Friday, February 26, 2010

Girlyman “Easy Bake Ovens”

All Time Top Five Songs that shouldn’t make me cry, but do . . .

This song is just so vivid to me. I can’t believe how it captures an era---of American life, and of my life, too.

The period specific stuff resonates, of course. The sneakers thrown over telephone wires. Bikes racing around cul-de-sacs. Model airplanes and paper crowns from Burger King. And, Nixon and Watergate, not fully understood, hanging over everything.

The mood, I think, is what gets me. There’s this weird, youthful alienation in this song, that I recall vividly, when the neighborhood seemed like a gigantic world, and I was so young and small within it.

I lived on a street where there weren’t really any kids my age, everyone was a little bit older. Or a lot older. And I just rode my bike around, an observer of the teenagers, and the older kids with cars, and the parents who seemed so inscrutable. I was on the outside looking in at this world.

And it’s all weirdly sad, and yet nostalgic for me, tapping into something I’d forgotten about, as I grew up, found out how big the world really was, and can look at teenagers for all they don’t know, instead of all they seemed to know.

And if you’re not touched in the same way, then here IS a reason to be sad and nostalgic: Ronald Howes, inventor of the Easy Bake Oven, passed away this month.

One more thing, Girlyman performs at the Narrows Center this weekend. Stream it live on Saturday night, or find it in the archives next week.

From time to time on Every Day I Write The Blog, I do a week’s worth of my five favorite songs on theme. For the All Time Top Five rules, see this previous post.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Joni Mitchell “If”

All Time Top Five Songs that shouldn’t make me cry, but do . . .

Though she’s one of the greatest songwriters alive, Joni Mitchell used someone else’s words for this song---the 1896 poem by Rudyard Kipling.

In light of yesterday’s post about crying while thinking of my daughter growing to womanhood, you might think that this song makes me cry because it makes me think of my son (who’ll be born in 6 weeks) growing up to be a man.

But no, the fatherhood angle isn’t what makes me shed a tear.

No, it's the Simpson's use of "If" that does it to me, believe it or not.

In the early episode called “Old Money,” Grandpa Simpson meets woman named Bea in his nursing home. They have just begun a romance, when Bea suddenly passes away, leaving her fortune to Grandpa. Grandpa spends the episode trying to figure out how he should spend the money. A good chunk of the episode is about the indignity of growing old, as Grampa is treated like burden by his son, his grandkids and the nursing home staff.

Wanting to do something that will honor Bea’s memory, Grandpa takes the money to a casino, to try to increase his pot so he can help as many people as possible. And when Homer tries to stop him, Grandpa recites an abbreviated version of the Kipling poem:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch - and toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

The episode ends with Grandpa using his money to improve his nursing home, inviting his senior friends inside with the line, “C’mon in Friends, Dignity is on me.”

Gets me every time.

The speech starts at 20:25

From time to time on Every Day I Write The Blog, I do a week’s worth of my five favorite songs on theme. For the All Time Top Five rules, see this previous post.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Joss Stone “Free Me”

All Time Top Five Songs that shouldn’t make me cry, but do . . .

I’m not going to pretend like I’m profound by telling you that your perspective is likely to change, if you give it enough time. But I’ll give you an example.

First, I wrote about this song a few months ago, when it was new, and I was questioning whether it belonged on mvyradio or not. We DID end up putting it into rotation, and four months later, I feel like it’s a really great addition to our station.

The second perspective change came after I had heard the song enough times to sing along with it, but not so many times that I had yet processed them.

I knew that this song was a message to her record company, who had been pushing her to record more pop hits, while she was more interested in exploring Soul music. It’s your basic “Don’t tell me what to do” song, the kind that lots and lots of folks have written. I’ve heard them before.

But I’M different now.

