Archive for the 'Listening' Category

“Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

When I was in college, “Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order was one of two songs I would consent to dance to. The other was the Communards “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” One night, out at a new bar, my roommate told me I’d like the DJ. I went to request the New Order and introduce myself. He didn’t play the New Order but Yaz instead, and asked me to dance. My roommate was right; I did like the DJ, so I agreed to dance with him even though it wasn’t one of my songs. But that should have tipped me off that he was not to be trusted.

(a little flashback after Jacquie Fuller played BLT on Teenage Kicks yesterday.)

“Take Me I’m Yours” by Squeeze

Friday, April 26th, 2013

I listen to the Current radio station, and my favorite of their DJs is Mary Lucia. Yesterday, she played Squeeze’s first hit single, Take Me I’m Yours, which I knew from their collection Squeeze Singles 45’s and Under. It jolted me back:

18 years old, I’m new to a stickshift, grinding the gears and riding the clutch of a cheap, noisy car. 7:45 in the morning, running late on the way to school, my best friend is in the passenger seat. Between my knees a cold Diet Coke. (This was in the days before cupholders.) In my left hand, a Marlboro Light. Squeeze Singles blaring from the tape player. We laughed. We stalled out. We cursed. And somehow we got to school.

The “Pink Moon” Story

Monday, April 8th, 2013


It took me a little while to finally meet Nick Drake’s song “Pink Moon” properly. Our relationship started with a case of mistaken identity.

Many years ago, there was a Volkswagen commercial that had a song I really liked. The next time I was CD shopping (something my husband and I used to do, in those Double Income No Kid days) I saw a CD with a starry blue cover and a sticker that said it contained music featured in a Volkswagen commercial.

I listened to the CD on the ride home, but was disappointed. Nothing on this new Hooverphonic CD sounded as good as the song I remembered. Maybe I just need to listen to it more, I thought. Listening more made things worse. The discrepancy between the haunting melody in my memory and that album only grew. What a whiny, boring album, I thought. Alas, my husband really liked it, and played it often. To this day the opening moans of that album send me lunging for the off button.

Some months later, knocked up with my first child and browsing my comic shop, I heard the strains of THAT song. The original song. The song I wanted. The song I thought I’d found in Hooverphonic, but had not. I rushed to the counter.

“Who sings this song?” I demanded.

My friend the Big Brain looked at me as if he were sorry that I did not know the answer. He looked at me a lot like that back then because I didn’t know much about music or film. He had good recommendations for me in both areas that were the building blocks of some of my favorites today. Interestingly, though, he was less helpful with comics advice. Except for Hicksville. And Goodbye Chunky Rice.

“It’s Nick Drake. He’s dead.”

“Can I borrow it?”

Not only did he let me borrow it, he let me borrow the other CDs that came in the really cool limited set he had. I took them home and listened to them over and over. Unlike with Hooverphonic, repeat listening only endeared them to me more. Months later, as I was packing my pregnancy bag for the hospital, those CDs were one of the first things in the bag. I imagined giving birth listening to the calming strains of poor-dead Nick Drake’s voice. And then I put a whole bunch more stupid sh1t in the bag, like the video of Pride and Prejudice, about twenty other CDs, makeup, makeup remover that I’d made a special trip to the store to buy a travel size of, and a pretty nightgown.

Out of all that, the only useful item was the Pink Moon cd. Nothing went according to how I imagined it. The classes said that water breaking first was a dramatic fib perpetuated by Hollywood. My water broke first. At midnight. After I’d just fallen asleep after an exhausting day. I spent the next twelve hours having irregular contractions that made me throw up anything I put in my mouth. Even melted ice cubes came back up. Finally the hospital grudgingly agreed it was time for me to come in. I was still leaking a little, so we put a black trashbag over the back seat of the car. I got in, but had a hard time sitting upright. My husband knew that Pink Moon made me feel better, so he put that in. After the song finished he asked if I wanted to listen to something else.

“Pink Moon!” I called out, desperate, like it was a life raft I was hanging onto. “Pink Moon!”

The bat$hit crazy edge to my voice was in direct contrast to the soothing sound of the song. My husband wisely snatched his hand away from the controls, letting the CD play on.

Long story short: long labor with healthy baby boy. Gave up playing music after the first couple Nick Drake ones. Figured out it was ridiculous to think that I’d be in labor and up for a video, as if I were home, sick in bed. Never wore the nightgown. If I was going to gush messily all over the place, I was happy to do it in hospital supply. Touched neither the makeup or the remover and was suitably embarrassed for having thought I might.

