Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The New Basement Tapes "Nothing To It"

Maybe you want to listen with your eyes closed first?  Especially if you don't know anything about this project . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Okay, so if you didn't know the story behind this project, and you just heard it on the radio while driving down the street, would you say that it was a great, radio friendly song?

I don't know that I would.  I mean, it's fine.  Somewhat hummable.  A little ragged.  But is it a standout?

Now imagine that you know all about the back-story. 

These are lyrics written by Bob Dylan in the late 60s.  Never recorded.  Dylan recently gave them to T Bone Burnett, who then assembled Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith (of Dawes), Rihannon Giddens (of Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Jim James (who sings here) to record an album's worth of these songs.

Do you hear the song differently, with that knowledge?

That's what makes a track like this so hard for radio.

If you have the context, then it is a fascinating song.  But on it's own, it's not a great sounding single.

And most people who hear it, are not going to know the story behind it.  There more likely to say, "What the hell?" and move on to the next station.

Or am I wrong?  Does the song captivate you, even without knowing the story behind it?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sarah McLachlan & Randy Newman "When She Loved Me"

Some thoughts on last week's Yard Sale . . .

My Mother-In-Law has a big end-of-summer Yard Sale each year.  She invites a few neighborhood folks to set up in her yard too.  So the event is rather massive.  Between 9 and 3 last Saturday, literally hundreds of folks stopped by.

This was the first year we brought stuff of our own, for the sake of participating.   And it was the first Yard Sale that our kids had ever known.

On the car ride to Gramma's, we tried to explain what a Yard Sale is.  And, speaking the language of children, we gave them an example from an animated film.

"Remember 'Toy Story 2'?  The one where Woody accidentally got sold?  That was a Yard Sale.  We're taking all our old toys and things, and selling them to people who might want them."

And we cautioned them to not bring any of their own belongings into the driveway, because someone could think that their special toy was actually for sale, and walk off with it.

To put a fine point on it, we played that Sarah McLachlan song, where poor Jessie gets left behind and everyone in the audience weeps like babies.

And while losing your favorite toy to a grabby Yard Sale-goer sounds like some kind of thing that only happens in the movies, let me point you to the conversation I overheard at the end of Gramma's Driveway.

"Look at that.  Why would you want that?  521 Main Street?  What good would that do you, unless that was you exact address?"**

This was an elderly woman who was admiring, but confused by the address marker at Gramma's house.

Because, if it's in the driveway, it must be for sale, ammiright?

We did surprisingly well with the Grandparent-set.  We had a lot of baby gear and toys that my kids had outgrown.  And the grandparents that filtered through all day long were happy to pick up that spare ride-on toy or set of blocks or whatever, that they could have handy for when the grandkids visit.

One item of great interest was the Jack-In-The-Box.  It was fun to see who was delighted by it, and who it surprised/terrified.

See the video on Youtube.

It was the exact same model as the one Will Ferrell opens in "Elf."  (And for my Cape Ann friends, it is made by the local company Schylling, where my sister Amy used to work)

Somewhere in the middle of the day, a teenage boy picked up the Jack-In-The-Box and turned the crank.  At the conclusion of "Pop Goes The Weasel" he gave a surprised "Hey!" 

But not because of the pop-up clown.

Stuffed inside the Jack-In-The-Box (no doubt put there at some point by my 4 year old) was a Lego figure.


We nearly reenacted the plot of "Toy Story 2" by accidently sell Woody at the Yard Sale!

Fortunately, just like the movies, it all ended well, with Woody coming back home with us, safe and sound.  And the Jack-In-The Box, the talking dinosaur, the travel potty, the ride-on giraffe, the music table, the wooden trains and dozens of other treasures, headed to their new homes where somebody would love them.

See the video on Youtube.

** Not Gramma's real address

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

George Ezra "Budapest"

Here's one of those earworms that could have a place on MVY, but . . . I dunno.  What do you think?

