Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

David Bowie 1947 – 2016

Posted: January 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

Just knocked back in the driver’s seat on the school run with the news that David Bowie died of the cancer no one knew he had. In his Ziggy Stardust days he once claimed that he wanted to die by being killed onstage, one of those things that are said to get attention when one is young, I suppose. In a way he did die on stage, as his last album was released only last Friday.

I was in high school when Ziggy Stardust came out, but I was in college before I really listened to it—with the exception of “Space Oddity” and “Changes”, which were on the radio, he wasn’t an initial part of my environment. There was a point shortly after that when I could play the entire “Rise and Fall” album on guitar.

For me, the period from his previous album (“Hunky Dory”) through to 1980’s “Scary Monsters” was a time when I looked forward to each release as I did for few others, knowing that whether I liked what I heard or didn’t it would always be fresh and interesting. He changed musical styles nearly as often as he changed his clothes, and with few exceptions it resonated with me.

Thank you for the music and all the theatricality that went with it.

I’ve created an assortment of Bowie Tracks on Spotify. Not a definitive list (there are a plethora of greatest hits albums out there) but a few well known and not so well known tracks I’ve liked over the years. Most of them are his own. “My Death” is a Jacques Brel song performed live and “Wild is the Wind” was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington and originally recorded by Johnny Mathis in 1957 as the title track for a film.

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First, here’s the link to the playlist: What I’m Listening To 28/09/2015.

And here’s what’s on it:

Women of a certain Age – Arcade Fire is getting more mileage out of “Reflektor” by releasing the third half of the two-disc set. This song has a kind of a left-of center, Indi-reggae feel to it. It’s OK, might be a grower. I’d listen to it again.

When I was a Boy –– Ohhh, it’s Jeff Lynne’s ELO now, is it? Uh, Jeff, it’s been officially your ELO since co-founder Bev Bevan retired 15 years ago, and even before that you were usually the first person everyone thought of in connection with Electric Light Orchestra. So now that you’re putting out ELO’s first new album in 15 years, why are you using a name that makes you sound like your own tribute band?

OK, I can hear the essential elements of a successful trademark ELO track, but it’s yet another song about yearning for the good old days that too many geezers put out too often. It’s a little more rueful than I prefer my ELO. Hopefully there will be some livelier tracks on the album.

People on the High Line – Much more infectious in the elder statesmen category is this new track from New Order. Sounds like a return to the disco days, bopping synths, busy piano chords and seductive sirens on the background vocals. Whether I get anything else out of this remains to be seen, but it’s easy on the ear and easy to dance to. Add this to your party mix.

Singularity – Might as well get the other New Order song up while I’m here. This one is a bit harder, heavier, and darker, relatively speaking. It’s still a New order dance track, although it breaks down perhaps a bit too much for a party towards the end before kicking back in again. Anyway, if you liked them before, you’ll like them now.

No One Can Tell – I have to say I like this Youth Lagoon song right off the bat, which is interesting because, to a large extent, this modern psychedelic trend seems less than inspiring to me. I should also point out that I have not listened to much Youth Lagoon. I’m almost positive I listened to Wondrous Bughouse at least once. I don’t recall any of it but, hey, I listen to a lot of music.

I reckon I might remember this track.  This mid-tempo pop song has enough going on melodically and lyrically to hold interest while staying in a recognizable form. The production keeps the song moving while adding some clever rhythm’s and breakdowns that serve the song well without getting in the way. Based on this track, I’d be interested in hearing the rest of “Savage Hills Ballroom”, the album it’s taken from.

War in Peace – Don’t you know I’m going to listen to a band named Sexwitch at least once. Turns out it’s a collaboration between Toy and Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan. I haven’t listened to Bat for Lashes, but I spent too long last year trying to like Toy’s “Join the Dots” album. Well, nevermind, let’s give it a chance…

The Guardian said Sexwitch‘s tracks were “hypnotic, groove-based tracks that feature jagged post-punk guitars” and “shrieking crescendos”. That lowered my expectations to expect noise so I was pleasantly surprised when I got music. It certainly has that experimental edge to it, not a million miles away from Siouxsie Sioux or some of Bjork’s material. I like it better than Toy on their own anyway.

I’d listen to it again, but I appreciate that it might not be to everyone’s taste.

‘Cause I’m a Man – HAIM Remix – Nice try HAIM and I won’t hold it against you but, sorry Tame Impala, I still don’t like it.