Those Nick Drake cds, especially Pink Moon, were about the only useful thing I took to the hospital. Every time I hear Pink Moon on the radio, I hear my own voice in my head, screech-moaning, “Pink Moon! Pink Moon!” in a violent tone that does not match the song at all. It’s not a bad memory, though, in fact it makes me laugh.

“Good Friend” is More Goodness from Cloud Cult

Monday, March 4th, 2013

I don’t think I’ve ever embedded a video, so this is a great one to start with. Cloud Cult has a new album, Love, that officially goes on sale tomorrow. It’s the CD of the week at my radio station The Current, so if you join this week you get it.

And this new song “Good Friend”, is a terrific example of the kind of their exuberant, anthemic sound. I love it. Hope you do too. The creature in it reminds me of big Totoro from Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, which I watched this weekend with my kids, who I’m glad to say are not too old for it. Neither am I.

Labor Day Weekend Book Bender, part 1

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

20% off at Half Price books over the long Labor Day weekend, and I had a very satisfying time combing through their Highland Park store in St. Paul:


The goods, and the becauses:

Semisonic Pleasure and All About Chemistry: we just saw Semisonic at the MN state fair, and decided to address these gaps in our local music collection
Buddha by Karen Armstrong. Because some members of the book group I moderate want us to read this. And I’d passed it up twice.
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. A candidate for the same book group.
True Grit by Charles Portis. $2!
Main Street. Oh, what, you remember me getting this already, recently. Alas, the print in the MMPB was too small. I chose to get this Modern Library edition for my aging eyes.
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. A candidate for the above book group.
Not pictured: The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies. For my husband, because The Biblioracle recommended it. Also, $2!

Influenced by “Wise Blood”

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

I recently read/wrestled with Flannery O’Connors short, brutish novel Wise Blood. Researching it, I was surprised at its influences on bands as diverse as Ministry and David Bazan in Headphones. Then today I read kind-of-review/personal-musing (what is with these, today?) by Bill See of Heart of Darkness, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska by David Burke, at Popmatters, link via ALoTTFMA

It cannot be overstated just how jarring a release Nebraska was in 1982. The charts were being ruled by such vapid banalities as Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”, Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”. Then along comes a quiet folk record made on an old 4-track, basically just voice and guitar about killers, small-time thieves and other forgotten souls. It took some major stones to release it.

What Springsteen gleaned from the songs of Woody Guthrie, the writings of O’Connor and Steinbeck and filmmakers like Ford, Huston and Terrence Malick was a humanity and a curiosity about why certain people lose connection with themselves, their families, their community, their government. And what then happens when that kind of alienation infiltrates the subconscious. Further, the profound effect that has on the people that love those alienated and disconnected souls.

Rhett Miller and David Foster Wallace

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Rhett Miller, at Paste, on figuring out what one of his recent songs was about:

I realized, you know, “Oh, my God. I think it might be about DFW.” I started going through the lyrics, and there’s the one, “Same time tomorrow I know where you’ll be / same place as always / right here beside me,” and while I was thinking about it, I looked and over and on my bedside table was my copy of Infinite Jest, which is always right there

I fell in love with the Old 97’s when I saw the only-OK movie Clay Pigeons. Miller’s got some interesting insight into his writing that reminded me why I enjoy his music.

You’re Welcome

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

To the family who next rents the blue Mazda 5 from the Charlotte airport: check the CD player. I left Abba’s Greatest Hits for you.

On the plus side, I have a good excuse to buy the Mamma Mia! soundtrack.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at the MN State Fair

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

I returned to the fair last night for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who played live at the free bandshell. It was a great show with fabulous music and huge energy. They played again tonight, so I hope a lot of people got to see it tonight, too.

And I got corn fritters with honey butter and a root beer, to accompany the show.

New Video with Dancing Matt’s Singer

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

If you enjoyed the viral dance video, “Where in the Hell is Matt?” you’ll probably enjoy this new video featuring the same vocalist, Palbasha Siddique. If you still haven’t watched Matt dancing, please do so immediately. MinnPost’s Michael Metzgar sums it up well:

The “Matt” video features American video game designer Matt Harding doing a goofy little dance in spectacular settings around the world, often accompanied by the indigenous people of the 42 countries he visited. It struck a chord somehow, linking the world in silly, unabashed happiness. (emphasis mine)

I first found the Matt video through a link on a national news site. So I was pretty surprised to find that the vocalist for Matt’s video lives IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD. She’s visiting family in Bangladesh right now, competing in an American-Idol-esque competition.