So when I found myself singing:
Something that you don’t see every day
A little girl who found her way
Through a world that's designed to break
All of your dreams
I saw my daughter in my mind. And I thought about what prejudice she’ll face as she grows, confronts challenges, and tries to make her way in the World. I know there will be people who will try to limit her because she’s a girl. And I’m doing all that I can, as her Dad, to make sure she grows up to be someone who wouldn’t listen to those voices.

Had I heard this song 10 years ago, there would’ve have been no way to experience the paternal pride that swells when I think of her and hear the line:
If I lose you in my jet stream
Then you only got to raise your eyes
And see me fly
What parent doesn’t get a little misty, thinking about their kid soaring?

From time to time on Every Day I Write The Blog, I do a week’s worth of my five favorite songs on theme. For the All Time Top Five rules, see this previous post.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reverend Horton Heat “Psychobilly Freakout”

All Time Top Five Songs that shouldn’t make me cry, but do . . .

I can’t say that this song makes me cry every time I hear it. But it did make me cry on one very memorable occasion.

I had gone to The Warped Tour on a hot, late-90s summer day. The ticket said it was being held at RFK stadium, but what they meant was, the concert was in the parking lot outside the stadium. There were a half-dozen stages featuring various levels of punk and punk-offshoot acts, running all day long.

I was already a big fan of The Reverend Horton Heat, but this was the first time seeing them live.

As I expected, the show started off fast, and funny, and tight, and up to my high expectations.

Then they launched into “Psychobilly Freakout,” which is basically a rockabilly instrumental which builds to a crescendo, punctuated by the Rev screaming “It’s A Psychobilly Freakout!” followed by a machine-gun drum-fill and a relaunch into the song.

After a few go-rounds of this, The Reverend starts “preaching,” telling a story of a woman, and his temptation by her. The drums and the bass dig into a groove, rising and falling with his tale.

The story gets faster, more urgent, as the Reverend describes his base urges over-coming him, as his ability to resist becomes weaker, and the woman reveals herself to be the devil incarnate and when the Reverend tries to cast the demon out of his trailer she suddenly grows 50 feet taller, demanding that the Reverend succumb to his passion and as the music builds to a fever pitch and the breaking point of the story has almost been reached the music stops abruptly and the Reverend screams:


The drums thunder, the amps roar and I swear to you that I gasped and burst into tears, in that spontaneous way one might if you suddenly someone you thought was long-dead walked through your front door with an armload of Christmas presents for you.

I didn’t sob for hours or anything.

But I had become so sucked in by the storytelling, that when he screamed and brought the song back, it caught me so joyfully off-guard, I don’t think my emotional brain knew what to do.

So I cried.

Seems kind of silly if you listen to the album cut. But see him live, and you may just have a visceral experience.

Hear the whole song:

From time to time on Every Day I Write The Blog, I do a week’s worth of my five favorite songs on theme. For the All Time Top Five rules, see this previous post.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rancid “Golden Gate Fields”

All Time Top Five Songs that shouldn’t make me cry, but do . . .

Punk rock lives on velocity and ferocity. Which is what makes it cool.

But unfortunately, those to traits sometimes obscure the fact that there are punks, who are also poets and keen observers.

Take this album-closing track from Rancid’s 2000 self-titled disc. There’s no way that this song could make you cry on the first listen. And maybe not even on the 50th listen.

And it probably wouldn’t make me cry, if I didn’t sit down one day with the liner notes and really learn the lyrics.

Golden Gate Fields is a horse-racing track in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tim Armstrong of the band grew up across the freeway from the park.

The first couple of verses gallop by with all the urgency and adrenaline of the horse race they describe. And it digs in for me, as the jargon of The Track reminds me of my Dad, who, yeah, has affection for the horses. There’s a culture, a specific scene, that this song recalls vividly for me.

But it’s the third verse that gets under my skin.

