My Favorite Shit
I’ll be brief. Every time that those good ole’ folks over at Cotton release a new “fabric of our lives” campaign, I can’t help but be utterly disgusted at how they butcher the tune. The newest one is this countrified bull crap by Hayden Panettiere, although it doesn’t rub me as bad as the gut-twistingly quirky one by Zooey Deschanel. And sure I know what you’re thinking… perhaps they should bring back the Rickie Havens one in a tasteful moment of tribute for his recent passing. No, no, no. Dear Mr. Havens deserves to be forever remembered by his wonderful tribute to the Folgers campaign – nobody else should ever be allowed to sing “The best part of waking up…” What the Cotton folks need to realize is that they reached perfection back in 1992 when they had Aaron Neville perform his version of the song. It’s right up there with his duet with Linda Rondstadt for the best vocal performance of his career. There’s no need for debate here – these are the facts. And c’mon, not only is his voice crushing shit, but in 30 seconds you see how one fabric unites life, death, social protest, the stock market, emergency care, rock and roll, Summer, weddings, and losing your virginity.
Over the past 15 years, I probably contemplate the potentiality of a Talking Heads reunion about every 4 months or so. And I’m not saying I have one of those What If/Wouldn’t That Be Cool moments, I’m saying I literally imagine myself at such an event and try to visualize what exactly is happening. I’m in one of those 4 month moments right now, spurred on by watching disastrous footage of recent Rolling Stones gigs, contemplating the cycle of events that could lead to a Ween show in 2013, and by reading a recent quote from Robert Plant where he actually hints about wanting to do a 2014 Led Zeppelin tour. So here’s my really shitty vision of being at a T-Heads reunion show: I’m in Madison Square Garden and I’ve somehow landed tickets at face value even though face is like $135… half the crowd is over 50, and 2 songs in I realize that 25% of the crowd knows nothing except for “Burning Down the House” and “Once in a Lifetime.” The band is essentially just running through the motions, and David Byrne has a look on his face like he just traded his soul for a ham sandwich. The guy sitting behind me then taps me on the shoulder and asks me both to sit down and if I can stop smoking that joint. I’m bummed – I feel hollow – I think back to when I wrote a blog about imagining this moment and realize I should have accepted fate as it was… Am I right? Can’t we all see that situation? So here’s my really awesome vision:
I’m in NYC’s Roseland Ballroom. The Heads have announced a 23 night run there dubbed All or Nothing. Tickets were hard, but I managed to land some $70 ones at face for 2 consecutive nights in the middle of the run. The stage set-up is minimal – very little lighting – and the full lineup is there. Alex Weir and Adrian Belew are both on guitar – Belew in amazing form after his stint in the Nine Inch Nails reunion. Tina Weymouth is thumping the bass with all the pent-up passion she’s been waiting to unleash for the past 30 years. It feels like it’s not even the same woman I’ve seen play with Tom Tom Club. It’s hot in there. It’s smoky. It’s sweaty. Each show of the run has followed a fairly similar setlist, but there have been divine moments that make each night stand out. This is a Tuesday, and currently the band is 8 minutes deep into “The Great Curve.” I am getting down harder than I ever have in my life, but still not as hard as the 70 year old woman sweating bullets to my left. To my right, a 21 year old EDM kid stands still staring at the stage with his mouth on the floor and a slight tear coming down his face. During “Houses in Motion” I glance to my left and notice James Murphy dancing anonymously amongst a circle of friends. At several times during the gig I check my pulse to make sure I’m still on planet Earth… And am I right on this one too? Couldn’t we all see this?