The popularity of the Matt video spurred her to make “Maa”, about longing for home, with her band, Melange. The song is similar to, and the video reminiscent, of Matt’s. It’s set in and around downtown Minneapolis, so it has a lot of pleasant associations for me. In one shot, you can see the building G. Grod and I lived in when 4yo Drake was born.

Related Reading: Education and Classics

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I feel as if I’m caught in a reading zeitgeist, with many online articles touching on similar themes.

At The American Scholar, William Deresiewicz details what he sees as “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education“:

[I]t makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you …[and] inculcates a false sense of self-worth.

An education from an elite US university, like Yale, will reinforce the class system, and prepare students for the security of an upper-class job, not introspection and independent thought.

In “The New Learning That Failed” at The Criterion (link from Arts & Letters Daily), Victor David Hanson argues that modern universities have lost two important lessons from a classic, Western education: the value of self-criticism and introspection, and theories of exploitation based in the real world. The result, according to Hanson, is pedagogy focused on what to think, not how to think.

Hanson also notes the loss of three things that used to distinguish between what once was studied in a traditional liberal arts education, and pop culture:

an appreciation that a few seminal works of art and literature had weathered fad and cant and, by general agreement, due to their aesthetics or insight, or both, spoke universally to the human condition.

[an] old assumption that professors, through long training, were necessary to guide students through such classic texts [like] Dante’s Inferno

an appreciation of a manner of formal thought and beauty that separated some high art and literature from more popular and accessible counterparts.

Historian David McCullough echoed this idea of established classics in a recent commencement speech, “The Love of Learning” (link from Mental Multivitamin):

Read for pleasure, to be sure… But take seriously–read closely–books that have stood the test of time. Study a masterpiece, take it apart, study its architecture, its vocabulary, its intent. Underline, make notes in the margins, and after a few years, go back and read it again.

At The Times, Rod Liddle writes about books that don’t survive their age (link from Bookslut):

[T]hey seem to be books that fitted in far too comfortably with the sensibilities of a certain chattering-class elite when they were published. Remove a work of fiction from the milieu in which it was written and you remove some of its purpose and point, of course; however, with Hesse, Powell and Fowles, as with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you seem to lose all the purpose and point. Everything simply evaporates.

Liddle’s, though a rant, is similar in subject to Jonathan Yardley at the Washington Post on Cannery Row and other Steinbeck works (link from Arts & Letters Daily):

Not many books of our youth survive unscathed into what passes for our maturity, and many other books await that maturity before we are ready to appreciate and understand them.

For more on Steinbeck’s books as classics, see “The Rescuing of Steinbeck” at The New York Review of Books. (link from Arts & Letters Daily)

All of the preceding articles provide an interesting context for Entertainment Weekly’s lists of new classics–the top 100 since 1983 in books, movies, tv, music, and more. In the blogosphere, at least, EW’s lists seems to have quickly eclipsed the AFI’s 10 top 10, released the same week. As with any list, there’s a great deal of righteous protest: This should have been higher, that lower, this one’s missing, I can’t believe that one is on there.

EW qualifies their lists up front. They’re not only based on quality, but on influence. They include recent works, because that’s what EW does–it’s a weekly magazine for entertainment, focusing on what’s new.

A few things struck me about the lists, and the commentary on it. First, I think there’s great value in a waiting period to see if a work endures. Second, lists are only ever a starting point for discussion. Nearly every list that’s published acknowledges this, but that gets lost in the ensuing outrage. Third, I think there was a great deal of justice done in the lists for works that were critically acclaimed but not blockbusters, or for things like comics that still aren’t considered by many to be real books. Finally, my own numbers told an interesting story: 37 books, 87 movies, 67 television shows, and 46 albums. I don’t agree with all of EW’s choices, and I think they put too much emphasis on recent works, but it affirmed why I am a fan of the magazine–I like much of what the writers like, so EW is a good index of things I might like.

Two of my Favorite Things

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

From TV guru Sepinwall, a video of one of my favorite bands that references one of my favorite television shows: Old 97’s sing “Dance with Me” while a Battlestar geek pursues Tricia Helfer.

The Evolution of Dance

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Even if you don’t think you have six minutes, start watching Evolution of Dance and I suspect you’ll be there till the end, like I was. It’s a hilarious montage of pop dance moves over the last fifty-plus years. I almost spit out my Darjeeling when he did Thriller, though I question his placement of the Oompah Loompah song on the timeline.

My husband G. Grod sometimes uses Youtube videos to entertain the boys while I’m making dinner. 4yo Drake’s favorite is Fatboy Slim’s That Old Pair of Jeans, with juggling by Vova. I think Evolution of Dance will be a hit with the boys, while also giving us ideas for other videos to look up.