The first two are a recollection of Tim’s younger days, when he frequented the track as a kid. The third verse comes to present day. And this isn’t a scene or a story told in the third person. This is Tim, who has come back to the old neighborhood, where he runs into his old friend Big L. He and Big L used to go to the track together, but in between years, their lives have gone in separate directions. Tim leads a successful band and has toured the world. Big L never left the neighborhood.:

I see Big L rollin' up the street
On his little sister's pink ten-speed.
He said "Tim, Tim, don't you remember me?"
"Way back, from 1973?"
And every time I see him
He has to remind me,
Like I would ever forget Big L.

There is such a gulf between the people who leave and the people who stay. I’ve lived this scene with people from my past. They see that you’ve gone off and had success, been places and done things, and something in the insecurity of that makes them wonder, If Tim’s life is so different now, does he remember that we used to be friends? It's touching, and sad, in its innocence.

From time to time on Every Day I Write The Blog, I do a week’s worth of my five favorite songs on theme. For the All Time Top Five rules, see this previous post.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ellis Paul “Jukebox On My Grave”

One cold February night, last year, my wife said, “Let’s make a list of our 20 favorite songs, and compare them.” She’s always doing stuff like that. She likes lists.

Unsuspecting soul that I am, I was completely unaware that she was looking for birthday ideas for me. Barbara Dacey had asked my wife to put together some songs suggestions. And at my surprise party in March, Barbara got up on stage with Johnny Hoy And The Bluefish, and sang 3 of my favorite songs.

Later in the year, my sister Amy, who’d been fighting cancer for nearly a decade, passed away. And my wife and I put together a slide show for the wake, with music behind it. Not having any guidance from Amy on the subject, we picked what songs we thought were appropriate.

But it did get me thinking . . . when I go, there are probably some songs I’d like played at my wake or my funeral. I’d better start compiling my list.

So I’m starting here, with Ellis Paul, since it seems to pretty much speak to my challenge. And from time to time, I’ll write here about songs that the executors of my will (and vast fortune) should know about.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ernie “Rubber Duckie”

One of the most famous film lessons of Less Is More, came by accident. Failure even.

You perhaps know the story about how Steven Spielberg had a menacing mechanical shark made for the movie Jaws, but the robotic shark didn’t work too well.

Spielberg just wasn’t going to get these awesome action shots of the metal beast in action. But principle photography was already underway, so he had to shoot around the lack of a shark.

In the finished product, NOT being able to fully see the shark for most of the movie, is actually what made the movie so tense.

But it was all by success by subtraction.

Joe Moss, head writer in the early days of Sesame Street, had written a bath-time ditty for Ernie the Muppet to sing. It was the composer’s job to instruct the studio musicians on the instrumentation.

The story goes, that Moss came to the studio with a box of 100 Rubber Ducks, to create a giant squeaky chorus of Duckies behind Ernie. However, he was informed by the studio engineer that each Duck was considered a single instrument, and as such, he’d have to pay the Union rate for 100 musicians, to get his Duck chorus.

And here, Moss must have embraced Less, as More.

Please enjoy the charm of a single duck squeaking, on the classic (and #16 Billboard hit!), Rubber Duckie.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reverend Horton Heat "Eat Steak"

There's a song for every moment, an old friend of mine used to say. Which comes in handy around present-giving time.

Once, a couple of years ago, left to my own devices to find a birthday present for my brother-in-law, I just bought him a really nice, thick steak.

When I tried to repeat the feat at Christmas, my wife was horrified. "You can't just wrap up raw beef and put it under the tree. That's gross!"

So we got him something else. What it was, I can't even remember. What I DO remember is that after opening it, he said, "Aw, I thought it might be steak!"

Every birthday and holiday, my wife and I would go round and round. I would say, I really think he wants steak, and she would say, It is disgusting to give someone unrefrigerated meat.

We arrived at a compromise this Christmas, when we ordered steaks online, to be delivered to his home after the holiday. But that left the dilemma of what to actually GIVE to him on Christmas. Because it's boring to just hand over nothing and say "You're meat's in the mail!"