Sigh… dreams and fantasies can really mess with your head sometimes, but that’s what makes our weird human brains so amazing. God bless you David Byrne, and God bless whatever decision you ever make to reconstruct my reality. A few months back a friend of mine turned me onto the Bonus Tracks that were released on a Remain in Light reissue. I had never heard them. They crushed me. I cried when I first heard this jam called “Right Start” – it’s kind of like a mash-up of “Lifetime” and “Electric Guitar.” I imagine it as the soundtrack that the great creator had playing in his head when he was manufacturing the universe, and I kind of imagine the after-life as a world where this thing is just playing on loop for eternity. Dig in…
Even if you live in the Pacific Northwest, Boise is still in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere. But the second annual Treefort Music Festival, held a few weeks back, is essentially the greatest reason for a non-fly-fishing-aficionado to ever come to Idaho. Any festival at which Built to Spill plays every night of is worth trekking too though, and I’m slightly ashamed of myself for not heading out there for this one.
On the closing night of the fest, Built to Spill played a set composed entirely of cover songs. It touched on a little bit of everything that Doug Martsch is into: Dinosaur Jr., Metallica, Blue Oyster Cult, Neil Young, Dylan… but most importantly Pavement. Hearing one of your favorite bands play one of your favorite songs by one of your other favorite bands is not something that happens often, and I presume there are a large group of 90′s indie-rock nerds like myself who realize this is one of the greatest things to ever occur in the history of mankind. Pavement has a fairly massive catalog, and while I saw them on both sides of the country during their reunion tour a few years back, “Here” was an illusive cut to catch. So yada, yada, backstory… here’s all I’m saying…
I fuckin’ love Pavement. And I fuckin’ love “Here” – it’s one of my Top 10 songs of all time. And goddamn, do I fuckin’ love Built to Spill. So yeah, this video brought a weird spiraling tear of existential reality to my eye. Too bad it cuts out before the end.
Remember back in the 90′s… when anytime Spike Jonze would release a new music video, you instantly knew it was gonna be massively fucking cool? It didn’t matter if you didn’t like the band or even knew the band, you flipped on MTV and waited to see that Beastie Boys video for the 23rd time, or that Fatboy Slim video, or that Daft Punk video, or that Weezer video, or even that awesome video for “California” by Wax - remember that shit? Well we all know that these days MTV plays as much real music as KFC sells real chicken, but luckily we have a little something called the internet. And the greatest thing about the internet is you can get really fucking weird and people just go – “oh, it’s just that old internet.” This means that more and more actual artists are willing to get the epically absurd Eric Wareheim of Tim and Eric:Awesome Show – Great Job! to direct their videos.The originality of each production and the free range that the artists give Wareheim is honestly something that we had only seen with Jonze in the past.
The thing about Tim and Eric is that many people can’t see past the absurdity to realize that they’re truly conceptual geniuses – but I assure you, this shit is magic. Over the past 5 years or so, Wareheim has directed videos for everyone from Ben Folds to Depeche Mode, and I get more giddy each time a new one surfaces. Hell, I fucking hate Major Lazer, but I have probably watched their video 14 times over the past couple years. There is however, no doubt that his latest work is the masterpiece of his career so far. Last week, the video for Beach House‘s “Wishes” appeared, and it’s most certainly the greatest mash-up of lunacy and beauty I’ve ever seen in my life. The Dad from Twin Peaks and a blessed use of water bottle squirts – let’s start there. Let it consume you, and then go further down the rabbit hole with the rest of his Top 4 must see videos.