The hook is super catchy, but also feels like Ezra is in that same zone as folks we don't play like Ed Sheeran or Matt Nathanson or Jason Mraz---guys who are great in their own way, but a bit commercial for our station.

On the other hand, that baritone ain't exactly what all the tweeners are into these days.

He reminds me a bit of an old MVY favorite who we haven't heard from in a while: William Topley.

What do you think?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tweedy "Low Key"

Parts of this work week were grueling . . . parts of the day-to-day grind of getting kids out the door, in the door, fed and into bed, were grueling.

I'm glad to end this week on a light note. 

I follow John Hodgman on Facebook, and he posted this Tweedy video, since he makes an appearance.

Tweedy won me over the moment I saw Jeff in the yellow suit.

And as I was watching the video, I was laughing at how deadpan Spencer is.  Then I recalled that (at least the one time I saw him in concert), he always seems kinda deadpan.

There are lots of little laughs in this one, straight through to the shocking conclusion.

See the video on Youtube.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Robert Plant "Rainbow"

I saw Robert Plant a few years ago, and got a laugh thinking how silly some of his early Zeppelin hippie-dippy references sound (like in "Ramble On").

While it doesn't actually sound hippie-dippy or like a 60s throwback, I did have to laugh when I read that his brand new song is called "Rainbow."

You don't get much more hippie-dippy sounding than that.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

She & Him "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"

If you're local, then you know this scene during Tourist Season . . .

You're in the grocery store.  There is a person.  Often older.  DEFINITELY a tourist.  They are standing in such a way that they are blocking the aisle and are completely unaware that you are trying to pass them.  There is just enough room for you to squeeze by, but you know that the second you try this, they are going to start walking and bump into you.

So there I was, staring at this tourist doing just this.  Staring at him.  Hating on him.

I mean really, is there ANY occasion where it is okay to wear an oxford shirt and a sport coat, with shorts?  Does that make any frickin' sense whatsoever?  How is it that when people go on vacation, they have no clue how to dress?

I was staring.  I was hating.  I was sure that if I looked down, he'd be wearing black socks.

Actually, I was wrong.  He wasn't wearing black socks.  He was wearing black sneakers, with white tube socks.  Ugh.

What do the socks have written on them?


He moved and I pushed my carriage past him.  I got about halfway down the aisle before I just couldn't let it go.  I turned around.

"Excuse me.  Sir?  Do your socks say 'I (Heart) She & Him'?"

He looked at me blankly for a second, woken from his trance of looking at flavored coffee.  Then he gave me a warm smile.  "Yes.  I love that band."

"Great band."

"My wife and I saw them years ago, in a little club, before they got big.  Have you seen them?"

I did talk about how much I liked them, though I didn't drop my M Ward story.

"Socks, huh," I said.  "Usually people get a t-shirt."

"You can get anything these days," he smiled.

Truer words were never spoken during Tourist Season.

"Have a great day," I said to him, and sped off with my carriage, wondering what grocery store weirdness my next collision might bring.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Neko Case "Thrice All American"

I got a big kick out of this Neko Case/Kelly Hogan goof on Sci-Fi and Fanboys and such.

And because I was sitting at the kitchen table on a late afternoon, I decided to go to the basement and pull out some of my older Neko Case records, like "Furnace Room Lullaby."

It's been a while since I'd gone back to the Neko Case of the 90s.  The think that struck me was that on top of loving the record as much as ever, I just couldn't get over how little-of-a-clue that record offered, as to what Neko Case would sound like in 2014.

I mean, the voice is still there.  The mystery.  The confidence.  The sly humor amid the darkness.

I guess I'm mostly talking about the country references, which are pretty much gone without a trace now.

In the late 90s, Neko Case seemed like she was going to be an enigmatic Patsy Cline for the modern age, crafting timeless, country-tinged dark ruminations.

And while the music of 2014 still feels timeless and dark, there is a complete absence of twang.

The strangest part about it is that it happened slowly and quietly, subtly.  I mean, there's still a bit of twang in Case's voice in current songs like "City Swans."  Just not in the instrumentation.