So I made a Steak Compilation CD.

Of course, it leads off with the Reverend song, the most direct Steak song I could find. But there are a few other good meat songs, from Primus and Jimmy Buffett and such. And for extra flavor, I threw in the audio from the good Wendy's and Outback commercials.

Because there is a song for every occasion, including meat-giving for Christmas.

Here are a few of the tracks I included in the steak compilation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Carolina Chocolate Drops “Cornbread And Butterbeans”

We still have a lot to work out, as a society, when it comes to race.

I was in a public place, chit-chatting with an acquaintance. He was telling me a story about him and his friends. He happens to be white, his friends happen to be black.

So as he’s describing the scene and the dialogue, he’s affecting the voices of his friends.

Standing right next to him, is a young black man. He’s not part of the conversation, doesn’t know either of us. He’s just a bystander.

This guy I know is going on and on. Middle age white guy, doing his version of an older black man.

The bystander is pretending he’s not listening, but you can see by the way he “not listening,” and by his body language, that we’re in an uncomfortable zone for him.

And even if he wasn’t there, we’d entered an uncomfortable zone for me, because all I can think about is this: “Is it racist for a white guy to affect the voice of an older black man, IF he’s not doing a caricature, but a true and fair imitation?”

If I were listening to that conversation as an outsider, I think I would’ve thought, “This guy’s a racist.” But knowing that he wasn’t being cartoony, that he was sincerely trying to imitate someone he knew, made me wonder, “Why is this making me so uncomfortable?”

A short time later, I got in the car, and who should be on the radio, but The Carolina Chocolate Drops. And it posed a whole new set of questions for me.

Why does it feel so wrong, that they’ve titled their album “Genuine Negro Jig”? It’s a phrase I don’t think I’ll be able to bring myself to say on the air.

And if you’ve ever seen them live, you know the band usually dresses in period clothes (1930’s South), plays the jug and the washboard, and even dances broadly. It feel so wildly inappropriate on some level, but, in fact, the band is trying to be true to a tradition that, while carrying a lot of baggage, has great merit.

Intellectually, I know that what the CCD do is perfectly acceptable. But something in my gut still squirms a bit.

We still have a lot to work out, as a society, when it comes to race, and I guess my work starts within me.

Hear a live performance recorded by mvyradio at Newport Folk 2007 and head to the mvyradio archives for more performances from Newport Folk and Merlefest 2007 and Merlefest 2008.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Indigo Girls with Michael Stipe “Kid Fears”

It was Spring 1990, and my college roommates and I had picked up tickets to The Worcester Centrum to see R.E.M. We were pretty dare excited, since a love of the band had played a large part in forging our friendship in the dorms of UMass Amherst.

So as not to miss a minute, we were sure to be on the scene very early and we caught the opening act, some band I’d never heard of.

It’s funny, 20 years later, to remember a time when I didn’t know who the Indigo Girls were. But at the time of this story, I was open ears, and ready to be impressed.

Not surprisingly, they won me over pretty quickly, but the most entertaining part of the night, was when, part-way through the start of a somewhat dark song, a figure emerged from the shadows to join the girls.

Michael Stipe’s soaring vocals joined a song I’d later learn was “Kid Fears.”

From the moment he opened his mouth, the crowd---who was there to see R.E.M., not this no-name opening band---went wild. Seeing Stipe an hour earlier than planned just sent them into spasms of fan-ecstacy.

Then another figure emerged from the shadows. An audible gasp rose from the crowd. Then waves of applause.

Mike Mills? Bill Berry? Peter Buck?

No, it turned out to be a roadie, carrying out an extra mic stand.

Sheepishly, he waved to the crowd, and with a big smile on his face, he faded back into the shadows.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blues Traveler “But Anyway”

Top 5 Songs found in mvyradio’s online auction . . .

“I think the past, the past is behind us, be real confusing if not, but anyway.”