1) Beach House – “Wishes”
2) Major Lazer – “Pon De Floor”
3) Flying Lotus – “Dance Floor Dale”
4) MGMT – “The Youth”
So you’re waking up on a Sunday morning, you’ve lost an hour due to Daylight Saving Time, and you realize there’s nothing more you’d love to do than hear me rant about music and 80′s cartoons. Well hot damn folks – here’s what you’ve been looking for. It had been awhile since I’ve done a podcast with anybody, and I forgot how many tangents I can roll into when given the right opportunity. But shit, this is what I fuckin’ love to do – talk about the important crap in life. Highlights include a pouring of affection for Tame Impala, the wonder of over-commercialized Queen songs, and a couple leads on the greatest 80”s cartoon theme songs you’ve never heard before. Listen to the cast HERE, and below check out one of the theme songs that we talk about but don’t actually play a version of…
I’ve been thinking a lot about this video lately. I first recall watching it several years ago, and it’s gone rather viral since, but it’s still easily one of the greatest things of all time. I recommend it to people constantly, and decided I needed to formalize my love for it a little more. So…it’s 1973 and Stevie Wonder is in the heyday of his soul-funk era. Frank Oz and the genius folks over at Sesame Street decide that they should have Stevie on the show and that they should just let the motherfucker go off. And that he does. He has a little interview with Grover, plays a little ditty about counting, and then busts this massive “Superstition.” Have you ever paid attention to the lyrics of that song? They’re pretty friggin’ dark, and I always thought they served as kind of a jab against formalized religion. Heavy pick for the show. But anyway, long story short, with some fresh-ass Orange Amps in tow, and a ridiculously raw in-the-pocket band behind him, the soul-brother #2 busts out a 7 minute long take on the song. And as dope and killer as it sounds, the video is really highlighted by one defining factor – there’s a bunch of kids sitting on the steps having a good time, but up on the top fire escape there is a little dude who is straight up losing his shit. He looks to be about 6 years old, but he seems to be very aware that being on the set of Sesame Street for Stevie Wonder will essentially be the golden moment of his entire life. At times, it looks like he’s honestly trying to rip the guardrail off. I often wonder who and where this kid is now. He’s gotta be in his late 40′s, and hopefully the rest of his life has been just as epic as these 7 recorded minutes. I’d love to find him – I’m sure he still rants and raves about this. If you want to see his golden moments, they look at the top center 20 seconds in. 38 seconds in is when you realize he’s the freshest mother-fucker of all fucking time. At 2:12 you can find him in the upper right corner dropping some nasty knee lock moves. 4:08 is when you realize you’d probably be doing the exact same thing. Shit is magical. At 5:17 he’s stomping the metal like it’s his job. And then the capper is at 6:04 - the band has reprised the song, Stevie’s vamping some Sesame Street lyrics, and that little dude is getting low. Way low. Owning that shit. He’s one of my biggest heroes and inspirations in life. Seriously. That little 6 year old crushing the fuck out of Sesame Street in 1973.
Valentine’s Day today. We all have those moments in our life when love truly strikes us, and for most of us, those moments when love strikes us down. But the amazing thing about life, and love, and the indomitable will of the human spirit, is that we find these specific things that keep us going – that keep our heads up. Presumably if you read this blog, music in general plays a major role in your life, and you have your go-to songs. Songs that you not only play in times of sorrow, but in times of joy. Songs that center you and make you feel normal, and alive, and make you stop and wonder at how amazing it is that we can have sounds that can shape us so deeply. There is music in my life that I truly love. And besides the love I have for and with an amazing woman in my life, music is the only other thing in my life that I truly and passionately love. The only other thing that can encompass me and make me exist solely in its moment – in its existence. It’s the only other thing that can feel like having my girl’s face pressed against mine, and feel like my relation to it is a moment of success in the universe. That the cosmic goo looks down and smiles and says “yes, it’s shit like this that is the reason we made this whole thing in the first place.” Relating – understanding. In this way, I was reminded today of the amazing video that appeared last year of Henry, the nearly empty of shell of an old man with Alzheimers in a nursing home.
This video of Henry is an excerpt from the documentary film, Alive Inside, which doesn’t appear to have been fully completed yet, or released. I can’t tell unfortunately. But what the video does show is that these folks who can barely speak are brought back to life and back to themselves when they hear the music that they love. At one point, a doctor refers to it as “the quickening art.” If you know the term “quickening,” you may recognize it as the moment in a women’s pregnancy when the child actually comes to life. They say this is the time when the pineal gland forms and connects the two hemispheres of the brain. And you can actually see this quickening moment happening in these people. It’s almost like it’s reconnecting those lost synapses. It totally reminds me of that De Niro movie Awakenings, or even dare I say The Notebook. Anyway, I don’t want to ramble much further – you should just watch the clip. And if you’ve seen it before – watch it again. It’s fucking amazing. This is what love and music and life are all about – we are sentient beings, and the power of sound is a primal force – a force that can shape, and create, and rebuild, and bring us back to the true nature and destiny of the beings we are meant to be. And if you rag on somebody for listening to crappy music, like shitty dub-step or horrid Bieberesque shit, just remember… That music brings them utter joy, and that’s all that matters. They’re being touched, and they’re experiencing their own relationship with sound and existence, and that in itself is a beautiful thing. To quote the reawakened Henry – “I feel the band of love and dreams. The lord came to me and made me holy…so he gave me these sounds.”