Art, for Art’s Sake

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Robert Fulford, at the National Post (link from Arts and Letters Daily) skips the whole religion is bad/good dichotomy in defense of art. Loving great art does not make you good, neither does creating it, he notes. So, he asks,

What, then, does it guarantee? Those who give it their time and love are offered the chance to live more expansive, more enjoyable and deeper lives. They can learn to care intimately about music, painting and books that have lasted for centuries or millennia. They can reach around the globe for the music, the images and the stories they want to make their own.

Fulford’s is a short piece, and he’s probably singing to the choir. Yet it’s a good reminder to give a piece of art more than a few seconds of your time. Really look at it, don’t just take a picture or videotape it to consider it later. Read a book, then read another book related to it; come at things from a different angle. Do the same with a film. Listen to music and don’t do anything else. Put aside multi-tasking for the moment. As the author of Mental Multivitamin continually exhorts us, “Read, Think, Learn.”

The Joshua Tree: Twenty Years

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

In the car, friends and I were enjoying U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” on the radio. All three of us were shocked when the DJ’s post song comment was that The Joshua Tree’s 20th anniversary was to be marked with a re-mastered deluxe, 2-disc re-issue. Twenty years? We goggled. How could it be that long? We each recalled what our life was when the album came out. I was in college. I bought the cassette at Ohlsson’s Books and Records on Wisconsin Ave. in DC. I listened to it with friends on the commute to distant work sites like Burke, Virginia. We alternated it with Erasure’s The Innocents, and usually were smoking cigarettes in the car. When I think of the particulars, twenty years doesn’t seem so outlandish.

I think Joshua Tree is U2’s best album. It’s thoughtful without the preachiness that marred Rattle and Hum, or the egotism and flash of Zooropa. My husband, G. Grod, asserts that their best album is Achtung, Baby. How about you? Does Joshua Tree’s reiusse bring back 20-year-old memories? And what do you think of it compared to Achtung, Baby?

Music in Movies

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

From “Listening to Film” at The Chronicle of Higher Education (link from Arts and Letters Daily)

If the first rule of film criticism is to watch the movie, the second is to listen to it. Prick up your ears to the aural atmospherics and sonic undertones laid down on the soundtrack – dialogue, background noise, and the most bewitching element in the mix, music.

The author reviews books about John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock, and their musical/directorial choices, and the review alone makes me want to watch and listen to their movies right away.

Songs for Beautiful Weather

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Yesterday and today have been nigh-perfect weather: 70’s, sunny, low humidity, and few clouds. Here were a few songs that popped into my mental playlist out walking:

Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce
Good Day, Sunshine-The Beatles
Pig Island-Scott Bakula (From Philadelphia Chickens, and because Drake always mentions it when there’s a “very blue sky”)
The Sesame Street theme song (”Sunny Days….”)
Walkin’ on Sunshine-Katrina and the Waves (played to death, I know, but I love it still.)

Best Songs of the 90’s

Monday, September 17th, 2007

ALoTTFMA compiled reader votes to come up with their top ten songs of the 90’s. I think they did a good job. For me, “Nothing Compares 2U” was a song from the beginning of a relationship, “You Oughtta Know” was the anthem for the end of it, “One” is the song that my next boyfriend and eventual husband G. Grod claimed was “they best song on the best album ever,” even though he’s a huge fan of Pearl Jam and “Jeremy”. And my best friends were REM geeks who so loved “Losing My Religion” that they learned to sing it in French, and did so at their favorite corner bar in Philly, Dooby’s. (They did that even when they weren’t drunk.)

Wanted: Non-Suicidal Emo-Boy Singers

Monday, August 27th, 2007

The snizzly grey weather has me reaching for moody music. Too often, though, I’m listening to some poor guy who came to a bad end: Nick Drake, Chet Baker, Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley. Today, I listened to Damien Rice’s O, and that suited me well. Sufjan Stevens’s Seven Swans is also a good rainy day record, and I haven’t even delved into the Bright Eyes discs. Any other suggestions on non-destructive artist rainy-day music?

A Message from Billy Bragg

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Friends and comrades,

I thought you might like to know that you can now hear my new single, “Old Clash Fan Fight Song” at

It’s released today on 7” vinyl as a benefit record for the Jail Guitar Doors campaign. The money raised will be used to buy guitars and other equipment for those dedicated people who are using music to help rehabilitate the inmates of British prisons.

The single is available from my website

for £1.99 plus postage and packing. £1 from every sale will go to Jail Guitar Doors. Every 50 copies sold will buy another guitar. You can find out more about the campaign by going to the website at

Billy Bragg

(thanks to The Mad Ripple for the heads up)