Archive for the 'music' Category

Singing About Science

Monday, September 17th, 2012

You’ve probably seen it already (since I’ve seen it about 5 times from various sources in my newsfeed), but the Symphony of Science guy (John Boswell, aka melodysheep) has a new auto-tuned song out about climate change:

Also, Phil Plait called my attention to this moving (and scientifically accurate!) song and video about lunar libration:

That in turn led me to this video, from the same people as Libration (Matt Schickele, composition and visuals; Hai-Ting Chinn, voice; and Erika Switzer, piano), though this time with a different skeptic (Steven Novella) providing the lyrics. Also very moving (at least for me), while being simultaneously profound:

Sigur Rós Is Austin Chapman’s Favorite Band

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Top 5 lists are fun. But not all top 5 lists are created equal. Austin Chapman’s list of his top five favorite pieces of music (as of his August 7, 2012 blog post) is kind of special. It’s special because Chapman was born profoundly deaf, and up until a few days before that post, “all music sounded like trash.” Then he upgraded to a new hearing aid, and, well, just read it: Being able to hear music for the first time ever.

I sat in the doctor’s office frozen as a cacophony of sounds attacked me. The whir of the computer, the hum of the AC, the clacking of the keyboard, and when my best friend walked in I couldn’t believe that he had a slight rasp to his voice. He joked that it was time to cut back on the cigarettes.

That night, a group of close friends jump-started my musical education by playing Mozart, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Elvis, and several other popular legends of music.

Being able to hear the music for the first time ever was unreal.

I realized that my old hearing aids were giving me a distorted version of music. they were not capable of distributing higher frequencies with clarity, instead it was just garbled gibberish.

When Mozart’s Lacrimosa came on, I was blown away by the beauty of it. At one point of the song, it sounded like angels singing and I suddenly realized that this was the first time I was able to appreciate music. Tears rolled down my face and I tried to hide it. But when I looked over I saw that there wasn’t a dry eye in the car.

I finally understood the power of music.

Naturally, as a fan, I was interested in which Sigur Rós song his friends turned him onto, and what he thought of it. Fortunately, it made it into his top 5, so I know: “3. Sig Ros’s Staralfur… The first song I had to listen to again, over and over.”

Amen, brother.

Here’s a YouTube video with the studio recording Chapman listened to:

For bonus fun, here’s a live performance from Heima:

Chapman went on to ask for suggestions on reddit, and is now following the most upvoted advice by going back and listening chronologically to great music from the past, so he can appreciate the development of music over time.

Rebecca Rosen was intrigued by Chapman’s story, and wrote a piece in The Atlantic about him: What It’s Like for a Deaf Person to Hear Music for the First Time. It included this detail that made me happy:

In general, his preferences tends toward what he terms as “melodic or soothing.” In particular, the Icelandic band Sigur Rós has become his favorite. “Every song [of theirs] haunts me and I’m not even 20 percent done listening to everything by them.”


The Cold and Lovely’s ‘Not With Me’

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

I was a Meghan Toohey fan for years without realizing it. The Weepies are one of my favorite bands, and I knew (vaguely) that she played with them, but it wasn’t until I saw their 2010 tour that I realized: Oh. She’s not just a backing musician. Her guitar is a crucial part of some of my favorite Weepies songs. As I wrote to her in a gushing email at the time, that was when I realized that the Weepies aren’t really a duet. They’re a trio, with her guitar parts rounding out Deb and Steve’s singing and songwriting in a way that takes something great and makes it heartbreakingly wonderful.

I’ve been busy lately, and haven’t been paying much attention. But then I realized, hey, didn’t I see something about Meghan Toohey starting a new band? I should listen to that.

You think?

“Not with Me,” the first single from The Cold and Lovely, is a perfect song. Patty Schemel’s hard-as-hell drumming and Nicole Fiorentino’s in-your-face bass come together beautifully with Meghan’s (she friended me on Facebook; can I call her Meghan?) guitar, and the lyrics work on multiple levels. Sure, it’s a classic break-up song, and it’s great as that. But I can’t escape the feeling that there’s a deeper current, that Meghan is directing a commentary at her own spotlight-shunning self. Watching the video, I can feel her struggle with the role of frontwoman: can she put herself out there, take her music over the top and deliver it the way that breaks through to a larger audience? Is she ready to commit to that kind of ego-driven performance, one that sacrifices (at least for the span of a song) any doubt or hesitation, and just lays herself bare, not cool and cerebral, but white-hot, emotional and vulnerable?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t know if Meghan is even asking it; maybe this is all in my head. But The Cold and Lovely feels right to me. All three of these women have been on the verge of major success, making the music while someone else stood out front and got the applause. I think they may be ready to push each other to the next level, leaving behind the “me” that might have held them back in the past.