I was trying to think of another artist who so quietly, easily slipped out of country, without calling attention to it---so much so that you kinda forgot that's where they came from.

Wilco came to mind at first.  But I do recall an interview with Jeff Tweedy, pre-"Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," where he was contemplating a future "zero Country reference" record.

Maybe Joe Henry?  He was alt-country before alt-country was alt-country.  Now he makes records as timeless and dark and somewhat-uncategorizable as Case.

Anyway, just an observation.  It's nice to still be surprised by an artist.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Public Enemy "He Got Game"

Stick with me, MVY listeners . . .

I was following a Facebook thread last night from a friend whose musical tastes run shockingly similar to mine.  The post was based around late 80s/early 90s rap music, starting with The Beastie Boys amazing back-to-back records "Paul's Boutique" and "Check Your Head."  Further comments cited De La Soul, Black Sheep, Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy, among others, as producing great albums in that era.

Then the thread host mentioned Public Enemy's "He Got Game" soundtrack, and wham! I was hit with a little bolt of lightning.

I am certain that I have not thought about that song since it played on WABN, some 15 years ago.

How certain am I that it was erased from my memory?  When the song came on I thought, "Oh yeah, the song where they sample 'For What It's Worth' a little too heavily."  While completely forgetting that STEPHEN STILLS IS IN THIS VIDEO!!!  They didn't just sample, Stephen Fucking Stills performed with Public Enemy?!?!

This isn't the kind of thing that slips your mind for a second.  Either it's there, or it's not there.

For me, it was definitely not there.  Until now.

Hey mvyradio listeners, I know many of your aren't interested in Public Enemy, but you gotta at least skip ahead to 2:20, when Stills shows up.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Patty Larkin "Do Not Disturb"

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." -- Pablo Picasso

Take a second and look at the three pictures above.  Do you know what the hand-written signs say?

That Picasso quote at the top of the post is oft recited in my house. It comes up because my wife is an elementary school art teacher.

She uses the quote with her students, as encouragement, explaining to them that they have a certain talent that even Picasso struggled to compete with.

And she uses the quote on those occasions when she if offering instruction to adults, particularly the ones who say "I can't draw" or "I haven't done art since I was a kid."

Tapping in to your inner-kid-ness is a talent.

And as a parent, it can be a necessity.

Our daughter is completing her first year of public school.  Kindergarten.  Her knowledge and her skills grow every day.  One day she's sounding out the word "red."  And what seems like a few days later, she's reading aloud, slowly but surely, through "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish."

Then she leapt into spelling.  She is labeling pictures.  Writing stories.  And posting signs with important information for our family about our new kittens.

I always struggle to read these signs, and usually I have to ask my wife for help.

"Just read the letters," she tells me.

In other words, don't sound it out.  Just say each consonant and vowel, as is.  Our daughter isn't really blending letters, or writing the silent letters, or using the "soft" versions of letters.

Read it, as is.  As it sounds.

The above pictures say:

"Bubble soap" (which was a potential name for one of our new kittens)

"Smelly Section" (note the corner of the house where we keep the trash barrel and the cat litter box)

"A couple of days ago I got two new kittens.  They are fun.  One is Kiki and the other one is Jasper."  And at the top of the page it says "Toilet Paper."

On the same day I saw my daughter post this sign where she was trying to make a cat bed, I also heard the Patty Larkin track on MVY.  That song makes me happy because it mentions Paul Klee, who is my wife's favorite artist (after our kids, of course)  And yeah, I can hear how "disturb" could easily be sounded out by a 6 year old as "distubv."

As of this posting, my favorite art teacher has not updated her site about her planned 2014 Summer classes, but you can keep checking this link.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Undertones "It's Going To Happen"

A Throwback Thursday post:

It was always fun, on my old alternative show, to play throwback tunes. 

Funny to think that it was nearly 20 years ago, that I was playing this song as a Throwback, then!

Hear the song on Youtube.