Visit the film’s website HERE, and here’s Henry…
Here’s a video of someone who tried this on his own parents…
In honor of my giddy exuberance for seeing one of my all time favorite bands to ever exist in the universe play at the tiny Doug Fir Lounge tonight in Portland, I thought I’d do an “official” ranking of their albums. Folks are always asking me where to start with Built to Spill, and I usually get flustered in the moment as my love for the entire catalog rushes through my head. And truly, there isn’t really a “bad” Built to Spill record out there, let alone really a bad song. So while I could escalate this list to include anything that Doug Martsch has ever done, and every EP they’ve ever released, I’m gonna keep it strictly to the main albums – which conveniently equal 10 as of now. Once you’ve brought all these into your life, then you can get the solo album, and the Halo Benders albums, and the Treepeople records, and for the love of God the vinyl EP of “They Got Away,” but for now let’s start here. Here are the greatest Built to Spill albums. From worst to best…
This mid-2000′s record was the only time where things just didn’t seem to really click. It could have been the exclusion of Phil Ek as producer, or just the drain of the Bush-era, but it’s definitely my least listened-to record of theirs. Although, closing track “The Wait” is one of my all-time favorites.
Sure, technically this one probably shouldn’t be on the list since it’s actually more of a collaborative record with fellow Boise band Caustic Resin. However, both bands have shared members at various points and we can’t neglect to have this album which opens with the classic “When Not Being Stupid is Not Enough.”
The first record has its moments where Martsch is obviously way in love with Dinosaur Jr., but that is in no way a bad thing. It doesn’t really have a specific stand-alone tracks, but it’s still a classic Portland late-afternoon, happy-hour bar album. Maybe the best background record the band created.
Basically a compilation record of singles and outtakes from the first few years of the band, this album contains my go-to version of their classic track, “Car.” It’s a lot rawer than the other studio version, but has a lot more spunk to it. Also has the great “So & So, So & So From Wherever Wherever.”
The really cool kids will try to tell you that this second full-length album is their finest work – before the band got all “polished up.” It definitely is the first time we realize that Martsch is gonna put his entire bleeding heart and soul into his music, and that he has the potential for being the soundtrack to your life.
A solid record from front to back, and a worthy successor to the brilliant Keep it Like a Secret in 1999. Opening track “Strange” is probably my go-to song in life to get my head back to normal after moments of deep sadness, frustration, or anger. Maybe the most forgotten and hidden gems of any album.
A perfect glimpse of the true power. A few tracks from both Perfect From Now On and Keep it Like a Secret, a brilliant version of the original Halo Benders’ track and my favortie song of all time, “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain,” awesome take on Love as Laughter’s “Singing Sores Make Perfect Swords,” and a 20 minute “Cortez the Killer.” Essential stuff.
Nearly 20 years deep, and the guy makes one of his greatest albums ever. The brilliant “Hindsight,” the incredibly brutal “Things Fall Apart,” and the overwhelming faith that bands can still be amazing and prolific as they get older. A great starting point for new listeners.
There’s always debate between this and my number one for which is more amazing, but there’s no doubt this albums is a key part of my DNA. It always felt to me like a record of J. Mascis fronting the Grateful Dead. There’s a reason they did a 2008 tour playing this record in its entirety – “Made Up Dreams” is as close as you can come to a perfect song.