I’m looking forward to finding out.

“Not with Me” lyrics, as best I can make out:

where did you learn to run?
always under the gun
always a little less
when trying to impress

there’s a place where you go
and you hide away your choices
while I wait for you to turn yourself around
and this road that you chose
there’s a long way left to go
and you’ll never get to where you want to be
at least not with me

you’ve got your vanity
but lack sincerity
how long can you stay
before you’re on your way?

there’s a place where you go
and you hide away your choices
while I wait for you to turn yourself around
and this road that you chose
there’s a long way left to go
and you’ll never get to where you want to be
at least not with me

there’s a place where you go
and you hide away your choices
while I wait for you to turn yourself around
and this road that you chose
there’s a long way left to go
and you’ll never get to where you want to be
at least not with me

not with me
not with me
not with me

ragnar kjartansson’s Ég Anda Video (Sigur Rós)

Monday, June 18th, 2012

I didn’t buy valtari (the new Sigur Rós album) until a few weeks ago. I’m not sure why I waited, but I’m glad I finally broke down, because it’s wonderful.

The band has commissioned a series of low-budget videos with the directors having complete creative control. Here’s the first one to be released. It’s by ragnar kjartansson, for the track Ég Anda (I Beathe):

Awesome Sigur Rós music and an important safety message! Cool!

Pomplamoose 2.0

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I know I was all agog over Parts & Labor a month ago, and this isn’t exactly the same sort of thing. But as someone who’s been a fan of Pomplamoose for a while, the new, “electronicky” Pomplamoose is both very different and all kinds of awesome:

Parts & Labor’s ‘Knives and Pencils’

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Continuing my streak (now at 2!) of posts that are not primarily about global warming:

Michael DeHaan is someone I had not heard of before a few days ago, but now he’s a hero of mine twice over. He heads an open source software project, Ansible, which is focused on creating a simple configuration management and deployment tool. Having beaten myself into a pulp trying to use Puppet for that purpose, I am very taken with the design intention of Ansible, which seems to consist largely of “do the things Puppet (and several other tools) do, but do them simply and straightforwardly, without sucking incredibly hard.”

Ansible is unlikely to interest much of the readership, I realize. But what I really wanted to post about was the Parts & Labor song “Knives and Pencils,” which I learned about from a recent post on Michael DeHaan’s blog, What I’ve Been Listening To Lately. DeHaan, it turns out, is a fan of Jónsi’s Go album, along with several other things I really, really love, so when he mentioned Parts & Labor’s MapMaker album in the same breath, I knew I had to give it a listen.

Wow. Just wow. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but man, this stuff is absolutely for me.

Here are the lyrics, as best I can make out. (I bought the album, which included a lyrics sheet, but the actual lyrics of “Knives and Pencils” depart from the sheet somewhat, and I’m making some guesses in the middle section.)

a slow prince handed knives and pencils
carving up his maps
landscapes drawn in blood and stencils
borders traced in black

his handlers tell him
that the sun will shine
on his paper country
just give it time
the soil below does not see his lines

we will occupy our time
by occupying yours
burn their gardens burn their gardeners
we’ll settle for his wars

his keepers tell him
that the sun will shine
on his paper country
just give it time
the soil below does not need his lines

the maps that you and I have made
will all fade

Why I’ll Be Among the First to Buy an AbigailAndI Album

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I’ve got a thing for plaintive, breathy female vocals. Deb Talan’s voice is a big part of what I love about The Weepies, and Nataly Dawn’s voice does the same thing for me with Pomplamoose. So I’m not very objective about this. I just know what I like, and would like more of.

