November 2017 Song of the Month

“Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance

An example of me hearing a song while driving and trying to remember as much of it as possible, because I had left my phone at home, so could not Shazaam, or google once I parked the car.  Luckily for me, when I googled something like, “song that starts off with one singer and a few notes and then the band comes in and then something about carry on?” That mismash took me to a Yahoo Questions page a lo, here was the song I was talking about!

It turns out I’m 11 years late to this song. But better late than never, eh?  Also, it seems that this song is “emo,” at least according to the YouTube comments. Wikipedia tells me that MTV recognized it as the “Greatest Video of the Century” in 2017. It’s quite striking and obnoxious. Plus, it has marching band stuff in it!

“Anywhere” Passenger. Such a sunny song!  It came on the radio when I was driving through a cold rainstorm in the dark. At 5:30pm.  It was the perfect antidote.

Random song list

I found a list on my computer and its origin and purpose has been lost with the passing of time. I think it was a list of songs from Pandora that I liked. Let’s have a listen, shall we? Then I will add them to my Song of Month Playlist on YouTube.

“It’s Time” Imagine Dragons. I’m not going to add this to the playlist, because it gets played on the radio a lot. Still. But I always enjoy listening to it, despite the number of times I encounter it. (Also: “miles of clotted hell” is one of my favorite things about this song)

“You’ve got me” Colbet Callie. This is a nicely pleasant song.

Every Morning Sugar Ray. I would describe Sugar Ray’s guitar sound as “bright.” This is why I tend to like the Sugar Ray songs I encounter. And holy cow, is this video all about the 90s. Even all the 70s stuff in there is totally 90s.

“The Underdog” Spoon. This song reminds me of Neil Diamond in all the best ways. The horns! The various percussion things! The tonal quality of the lead singer’s voice! The way it seems to be a very serious song, but with such a cha-cha-cha kind of musical arrangement!

“Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in my Hand”–Primitive Radio Gods. Speaking of the 90s… I’ve always loved the “I’ve been downhearted baby” sample in this song. Since I spent large portions of the 90s depressed/sad, this hits those zones, but in a good way. Also, someone good at singing pointed out that this is a fun song to harmonize to because there are lots of entry points.

For fun, here’s the song the sample came from. B.B. King “How Blue Can You Get”

“Cough Syrup”–Young the Giant. Oh yes! It’s that song. I had no idea it was called this. And! Synchronized swimmers!

“Last Night”–The Strokes. Such good basic rock. Standard guitar, driving rhythm. Singer’s voice.

“Age of Consent”–New Order. Yeesh. This is just a solidly good song.

That brings us to the end of the list.

Bleachers Tiny Desk Concert

It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I have the day off, and I’m working on getting the gumption to go work on the side yard project.  To distract myself from that unfinished project, I’m working on the another (endlessly) unfinished project: the Great 2017 Blog Catch Up.  Having written Song of the Ponth posts for October, I was letting the Mountain Goats autoplay while I wrote and edited.  At some point I clicked back and the computer algorithm that YouTube uses suggested a bunch of Tiny Desk Concerts.  And here were Bleachers.  Given how often they’ve been on my song of the month list (either as Bleachers or as one-third of the now-defunct fun.) I clicked.

And what a great Tiny Desk Concert.  I loved the first song a lot. It manages to use saxophone without inducing terrible 80s-pop-song flashbacks.  There’s a funny bit where Jack Antonoff asks, “how often do you do this?” and disappointment or uncertainty flashes over his face when someone answers.

It’s also interesting to see this version of “Don’t Take the Money,” (In contrast to the Tonight Show Version I referenced previously) and to see how he fights to keep up with the drum machine that is coming out of the boombox.  It doesn’t quite work, which, in an era of overproducing music, I quite enjoy.  Stick with it thorough the end of the song and you will get to see a different charming mistake.

For contrast, here’s the album version of the first song, Everybody Lost Somebody.

October 2017 Songs of the Month: Chris Stapleton; The Mountain Goats

Earlier in the month, I helped out with a retreat at Brasada Ranch.  One of the perks of that trip was that I got to rent a car and drive there myself.  I do love a good solo road trip.  I wasn’t as efficient at getting out of Portland as I wanted to be, so I didn’t properly prepare for my musical selections on the trip.  It was radio all the way.

And so I invented a game.  Once my known stations faded (which didn’t take much time at all, thanks to Mount Hood) I scanned until I found a song* and then I would stay with that station until it faded, or there was a commercial break. Then I would scan again and repeat the process.

*A song that wasn’t classical, smooth jazz or Christian.  (This is because I need words to focus on–thus no classical or smooth jazz.  And those words have to not supremely bug me, thus no Christian.)