Surely the easiest way to convert any newbies to the band. Despite some folks thinking this was the over-polished, quasi-sell-out moment for the band, this is actually when the true power of Built to Spill came into fruition. Every song is a stand-alone classic – “Sidewalk,” “Timetrap,” the genius “You Were Right” – this is the record that made me fall in love with this band for the rest of my life.
Here’s “Strange” -
So my main man Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric: Awesome Show – Great Job! fame has now fully established himself as the most sarcastic man on the planet – and thus my complete hero. If you’re unaware of Tim’s brand of comedy, then watch this incredibly awkward stand-up clip that makes Andy Kaufman seem like a Vegas lounge act. Anyway, in August Heidecker took the audacious move of trumping Dylan’s new 13 minute 54 second song about the Titanic, “Tempest,” by releasing his own 15 minute long Dylan-esque Titanic track. Composed in the vein of something off Desire, the track really has no sense of notable irony to it. It really just sounds like an actual Dylan track about the big boat sinking, and to tell you the truth I actually find it more listenable than “Tempest” itself. The other thing is that it’s produced perfectly enough for it to actually be mistaken for Dylan. You can listen to the whole thing at the bottom of this post.
Last night though, things got even more interesting. Heidecker streamed himself live last night at Midnight to present a big announcement. He claimed that due to Beyonce lip-synching the National Anthem at last week’s inauguration, she has been bumped from performing at this week’s Super Bowl halftime show and is being replaced by Bob Dylan. He then claimed that he had been leaked the info on what track Dylan would be performing – a supposed outtake from 1983′s Infidels album called “Running Out the Clock” – a track that was originally supposed to be played at the ’83 Super Bowl. Complete with nods to Iran and a Mark Knopfer guitar solo, this track is spot-on amazing. So amazing in fact, and presented in such a dead-pan manner, that about half of the people commenting on the track actually believe it’s Dylan. Even more so, as of right now someone has actually updated the Infidels wikipedia page to include the track as an official outtake that will be performed at this year’s Super Bowl! This, my friends, is a new degree of modern comedy. This is sarcasm taken to such a serious level that it is only intended to cause confusion. This is truly brilliant. Honestly, this is fucking brilliant shit right here. I have never wanted to take my hat off and salute anyone as much as I do for Tim Heidecker right now. The man is a straight up genius. Take a listen and see if you would have potentially believed that Dylan would have ever written something like this.
So to recap the first half of the list…
22) Facts of Life
21) 21 Jump Street
20) Just the Ten of Us
19) My Two Dads
18) Gimme a Break!
17) Diff’rent Strokes
16) Who’s the Boss
14) Family Ties
13) Greatest American Hero
12) Knight Rider
…and now, the greatest TV theme songs from the 80′s continue…
11) Valerie/ The Hogan Family – Sure they pushed Valerie off a cliff at one point, but that didn’t change the dark groove on the Hogan’s verses.
10) The A-Team – C’mon, if this shit doesn’t pump you up then nothing will.
9) Night Court - One of the foundational grooves of slap-bass. Killer friggin’ track.
8) Charles in Charge – It wasn’t just Scott Baio’s dreamy eyes that made this show great…
7) Perfect Strangers – Again, an epic moment of inspiration.
6) Magnum P.I. – In all actuality, this tune gets me way more pumped than the A-Team groove. God, I love this cut.
5) Chipmunks Go to the Movies - Now I’m basically saving cartoon themes for another list, but this oft forgotten show had the most bad-ass, escalating intro out there.
4) Silver Spoons – This is what I truly call a theme of all themes.
3) Punky Brewster - Straight up, this is probably the most well composed song on the list. So killer.
2) Alf – Again, someone is slapping the shit out of that bass. Another example of the song far surpassing the quality of the show.
1) Kidd Video - Sadly, nobody ever remembers this amazing fucking cartoon, that opens with one of my favorite songs ever.
Grand Champion - Growing Pains – It’s the go-to theme, hands down. It’s so perfect in all it’s glory, it doesn’t even deserve a number on the list. Just stand alone magic. Sorry for the fuzzy version, but I needed the full version.