I would like more of Abbey Snarski singing stuff like this:

And this:

And this:

As it stands, I’ll take what I can get, recorded cheaply with bad acoustics in laundry rooms and stairwells. But in a perfect world, there will eventually be an AbigailAndI album that I can buy and download, at which point that is exactly what I will do.

You have been warned!

‘Perform This Way’ with Visuals. Disturbing Ones.

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

I’ve been on something of a Gaga kick lately (late to the party, as usual; sorry). So I think I was in a better position than I otherwise would have been to appreciate the jokes in Weird Al’s “Perform This Way” parody. And I enjoyed the whole story when Gaga (or her people) refused permission for Weird Al to use the song after he’d recorded it, so he released it anyway, and shamed her into reversing herself and granting permission.

But all that was before I saw the video. And man, that Yankovic fellow really outdid himself on this one. Gaga’s whole shtick is weird and transgressive already, but throw Weird Al on top of that, and it’s just… I don’t know. Something.

Evolution Control Committee!

Friday, February 11th, 2011

I took Boing Boing out of my newsreader last month when they were running lots of breathless (boring) product coverage from some completely un-wonderful tradeshow. Then I forgot to add them back until yesterday.

But now they’re back, so I can go back to reposting fun stuff you’ve already seen there. Like this: Evolution Control Committee’s new album, All Rights Reserved:

Way fun! Long live IP theft as art! (I actually mean that seriously. But it gets me in hot water whenever I discuss it with the formerly-music-industry-employed love of my life, so let’s just keep it between ourselves, mkay? Thanks.)

John Grant’s Chicken Bones

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

This video makes me think of J.A.Y.S.O.N.

Pomplamoose’s Deck the Halls

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Christmas cheer, courtesy of Pomplamoose:

I was not previously aware of Pomplamoose (other than subliminally, maybe), but came across them in Jason’s (I assume; the blog is our own Jayson’s and his friend Jason’s, but I think the unsigned pieces are without-a-y-Jason’s) snarky but worthwhile post at To Eleven about Any asshole with a holiday song.

I haven’t listened to them all yet, but I think my favorite Pomplamoose video so far is this cover of Gaga’s Telephone:

Ryan Woodward + Kori Wakamatsu + 4 Dancers + The Weepies

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

As a certified Weepies-holic, I really enjoyed this:

This making-of video was interesting, too:

Thought of You – Behind the Scenes Preview – ROUGH CUT from Cambell Christensen on Vimeo.

The Units

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

About 30 years ago, back in the days when record stores still existed, I was browsing the bins and was intrigued enough by this cover art to buy, ears-unheard, the first LP from an unknown-to-me band called The Units:

I ended up listening to that record a lot. It’s probably safe to say that I went whole weeks listening to nothing else. The Units never made it big, I never saw them perform live, and a few years later they disbanded. But that record remained (and remains) one of my favorite recordings. In the second half of the 80s I unloaded my vinyl collection, and The Units passed out of my life. I expected I’d be able to replace Digital Stimulation on CD, but it was never released.

Fast forward to today, last night, in fact, when it suddenly occurred to me that even though previous searches had come up empty, maybe things had changed. And they had! Huzzah!

Five minutes later I was downloading an MP3 from Amazon of History of the Units: The Early Years 1977-1983. It’s amazingly wonderful, of course, but it bugs me a little that a few of my favorites are different versions than what I remember. I prefer the Digital Stimulation versions.

Not to worry, though. Thanks to a global information network and a particular intellectual-property-disdaining YouTube user named VinilOldSchool, the entire original Digital Stimulation album, complete with real analog surface noise, is available for listening:

Here’s the whole thing. Listen while you can!

Lest you think that YouTube’s Units collection is entirely derivative, I’ll leave you with this: briangainey’s awesome (and hilarious) self-made video for “High Pressure Days”:

36 (Well, 3) Views of Go Do

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Like everyone, I’ve been busy lately. So busy I’ve neglected posting much around here, and (worse) so busy I didn’t realize Jónsi, the lead singer of Sigur Rós, has a new solo album out.

A new, awesome solo album.

It’s called go, and if you’re a Sigur Rós fan, I think you’re really going to like it. One neat thing about it, at least for this English-speaking fan, is that Jónsi is mostly singing lyrics I can understand without benefit of translation.