This is one of those lyrics that says something so complicated, in such a simple way.

And when I try to tell people how amazing it is, that something so complicated and be rendered in such a pithy manner, so hilariously, I inevitably prove the opposite.

Maybe it’s because the folks I hang around with only understand time as a linear concept.

But then yes, those who only view time in a line would be confused, if the past were not behind us. Right?

But anyway . . . here’s something less confusing, and linear-time-sensitive:

The mvyradio Online Auction ends today at 1pm ET. And we have a John Popper autographed harmonica, plus a copy of a Muddy Waters authorized bootleg, and copies for 4 friends. If you want it, you’re going to have to bid on it now! (Unless you’re reading this later than 1pm on Friday February 12th, 2010. In that case, it’s too bad that past isn’t in front of you)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Beatles “Norwegian Wood”

Top 5 Songs found in mvyradio’s online auction . . .

Somewhere early-on in my Beatles learnin’ (about the time when I graduated from using my own Mickey Mouse record player to being able to use Dad’s turntable), I remember reading that the big deal about “Norwegian Wood” was that it featured the sitar, and was evidence of the Beatles being influenced by Eastern Philosophy and Indian music.

So can I be forgiven for going a good decade beyond that, not realizing that Norwegians are Scandinavian, not Indian? Why is the song not called “Darjeeling Wood”?

If you want to never falter in your Beatles knowledge, you can bid on the voluminous, exhaustive Beatles biography by Bob Spitz, get it in both hardcover and audiobook form, plus get some rare Beatles t-shirt and McCartney backstage passes from the mvyradio online auction, which ends Friday 2/12 at 1pm ET.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Vapors “Turning Japanese”

Top 5 Songs found in mvyradio’s online auction . . .

If you’re married/in a long term partnership, you probably had that Right Thing moment some time early in your relationship.

It’s after you’ve gotten past the first couple of dates, so it’s not exactly a new relationship. But there’s still so much you don’t know about each other.

And you, unwittingly, innocently, say The Right Thing. You weren’t trying to impress or schmooze or suck up. You just happened to say The Right Thing.

They look at you, and they smile. And you know you’ve just passed some test, and you’re In.

This can happen at a job, too. You’re new, and you do the right thing, and your boss notices, and wordlessly indicates that your hiring has just been justified.

It happened to me in the November 2000. I’d been at mvyradio only a short time.

Barbara, who was the Program Director, had picked up the listener phone line, and had a furrowed brow.

“Who sang ‘Turning Japanese’? Hmm. Turning. Japanese. Um . . .”

The little rolodex in my brain flip, flip, flipped through the mental database taking only a microsecond to land on:

“It was The Vapors."

She smiled. I was there with the Right (meaning “obscure”) knowledge, at the Right time.

I’d said The Right Thing.

If you can’t remember all those cool, underground songs from the 80s---or if you DO remember, but don’t have them on disc---bid on the 80s bundle at our Friends of mvyradio eBay auction, which ends Friday at 1pm ET. There’s the 4 disc “Left Of The Dial” boxed set (description here), which is this amazing compilation of the alternative 80s, plus a David Byrne DVD and a David Bowie CD/DVD set.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tom Petty “Green Onions”

Top 5 Songs found in mvyradio’s online auction . . .

We had just spent the last four days, working out butts off to cover Merlefest. It was one of the biggest On The Road excursions we’d had up to that point, and we were dead dog tired.

But even though it was 2am, you can’t just switch off from four days of “GO-GO-GO-GO!” so we were all hanging out in Gary’s hotel room, having a few well-earned beers.

Larry was flipping through the cable channels, looking for something to have on the in the background, as we rehashed our weekend war stories. He came across a Tom Petty Concert on one of the premium channels.

“Is this okay?”

Nick responded, “Yeah. Everybody loves Tom Petty, right?”

Gary burst into deep belly laughter, and reached for the phone, quickly dialing.