This turned out to be quite a fun game that progressed in a predictable manner.  I heard a lot of country music.** I’m pretty sure I heard more country and top-40 music on that trip than I have heard in the last few years.  At one point, I came into a station where the DJ told me, “We’re in the middle of 10 songs of uninterrupted country music,” and I’m pretty sure by “the middle” she meant, “I’ve maybe played one song” because that was a very long stretch of uninterrupted music.

**And also unpredictably, when I got stuck on a reggae segment on the Bend public radio station. No commercials on public radio, so I had to wait for that station to fade.

It was interesting comparing the themes of the country music world. There was a lot of talking about how much they like the rural environment.  There was a ton more talk about god.  There was a goodly amount of flag waving.  I found myself charmed with Phil Vassar’s “Just Another Day in Paradise” which was a nice picture of real life.  (Looking at the video Phill Vassar is a very regular-looking guy.  Oh! Apparently this song is 15 or so years old)

I also enjoyed the parallels between top-40 and country music as when I head the Chainsmokers Honest, which is about how the guy isn’t so much into the relationship any more.  That paired nicely with a country song that I can’t find via googling. In it, the guy is singing to the current girlfriend/wife saying that he’s skipped town with a new girl who gets him in a way the current girlfriend/wife never did.  Unlike the Chainsmokers song, I didn’t care much for that one.

I also discovered this gem of a song called “Tennessee Whisky” which is nearly as old as I am.  (There’s so much music in the world!)  I’m pretty sure I heard the version by Chris Stapelton, who has a great voice. I also enjoy the lyric, “I stay stoned on your love all the time.”

At the end of the month (two days after this post was written, if these posts were written in real time) Kelly and I went to see John and Hank Green as part of John’s book tour for Turtles All the Way Down. They ended the show with the Mountain Goats, the band that John is a super fan of.  And 2017 does seem to be an appropriate year for the lyric, “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.

 

September 2017 Song of the month : Independence Day by Martina McBride

This one comes to me via the Amateur Talent Contest at the Minnesota State Fair.  Grace Harmoning sang it in the Teen category.  I’d not heard this song before (probably due to the fact it’s a country song and my knowledge of that particular genre is sparse).  I could tell it was a popular song, because several people around me were singing along.

It was only after I watched the video that I found out its subject was domestic violence.

Song of the month July 2017

Don’t Take the Money
Bleachers

It’s very 80s, in a good way.  And there’s some romance.  From random googling, it seems that critics don’t much care for Bleachers, but I sure do.

Here they are on the Tonight Show.  I was a little amused by several things during this performance. Namely: why two drummers? the odd silos of keyboards framing Jack Antonoff; the fact that Mr. Antonoff maybe doesn’t need to wear that guitar during the performance of this song, given how little he plays it.  Still, I did like how he seemed to be connecting with the Tonight Show crowd, and it was interesting to see how something that sounds very studio-produced translated to a live performance.

Song of the Month June 2017

“Fool for Love” Lord Huron.  As the comments section on YouTube reminded me, Girls Season 5 featured this song.  Girls tends to have excellent music choices for which we can thank Michael Penn.

“Dance, Rascal Dance” Baby Goya (a.k.a. Jack Antonoff, a.k.a. the Bleachers guy who has been featured before) “Is that Jack Antonoff?” I asked the empty house while watching the movie Hello My Name is Doris.  And it was!  He plays a hip musical artist and has a few scenes, which were amusing.  But you should watch this video because you get to see Sally Field’s amazing outfits.

In other music news, I was charmed by this story about the Killer’s song “Mr. Brightside.” It seems I’m not the only person who likes it.  It’s been on the UK top 100 for 11 of the last 13 years.   “Mr Brightside” Will Never Die and Here’s Why.
It’s a 2:35 minute story and worth a listen.

Hello from the future!  It’s mid-September, 2017 where I am.  The person I was in June doesn’t know this, but at some point in July or August, I’m going to discover Mr. Money Mustache (more on that later) realize I have a debt emergency (more on that later) and stop buying stuff.  So!  As of some point in the future, I will not be purchasing songs until I have emerged from my debt emergency.  But I am writing this June post from the future.  What should I do about purchasing the song of the month, which was one of the original points of Song of the Month?

Instead!  I will begin a YouTube playlist featuring all the songs of the month.  Here’s a link, though at this second, there are only two songs on it.  I’ll go back and add more when I have a little more time.

Further update! I will figure out how to share the playlist later and then post the link. There is not an obvious method that I can see.

