Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Songs for the Weak

"Reportense" by Don Omar
When I was in Barcelona, people looked at me like I had Down's Syndrome whenever I spoke Spanish. It was kind of depressing considering that I took seven years of it, but sometimes that ineptitude can come in handy. Like when listening to reggaeton music! The only reggaeton song whose lyrics I understand is "Gasolina," and I was really grossed out when I heard girls in New Brunswick, NJ doing double-dutch to it. Not having any idea what Don Omar is singing here lets me focus on the fun beat, which is a lot like the beat in every other reggaeton song.

"Dashboard" by Modest Mouse
Maybe the reason I never got into disco-punk acts like The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem is that the disco part always seemed like some contrived, over-studied afterthought - like dance music for people who would never listen to dance music (and who consequently can't dance). This is the new single from Modest Mouse, and it starts out all jittery and hesitant, like a lot of post-punk music. But then the chorus comes in, and it becomes a cathartic disco song, complete with high-pitched strings that make it sound like a bizarro version of "I Will Survive." They probably didn't set out to write a disco-punk song, and that might be why it's so good.

"Time Is On My Side" by Irma Thomas
Two songs come to mind when I think of Six Feet Under, this one and "Breathe Me" by Sia. They complement each other perfectly: "Breathe Me" plays over the final montage, a torrent of emotion that hovers just this side of cheesy (the song, the montage, and the way I react to each of them). Irma Thomas plays over one of the death sequences and shows the lighter, more ironic side of the show. I love the gospel choir singing back-up in this song - so much better than The Stones' version.

"Guramayle" by Gigi
Amadou (from the group Amadou & Mariam) said that he's a fan of this Ethiopian singer, so I decided to check her out. I didn't expect to become addicted so fast. The hand-drum comes in, and for a second it sounds like the beginning of a 20-minute raga, but then she starts to sing, and before you know it, you're murmuring along in Amharic. My dad is usually pretty good at tuning out whatever I'm listening to, but even he had to ask what this was.

James Nachtwey

Monday, March 26, 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hussein Chalayan

Fashion doesn't have to be about worst-dressed lists.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wallace & Gromit

I'd really like to have a dog like Gromit when I'm older, but I fear that I'd have to look like Mr. Wallace for that to happen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

This American Life

This NPR chestnut is now a TV show! It's on Showtime, and they do a really nice job of adapting it. I would love to be on This American Life some day. A single episode is more thought-provoking than an entire season of most reality shows, and somehow the people manage to stay modest as they foist their personal stories upon the world. (Foist is actually the wrong word for it, but I just like it so much). Another word I like: hullabaloo.

The site, in case you're interested:

Monday, March 19, 2007

Songs of the Weak

"Blood and Thunder" by Mastodon
I downloaded this song purely because of the title (the same reason I downloaded "Friends are Evil" by Jesu). My friend Becky was right: brutal is beautiful. Not that I'm sure she would be into this or anything -- she and her ex, Justin, were into some pretty heavy shit and would blast Therion in the kitchen while making pesto. They were the ones who lent me Reign in Blood by Slayer, which started me on the path towards righteousness.

"Nausea" by Beck

"I'm a seasick sailor on a ship of noise!" Man, it's good to know that Beck is still able to crank out a hit (in my world at least). His last LP, Guero, didn't have any great tracks, but it was still worth it for all the kick-ass remixes it yielded (check out the Gameboy version of "E-Pro," or the Boards of Canada and DNTEL remixes of "Broken Drum"). This is off his latest release, The Information, and it's the kind of song that can make the whole world seem like a catwalk - it just makes you feel so cool.

"Fickle Cycle" by Animal Collective

The Talking Heads told everyone to stop making sense, and I don't think anyone does that better than Animal Collective. I have no idea what this song is about or why they keep screaming "fickle cycle!" at the end, but it's a whole lot of fun. It's also a testament to why more people should explore their public libraries, since that's where I discovered it. (Note: for some reason, on iTunes, this song and "Must Be Treeman" have their song titles interchanged.)

"No Norte Da Saudade" by Gilberto Gil

Most of us think of Luther Vandross and D'Angelo when we hear the word "slow-jam," but every culture's got 'em. Whether it's the brooding Bollywood songs of Mohammed Rafi or the smutty voice of Serge Gainsbourg, everyone in the world has something to put on when they're trying to be romantic. This is tropicalia's version of it, sung by a guy who's probably better known for Brazilian concert rave-ups like "Palco." The vocals are really echoey and hypnotic, and by the time it's over, you won't even need the forget-me-nows. (If you don't get that last part, it's time to start watching Arrested Development.)

"Winter in the Hamptons" by Josh Rouse

Me and my friend Anna were lamenting the other week how long it's been since we went to a concert, let alone to a memorable one (my last time was MIA, and that doesn't count cause I was living in Texas). I decided afterwards to splurge on a ticket to see this guy in Brooklyn in late April. I discovered his music through the soundtrack to Lovely and Amazing. He had this breezy little song on it called "Parts and Accessories," which I especially liked because of all things that it wasn't: ironic, self-conscious, self-indulgent, or maudlin. That kind of made him unlike any songwriter I'd ever heard before. If you're dreaming of sunny climes, I recommend checking him out.