up. What's a girl to do when she can't carry the weight on her own?

Thanks, I feel better now. And for the record, I can't sing worth a damn, so this isn't some jealous, it-should-be-me-up-there thing. I just want musical artists to own up, and stop insulting our intelligence.

PS- Just watched Ashlee's performance on the Radio City Music Awards. The good news is that it was definitely live. The bad news is that it was definitely live.

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Photographers are just plain good people.

Here's the latest from my very favorite moment capturer, Dave Rubin. You might recognize a few of us. Oh, and did I mention? Dave's band Low Water has finally released their full album, "Hard Words in a Speakeasy". Not only do they rock some major house, but they helped fulfill my lifelong dream of appearing in a music video. Long live Nikon!

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Get Into the Groove

When I was in high school, I was convinced I wanted to make music videos for a living. I watched a lot of MTV (when it was still a channel that showed music videos) and being part of an industry that made eye candy mesh with pop songs seemed like the best job in the whole wide world. Turns out my interests changed a bit over the years, but I still credit music videos for getting me started.

A few of my old faves (all clever, weird, and unique):

1. "Don't Come Around Here No More"- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

2. "Tonight, Tonight"- Smashing Pumpkins

3. "Right Now"- Van Halen

4. "Freedom 90"- George Michael

5. "Losing My Religion"- R.E.M.

On a related note, my buddies at Low Water Music put together a terrific video for their song "Strange New Element." Yours truly was involved, as were a few of my talented counterparts. See if you can spot us all!

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