Song of the Month: May 2017

“Fill in the Blank” by Car Seat Headrest

Thanks to Jan for featuring this song on her blog.  I love it so much. Lyrically,  I think it has the potential to be one of the go-to songs on the days when I need to buck up.  Musically, it hits a lot of pleasure centers, with the opening riff, the rough harmonies and that great double lyric part at the end.  The video is fun too.

“In the Long Run”  The staves

I also have Jan to thank for this song.*  The Staves have lovely harmonies, and also I love the content of this song.  I’m a big subscriber to the view that people will come back around.  You’ll see them again.

Castle on the Hill by Ed Sheeran

This will not be a song I purchase, because I’m going to get very sick of it very soon,  but this is totally a song of the month.  I think right now certain stations have this in an every-other-song rotational format.  It’s also being used in the trailer for Ferdinand, the animated film somewhat based on the classic children’s story.  In the trailer, they do not play the parts of the song about drinking, throwing up, smoking or kissing.  Mostly, they just loop the chorus.

I’m a sucker for songs that tell a story, especially a reflection-of-youth story.  “Summer of ’69” by Brian Adams, “Blood on Blood” by Bon Jovi, even “Jack & Diane,” before they played that Mellencamp song to death.  So this is a winner for me, even though I think it’s overly long and clunky in places, especially when he updates us as to what his friends are up to.  He has a lot of friends.  There are a lot of updates.  For how to do this a little better, see the aforementioned “Blood on Blood” where you get two lines: Now Bobby he’s an uptown lawyer, Danny he’s a medicine man / and me, I’m just the singer, in a long-haired rock and roll band.”  See?  Done!

I also am confused by Ed Sheeran.  While listening to many of his songs, the feeling I come away with is uncomfortable embarrassment. He seems to be trying too hard.  And I often don’t love what he writes about women.  Matt and I had a text message exchange about a one of his songs where one of Matt’s responses was, “That’s the song I was telling you about! She is clear with him about how she sees the relationship, and he writes a mean song because he wants to change things up and she doesn’t!”

I get the feeling that Mr. Sheeran grew up nerdy, but rejected the nerdy and now there’s this uncomfortable trying-too-be-cool vibe about him.  I’m also quite curious to know what he looks like in concert.  Does he dance around?  Stand still?  (I’m apparently not curious enough to pause what I’m doing here and google.)

*Jan.  Supporting this blog not only with comments, but also with post content!

Song of the month: March 2017. “Mississippi” by John Phillips

2016 was the year I started square dancing.  The Rosetown Ramblers had been on my radar for a few years.  I saw a poster advertising their lessons on Wednesday nights.  At the time, I had yoga, so couldn’t commit, but I hoped to be able to in the future.

When the gym closed, yoga went away.  A year passed, and then an article about the club was published in the newspaper.  I emailed indicating my interest and was told that there would be a special summer session for lessons.

Square dancing hits a lot of my pleasure centers. One is that it has dancing, but with rules.  There are levels to square dancing, where you learn specific calls.  Once you know those calls, you can go “anywhere in the world and dance” as square dancing people are fond of saying. Over the summer, we learned the Basic calls and when official lessons started in the fall we learned the Mainstream calls.  You can keep dancing at the mainstream level, or you can move on to Plus, and then Advanced (2 levels) followed by Challenge (three levels).

Our class graduated in February, and in March the official report from the president of the club outlined the steep decline in membership over the past two years and his recommendation that if we don’t find and retain eight dancers in the fall, that the club disband.

There are other clubs in the area I can join, but Rosetown Ramblers is the only Portland LGBT club.

Square dancing is full of things that will cause it to wither away.  You have to learn a skill, for one.  Attending weekly lessons takes dedication and practice.  Of our summer crew of dancers, half came weekly with half coming now and again, which made it hard for them to progress. And then you have to go through that stage of being bad at something, which is hard, even when people are cheering you on.

And when you start square dancing, you join a club.  Paying for the first series of lessons got me the learning, but I felt the pressure to join the club, as low-key and friendly as it was.  There are many things I love about Generation X and Millennials, but we are not joiners. You can see it at the dances.  There are bunch of people retired or nearing retirement, and not many people younger than that.

There’s also the outfits.  Personally, I’ve lusted after those floofy skirts since I was a little girl watching the square dancers on flatbed trucks in parades.  But I recognize how ridiculous they look.  The advantage of LBGT clubs is that people don’t wear the fluffy skirts, but my observation of other clubs is that nearly every woman does have a square dancing outfit.  That’s another thing people born after 1962 are not good at:  being told what to wear. Or, as my friend put it, “I’m not at the stage in my life when I want to dance in costume.”