Psycho – Muse is a band that can sound credibly hard and heavy on one level while still sounding like a pop band, kind of like Green Day sometimes does, only smoother. I have a rational argument against that, but this track kind of works for me, so maybe I shouldn’t complain. The sampled boot camp dialog I could do without. Is that “Full Metal Jacket”? That or something similar.

Helelyos – On first listen I think I like this Sexwitch track better than War in Peace, with its hypnotic rhythm perfect for dancing with abandon in the moonlight. It will take a few listens to determine whether this is just an infatuation.

Crosswords – I wasn’t altogether certain whether I’d even be able to distinguish between this EP remix of one of Panda Bear’s most melodic tracks from his latest multi-layered electronic album “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper”, but there does seem to be just a little ping-pong delay on the rhythmic clacking and an even more pronounced vibrato effect in this version. However, I suspect the production might drive me a bit crazy with repeated listening, sending me back to the original.

I’m still waiting for something that blows me away as much as his Animal Collective track “My Girls” did, but this will do while I’m waiting.

Writing’s on the Wall – I knew, even before I looked, from just the opening strains. Of course I had to confirm, but it was clear from the start that was the BIG SONG from the opening title sequence of the latest James Bond film. So congratulations Sam Smith, but as with previous such songs in this series, I’ve already heard enough.

It’s that talk Again – Ever since Broken Bells introduced themselves with “The High Road” five years ago, I’ve been hopeful about their releases. Sadly, I’ve yet to hear anything as delicious as their first release. This isn’t a bad song, but it’s not exceptional either, and by next week I might forget what it sounds like. Not too unlike the New Order tracks, but it pales in comparison.

Bad Blood – I’m kind of liking this Ryan Adams track on third listen. It’s a radio-friendly, countryesque pop song that moves along pleasantly enough even though it seems to be about a bad break-up, and has some gentle peaks and valleys to keep it interesting.

Exhibit Diaz – I’ve been ranging from almost to kind-of liking Ibeyl with each new song of theirs I’ve heard this year. I love the vocal sound, and mostly the feel, but there was something with each track that kept it from completely resonating with me. This is the first one I feel like I can say I like without equivocating.

She Used to Be Mine – There’s something bittersweet, simple and scincere about Sara Bareilles ballad that makes this torch song stand out for me. It starts out with a sparse piano arrangement that suits it, but the build-up towards the end works well enough too.

Love Me Like You – This Little Mix track starts out as a fairly typical modern pop song but, hang on, there’s just a hint about halfway through the first verse, then comes the chorus and, BAM, we’re listening to the Ronettes with the Phil Spector wall of sound and it’s 1963 all over again. I’m sure I’m showing my age, but this is going on my list of favourites this week.

Keep You On My Side – This CHVRCHES track has just enough of a 1960s girl group radio vibe that I had to leave it in as a companion piece to Love Me Like You. Enough of a vocal hook to make it memorable to me anyway.

Posted: January 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

OK.

The only way this is going to work is if I post now and then about a new track, or two, or more as time and intention allow.

I will listen to new releases as time allows. Each week I’ll put up a post about what I’m listening to, and edit that post as the week progresses. There will be an accompanying Spotify playlist.  I’ll add the songs that interest me the most, for whatever reason, and comment on them as time allows. I might not comment on all the songs on the list.  I might not like all the songs on the list, but I will comment on the ones I don’t.

Even while this site was dark, I was  collecting an unwieldy playlist of music that I liked this year. As I’m sure you will detect, there were time periods where I was more able to go exploring musically, and times when I could not. Also, this list needs some pruning. I’ll continue to add and subtract as we go through the final quarter of the year..

Click the link for The Song List 2015.

Posted: November 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

You can tell Christmas is coming, all the compilation albums are starting to come out: The Essential Boz Scaggs, The Essential James Taylor, The Essential Wu-Tang Clan…

Not sure “essential” is the right word for that last one.

Sadly, another good thing comes to an end. Or should I say two, because as much as I will miss the program that spawned this enjoyable nonsense, I will equally miss listening to The Official Lost Audio Podcast to hear what hints, subterfuge and downright silliness would be improvised by writers/executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, AKA Darlton.

In the six seasons since “Lost” began, Damon (the one not wearing trousers) and Carlton (the one with the banjo) have put aside time between intensive writing, producing and editing to produce just slightly fewer podcast episodes per season than there were episodes of the show, each running about 20 – 30 minutes.