“Honey? It’s your Dad. Hang on a second.”

Gary handed the phone to Nick and said, “Repeat what you just said!”

Nick, confused, stammered, “Uh, everybody loves Tom Petty . . . “

“Okay,” said Gary, to his daughter on the other end of the line, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Apparently, “everybody loves Tom Petty” is a long-standing in-joke for Gary’s family. Tom Petty being a symbol for something everyone can agree on. So he just had to share that Nick's spontaneous confirmation of that universal truth:

Everybody Loves Tom Petty.

If you love Tom Petty—and you must, because everybody loves Tom Petty---we have the Tom Petty Live Anthology boxed set up for grabs in this week’s mvyradio auction. Make a bid and support free streaming.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bruce Springsteen “Jungleland”

Top 5 Songs found in mvyradio’s online auction . . .

With age comes perspective. You can see a moment of your past in a wide context, fit it in to a broader vision of yourself, and make some peace with it.

But with age and perspective, also comes a certain amount of forgetting.

I got the Bruce Springsteen “Born To Run” anniversary edition when it came out, and dove right into the accompanying DVD that provided some great behind the scenes, making of footage.

In one of the many remarkable sequences, the band members talked about the making of the epic, “Jungleland.” Much to the various musicians dismay, Bruce could not be satisified with an exact version of the song. Lyrics and solos and bridges were written, arranged, excised, rewritten, rearranged, built up and stripped down. At one point, a labored over musical intro was fully scrapped by Bruce, over protestations of the band.

Now in their 50s, the band members talk on the DVD about the making of the song. And Bruce himself hears the alternate, scrapped intro. And he kind of smiles and says that for the life of him, even HE doesn’t know what he thought was wrong with it.

The 30th Anniversary Package, which includes “Born To Run,” the making of DVD and a concert DVD from 1975, plus an autographed copy of Clarence Clemons new book are up for grabs in the Friends of mvyradio auction. Make a bid and support free streaming.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fiona Apple "Sleep To Dream"

Remember back in the day, when you'd get a box of Cap't Crunch, and mow your way through bowl after bowl to get to the prize at the bottom?

I think record promoters sometimes think they can appeal to a programmer's, 10-year-old saturday-morning-cartoon-watching self. Because sometimes (if the budget allows) you can get some pretty funny things in the mail, along with a CD.

Sure, there's the standard bumper stickers and posters, but the tchochkes can get quite elaborate.

For the "Up In The Air" soundtrack, they sent a T-shirt, and a toy plane--the little kind the pilot might give you on your first flight.

For an up-and-coming artist, who's first single had "salt" in the title, they sent the CD in a round metal case, that can be used as a margarita rim salter.

Once, I even got an actual bologna sandwich on Wonderbread, from a band trying to market themselves as "white trash rappers."

Much of this stuff goes directly in the garbage (especially an unwrapped sandwich), but occasionally we get something that proves itself useful and interesting.

In the production studio, sits our Fiona Apple alarm clock, with a snooze button that says "Sleep To Dream." Clever. And when I look at the time, I think of Fiona Apple. Now that's marketing!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Coldplay “Lost!”

Lost! with an exclamation point!

Every time I've heard this song, over the course of the last 9 months, I’d lament:

I’ve got to wait until February!” with an exclamation point.

Lost, the TV show takes long hiatuses, at least for a broadcast TV show. And it’s a show that asks a lot of questions, leaving too many unanswered, but with a promise that there will be a conclusion. You just have to wait for it.

And wait.

And wait.

And the wait is finally over.

I ran my kid up and down the halls of the house, for an hour on Tuesday late afternoon, to make sure she went straight to bed. Poured myself a drink. Put the snacks on the side table and I watched the Season premiere.

And now I wait. Until next Tuesday.

And every time I hear this song, I’m reminded that the waiting is the hardest part. But that’s another song.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ryan Adams “Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues”

I really thought that this was the direction Ryan Adams was going to go.