So I’ve been mourning the loss of something great I just discovered.  And this was driven home when our caller didn’t show up to call at a dance because he was in the hospital.  He’d had a heart attack.

Ian Craig is the caller who taught me how to dance.  He’s a good teacher, knows how to do all the good teacher things: keep the students engaged, review material, introduce new things, make learning fun.  My mind boggles at his knowledge and skill.  Callers have to move couples through a series of moves that switches them up, keeps time to the music and is fun.  They have to maneuver those couples right back to where they started, which I still marvel that they have the ability to do this.  And they have to sing.

Singing calls were my big surprise about square dancing.  I knew about the caller calling. But at my first lesson, when Ian sang a song and called, I had no idea it was coming.  Singing calls give callers room to use modern music.  They alternate singing and calling.  Here’s an example:

Note that this is a pretty good example of what square dancing looks like.  Age, costume, level of raucous are about what you see.  My club is a little louder.  The call Allemand Left/Weave the Ring would be followed by the dancers yelling, “5, 6, 7, 8!” and then doing a more complex version of Weave the Ring.  These are good dancers, dancing at the Plus level.  There are few mistakes.

Ian’s last singing call at lessons on Wednesday was “Mississippi” by John Phillips.  I’d never heard this song before, not at square dancing, not out in the world.  Ian’s arrangement has a killer opening bass line, which is not present here.  But the rest of the song is very fun.

I think I will be able to square dance for a long time to come.  It will be dancing through the downward slide to oblivion, though.  Clubs will probably disband again and again as people get too old to dance, and callers die.  I missed square dancing’s heyday by 60 years, and I missed gay square dancing’s heyday by 25.  It’s a joyous thing, square dancing, and I do my best not to think about the time when I will have to stop dancing.

Random Song: “Tiny Dancer” Elton John

September 2000.  The new millennium hasn’t gone so well. I spent the first half of the year working for Census 2000 in Boston and then there was a period with no job and rapidly dwindling savings.  I’d just started a position as an accounting assistant, but money was still tight.  It was the first time I learned that when your money gets to a very low level, it takes time to pull yourself back into financial stability, even if there are paychecks coming in.

Cameron Crowe’s new movie was coming out soon.  There was a time when a new Cameron Crowe movie was a big deal, and this movie, Almost Famous, promised to be a really great movie.

Its release date coincided with a trip home for a friend-of-family wedding.  I didn’t really have the money for a weekend trip home, but had already bought my ticket, so I skipped paying for some other things and headed off to Boise.

I would have been better off staying home.  The wedding was nice, but my divorced parents freezing each other out at the reception was not enjoyable.  There was drama around meeting up with an ex-boyfriend, I completely dissed another friend, and then suffered through a night of not-dancing at a dance club with yet another friend who, I realized around hour two of watching her have fun with other people, had grown very distant.

Almost Famous was my vacation reward.  I was going to see that movie on opening weekend, because I suspected I was going to love it.  It was about the life I thought I wanted when I was in high school.  I was going to be a roadie, touring with the band, music surrounding me.

Almost Famous wasn’t playing in Boise that weekend.  It opened three weeks later.

I returned to Boston, beat up from the changing friendships, and with no extra money for movies.  I headed off to work as usual, girding myself for the day.  This job didn’t have enough for me to do and pretending to be busy for hours on end gave me a lot of time to mull over the sorry state of my life.

I can’t remember exactly when I finally watched Almost Famous, but I know it was a “screw it, I’m gonna see this damn film” moment. I’m pretty sure it was after work on a weeknight. I worked in Harvard Square in Cambridge and one night, instead of going home, I went to the theater after work.

I did love that movie.  I loved it from the first frame to the last one.  I watched the story of a time when music was changing at the same time my life had shifted so abruptly and that film imprinted itself on me. I hoped for a transformative cinema experience and I got one.  And I didn’t anticipate how funny it was going to be.

There are quotes from that movie that run through my head.*  Aside from being transformative, and having a really great soundtrack, this movie also rehabilitated my opinion of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” with one scene.

After a fight between band members, William Miller has just spent the night at a party in Topeka, Kansas with Russell Hammond.  The bus comes to collect them, and everyone’s mad.  Russell sits alone in the front seat and as they leave Topeka, “Tiny Dancer” plays.  Tension dissipates as people start to sing along, until the whole bus joins in for the chorus.

It’s shoddy storytelling, fixing an argument through a sing-along.  But it totally works.  Before this movie I thought Elton John’s song was kind of silly, seeing members of a touring band love the song so much made me love it too.

 

*The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when your uncool.