Ostensibly, each podcast supported the upcoming episode, which Darlton would “pre-hash” after rehashing the previous one. After dispensing with those topics in a few minutes, the remainder of the time was spent answering viewer’s questions. Or, to be more accurate, not answering them at great length, at least not in a way that would leave you feeling any more informed about the main issues than you were before you played the podcast, although you might have enough of a hint to form a theory that may or may not have any foundation in Lost canon. The closer viewers came to asking a real question (e.g. Who is the man in black? What is the smoke monster? Will Kate end up with Sawyer or Jack?), the more subterfuge was delivered, and the most you could hope for was something along the lines of “That is a good question”, which was an implied wink, maybe.

Viewers soon found it more rewarding to ask questions of less import. Each question provided the lads with a subject to riff on, which was the real raison d’etre of the podcast. Why doesn’t Sawyer know who Anakin Skywalker is? – Answer: He did not want to ruin his “StarWars” experience by watching the prequels. Questions were answered that no one asked. For example, did you know that the name of the shark with the Dharma tattoo is James Ezra Sharkington? Or how to play the Politburo game, by looking at a photograph of Russian politicians to see how far away they are standing from the premier, and then determining who would be executed next. (Damon: In our house we played Monopoly). Questions that Darlton assumed the program had already answered were also fair game. One viewer’s season five question about where the polar bears came from was answered by pointing out that Sawyer and Kate were imprisoned in bear cages in season three. Who brought the bears? Dharma brought the bears. Enough about the bears already.

As serious as these guys were about creating a unique television experience, they seemed to be just as eager to have some laughs at its expense. No one appreciated more that season’s two and three were bulked out with filler, the unavoidable cost of having a hit show in the states. The writers had a beginning, middle and end. What they didn’t have was a timetable, but they did have an undefined number of seasons to fill at 20+ episodes a season, an issue that was only resolved during contract renegotiations at the end of season 3. Darlton didn’t mind rubbing their own faces in the superfluous Nikki and Paulo, who they were still fielding questions about in season 6, or the fact that nobody gave a rat’s about how Jack got his tattoo, and how that may have been one of the worst Lost episodes of all time.

On the flip side of this protracted storytelling was the real possibility that “Lost” could be cancelled, especially with the ratings dipping in the second and third season. So the lads concocted a back-up plan where the world’s oldest orangutan, Joop, who could conveniently talk, revealed what the show was all about in the last scene if the show was cut short.

Of course, “Lost” wasn’t cancelled. Some people left after the first season or two, but a central legion of fans kept the momentum going. Darlton continually used their podcast to show gratitude to those fans. Even as the momentum picked up with the later seasons, and critical recognition and approval swung back their way, Darlton were more concerned with doing the best job they could for the people they worked for (i.e. the fans) than they were with critical approval or awards, as heard in the following example from early in season six:

Carlton: Damon, what would you have said to me if I had told you in season two that we were going to France to accept an award?

Damon: I would have turned to you and said, ‘OK Carlton, what happens if they don’t push the button?’

At the end of the last podcast, Darlton were asked what their favourite moment was. It was a difficult question – they came up with two answers. The runner up was the episode with both their mothers, each making their case for Sawyer to choose them over Kate. The one they went out on was an extended sound bite of Carlton and Damon laughing uncontrollably at an answer they had just given. Thanks guys. That is exactly how I want to remember you.

Last night I did something in a secondary school (US translation – High School) that I haven’t done for over 35 years, and is surely illegal, unless you’re with the Principal, the head of the PTA, and, most importantly, the Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) from the area Garda Station (US – Police station), which I was.

A drug awareness evening was held at the school last night. Between us, Trish and I have three teenage sons in the school, and a daughter due to start next year. Statistically speaking, we thought it imperative that one of us make the effort. Trish stayed home with Ryan and I went over to the school.

If I’m being generous, there were parents representing as much as 5% of the student population. So it was an average turn out. I’m sure some parents think they already know it all. To some degree, I was tempted to stay home too. And as it turns out not much that much has changed since I was in high school at the turn of the 70s, except inflation of course. Still, it’s always good to keep up with current events, as any hypothetical, direct knowledge I might have allegedly ever had belonged to a time and place far, far away.

I took a seat on the aisle in the second row, and a few moments later the local JLO began. He was a genial sort of character who looked more like he belonged behind the bar of a country pub or on a farm than in a Garda station. He was a talker, and he began to try to cram what was probably a three and a half hour session into one hour, at the request of the principal who probably did not want to overtax, and lose, what little audience he had. In fact, they split the time difference to somewhere in the middle.