In 2001, he had put out “Gold,” seemly to leave behind the more straightforward Americana of his band Whiskeytown, and his first solo record “Heartbreaker.”

“Gold” hinted at his ability to work in familiar styles, sound like Van Morrison, Neil Young, or in this case, The Rolling Stones.

It’s got all the things that make a song “Stonesy,” including the riffy guitar part, the New York City references, the promiscuous lead character, the cocksure vocal delivery, the African-American female back-up singer vocal solo.

Garage rock was “in” around that time. The Strokes, The Hives, etc. But Ryan Adams could really write, and could do more than just the guitar swagger. He could craft the solid tunes the way The Glimmer Twins did.

He even did a cover of “Dead Flowers” with Willie Nelson around this time.

So who would’ve thunk that he’d end up embracing The Dead, instead, as he has done on his last several albums.

I’m ready for the Rock N Roll from Ryan, because I think he does it better than most.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vampire Weekend “White Sky”

Often, when we’re considering songs for rotation at mvyradio, we’ll talk about the artist’s story.

Is there something that will give the record context, or make it interesting to talk about on the air?

“What’s this band’s story?” This question might have any of these answers:

a) The artist has an interesting backstory. Like, “Carla Bruni? She took the lyrics from the poems of people like Yeats and Dickenson. Oh, and she’s was the mistress and is now the wife of the Prime Minister of France”

b) Something interesting/important/tragic/fortunate happened to the band while they were making the record. Like “Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King” was made in the wake of Leroi Moore’s passing, and has his spirit all over the record

c) There are interesting intra-artist connections: “It was produced by T Bone Burnett!” “John Mayer wrote a glowing record review of this in Rolling Stone!” “They were invited by Martin Sexton to be his touring band!”

Often, these stories are part of the narrative of the band.

But of all the stories attached, rightly or wrongly, to a band, I don’t think I’ve ever had a story like Vampire Weekend’s. Strangely, the prevailing story about this band has to do with how much some people hate this band.

From NME: Lord knows they have their detractors, but whatever you might think of them, the simple fact is Vampire Weekend are now one of the most unique bands on the planet.

From The Boston Globe: An unabashed pleasure and then just as quickly bashed for its hipster cachet, Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut touched down like a Texas tornado in 2008.

From The Chicago Tribune: Only in the file-sharing era could a band suffer a backlash before its first album even came out.

From Pitchfork: Considering the ferocious objections to Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut, "Horchata", and the rest of Contra, is brave music.

And these are the professional reviewers, who have to present some level of objectivity and decorum. Delve into Blog-world, and the word “ferocious” only scratches the surface of the level of distaste some have for the band.

Can you hear this song, without hearing the story in your head? Is it something we should be playing?

See this previous post, for details on how a song gets into rotation on mvyradio, then let me know what you think.

Monday, February 1, 2010

John Mayer "Heartbreak Warfare"

I've always made it a point to try to separate the artist from the art.

I don't want to like a song, just because the person singing it seems nice (or IS nice, if I happen to know that because I've had first person contact).

And I don't want to hate a song, just because the person singing seems like a jerk (or IS a jerk, if I happen to know that because I've had first person contact).

But that's just so hard to achieve, when the singer in question seems to either a) have lost control of how he appears in public, or b) gets caught up in his own ego.

I want to like John Mayer. I think he's a very talented, hardworking entertainer. The one, very, very brief interaction I had with him (we shook hands and said a Hi Howya Doing? in the mvyradio lobby in 2001) was very pleasant.

But in my stack of new songs to consider added to mvyradio rotation, is "Heartbreak Warfare." And I keep hesitating to listen to it, because every time I do, I see this Rolling Stone magazine cover in my head, and hear his words about how lonely he is. And it makes me barf just a little in the back of my throat.

I am trying to separate the artist from the art, John, but you're not helping.