The first single is “Go Do,” and I can’t decide which of the various videos floating around I like best, so I’m going to inflict all of them on you:

First up, the official video by Arni & Kinski:

Go Do from Arni & Kinski on Vimeo.

Here’s the song performed as a duet with Nico Muhly:

‘go do’ from Jónsi on Vimeo.

Finally, here’s the song performed with the band on Craig Ferguson:

jónsi – go do (live on late late show with craig ferguson) from Jónsi on Vimeo.


(Go : Go : Go : Kitty : Kitty : Kitty)

Go sing, too loud
Make your voice break- Sing it out
Go scream, do shout
Make an earthquake…

You wish fire would die and turn colder
You wish young eyes could see you grow older
We should always know that we can do anything

Go drum, too proud
Make your hands ache – Play it out
Go march through crowds
Make your day break…

You wish silence released noisy drummers
You wish white noise surrendered to summers
We should always know that we can do everything

Go do, you’ll know how to
Just let yourself, fall into landslide

Go do, you’ll know how to
Just let yourself, give into flood tide

Go do!

Tie strings to clouds
Make your own lake – Let it flow
Throw seeds to sprout
Make your own break – Let them grow

Let them grow (Endless summers)
Let them grow (Endless summers)

(Go do endless summers)

You wish surprise would never stop wonders
You wish sunrise would never fall under

You wish surprise would never stop wonders
You wish sunrise would never fall under
We should always know that we can do anything

Go do!

Concentrated spiritual uplift to brighten your day. :-)

Audiovisual Commentary on Education in the US

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Holy smokes; 230 comments? You guys are out of control.

I’ve been busy (he whined… again…), but the least I can do is give you a new wall to tag. Here’s a good one: the video from the Sigur Rós song Glósóli. It was directed by Arni & Kinski, the same pair of directors who did the Hoppípolla video I posted previously.

To me, the video symbolizes some of my worries about the world we’re handing to the next generation. My son attends an amazing school, where they do a great job of preparing children for the future. But are we doing enough? Could we ever possibly do enough?

I don’t know the answer.

Audiovisual Commentary on Healthcare in the US

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

I really enjoyed the Fresh Air interview with T.R. Reid, author of The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. He does a good job of cutting through the B.S.

So does Kevin Drum, in Back to Basics:

Let’s recap: the United States spends about twice as much on healthcare as any other developed nation in the world and in return receives just about the worst care. Can someone remind me again why there’s even a debate about whether we should put up with this?

Finally, as I think about a good friend of mine who’s currently in the hospital, I keep hearing Matthew Good’s “99% of Us Is Failure”. Here’s a live solo version:

Do Re Mi in the Central Station of Antwerp

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Like an Improv Everywhere stunt, but with better production values:

Sigur Ros’ Hoppipolla

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

We may be going quietly nuts, but we humans can also produce something like Sigur Ros’ Hoppipolla. So we’re not all bad.

I was wondering where I’d heard that before as it started playing over the closing sequence of Penelope. Thanks to the Sigur Ros obsessives at wikipedia, I now know the answer: It was in the trailers for Children of Men and Disney’s Earth.

Charlie Daniels on God’s Role in Preventing Post-9/11 Terror Attacks

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

From country singer Charlie Daniels, marveling that atheist Michael Newdow is willing to sue to try to prevent religious content from being included in the Obama inauguration ceremony: He must be a miserable man:

If we deny God His rightful place in the affairs of this nation should we expect Him to intervene when we need protection? Just what do you think has kept us safe from terrorist attacks since 9/11? It certainly wasn’t the atheists.

Disclaimer: I came across this quotation at PZ Myers’ Pharygula (Old, senile, and ignorant). I do not actually read Charlie Daniels’ blog under normal circumstances.


Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Continuing the musical theme, and the theme of trying to keep my mind off the fact that in six days I’m going to experience either the most uplifting moment in my political lifetime or the most profoundly depressing one, the following Sigur Rós video is dedicated to Adam, who I’m guessing could also use a reminder that there are more important things in the world than a silly presidential election. (And to Sven, because I apparently am unable to type “Svefn-g-englar” without a great deal of effort to avoid typing his name.)

I heard Nic Harcourt play this song this morning on KCRW during my drive in to work, and couldn’t get it out of my head. Now I’ve googled up the video, and I can’t get that out of my head either.