The JLO began the night with a couple of anecdotes and scare stories, then proceeded to run through a list of controlled substances. He had a sample of each substance to display while he spoke. Then, when he finished that topic, he allowed the sample to be passed through the crowd for closer observation. Because he was racing through the presentation, he quickly got to a point where the substance he was discussing was four or five topics ahead of the sample being passed to me. So there were a number of samples being passed around the auditorium at any one time, while people were also trying to focus on the speaker. Bags began arriving like busses. You wouldn’t see anything for three topics then four samples would come by at once.

This might sound a bit haphazard, but the JLO seemed to know exactly where everything was at any given time while he spoke. He’s been doing this for a long time, and he knows full well what and how much of it should be coming back to him at the end of the night. No one was going home with free samples. Anyway, everything was much sealed in plastic bags, except for a small, tin box that actually contained the same cannabis content, loose and rolled, that it did when the JLO took it from some young man outside of the Ambassador in Dublin. But even with this item, everyone was on good behaviour. By the end of the discussion, everything is back on the table next to him.

Then, the JLO looks to the principal. “Will I light this up?” he asks. The principal nods. He is sitting directly in front of me, so I can’t see whether he’s smiling. The `this’ in question is an ashtray containing three or four sizable chunks of hash. The JLO’s plan (remember, he’s done this many times before) is to light the hash so that we can all become familiar with how it smells. That way, we will recognize it if we notice an unusual odor coming from one of our children.

This is surreal. The JLO hands the ashtray to four middle-aged women sitting in the front row, one of whom produces a lighter. Apparently, it isn’t easy to light four big chunks of hash in an ashtray, and the result is a bit disappointing – barely a whiff of smoke before it fizzles out.

The ladies pass the ashtray to the right along the front row, in my general direction. These people are having even worse luck. So, the head of the PTA, who may or may not have known what he was doing, grabs the largest chunk, and holds it over his lighter for at least 20-30 seconds, as though he is trying to light a charcoal briquette for a barbeque. Finally, half the outer edge is turning red, seemingly about to erupt in flame, and a small, steady stream of smoke is rising. This sucker ain’t going out this time! He hands it to the woman in front of me. It’s been a long time, but I begin to detect an unmistakable scent. The woman in front takes a quick sniff and passes the hash back to me. At that very moment the last of the red embers die and another cloud of smoke erupts from the hash, right in my face, not unlike it might from a bong (so I have heard), so I pull my head back and pass it along.

And then it’s over, and I’m more interested in how many messages I might have in my pocket from Trish, who wasn’t expecting this meeting to go on more than an hour. I certainly don’t notice any after effect. I mean, it’s not like we were smoking it.

The evening wraps up shortly after that, and I go home. I walk into the living room and start animatedly describing the evening, gesticulating for emphasis. Trish takes one look at me and says, “You look like Montgomery Burns after the injections. `I come in peeeeeacee’.” I’m not sure whether she’s more disappointed that she missed it or more irritated that they sent me home in this condition. She wants to ring the school and complain, but I assure her that the JLO promised another demonstration next term. I’ll bet there will be more parents for that one.

Breathe

Posted: February 9, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Some days the gods merrily strew minor debris like confetti, making the day thick with so many minor annoyances that any miniscule progress takes a monumental effort. Computers are on a go slow, inconsequential meetings siphon off time, colleagues detain you at the station as your thought train disappears around the bend while the clock hands build speed with each rotation, pushing you further behind schedule.

We can get so caught up in all the things we HAVE TO do, as though our very existence depended on them, that we let it grind us down. We become stressed, irritable and, frankly, not a lot of fun to be around. Meanwhile, the gods are having a great laugh.

That To Do list can be very important, and not ticking off those items can cause even more stress, or detract from our well being, status or financial security. But remember, some things are even more important. Like breathing, for example.

Don’t sweat the small things, even when they seem huge – there is always a reason to be cheerful, though you may have to climb out of a trench or change your perspective to find it. Take a moment to just be. Be aware of all the potential in that moment, and of that part of the world that is right there in your reach. No matter how little choice or control you think you have, there is always something positive you can do with that moment. It belongs to you and no one else. Then take a few deep breaths, ground and center, and get back behind the mule.

Just make sure you take those deep breaths before you get behind the mule. Why make things worse?