Music

My Favorite Music Steaming Service(s)

I agree with the post linked here… Spotify:

Spotify Is the Best Streaming Music Service: “As countless Rdio fans sit back helplessly as their accounts go dark, it’s time to be blunt. Spotify continues to outpace its growing army of competitors, and if you’re going to spend money on a streaming music service, you should sign up for Spotify Premium. Or save a few bucks and get the free version, because it’s pretty damn great, too!”

HOWEVER! I will include the caveat that I love Google Music’s ability to upload my own music and my wife and I (and our newborn and kids) make great use of the uploaded music on Amazon that powers our family’s Echo. Don’t get me started on my 10 year old (heavily) curated Pandora station which makes me pay for Pandora One every year.

It’s a hard-knock-life for us streamers.

But yeah… Spotify at the end of the day.

Hey Bullfrog

The ability to change our minds is one of the greatest human blessings. To see an issue or a situation, take into account the data presented, be reminded of our past history of decisions, and ultimately come to a conclusion is a wonderful adaptation our mammalian brains have come up with to help us deal with the insanity of existing in this overwhelming universe.

“Some kind of happiness is measured out in miles
What makes you think you’re something special when you smile?”

We often don’t share our ideas, thoughts, dreams, or views because we don’t feel as if we know enough on the topic at hand, or there are people who have already volunteered enough of their own viewpoints to suck all the oxygen out of a conversation. With the rise of social media and perceived online anonymity, it’s easy to throw up our hands in the face of the vapid cacophony and decide not to take part in all of the noise.

Although we are all more than capable of making quality decisions on everything from our lunch to our 401k investments, it’s easier to not engage or just have someone else make the decision for us. That’s human nature. It’s also a sentiment we have to daily engage with and overcome. The universe needs our voices and our views. Speak up.

But do so not with an over abundance of confidence or certainty… or fear.

“Some kind of innocence is measured out in years
You don’t know what it’s like to listen to your fears.”

During the recording sessions for The Beatles’ song Hey Bulldog, Paul McCartney began to bark and howl in a dog like voice as the song reached its climax. John Lennon does what any well minded singer might do, and immediately alters his corresponding lyric from the intended “hey bullfrog” (there was a reference to “bullfrog” at the beginning of the song) to “hey bulldog.” And hence, the name of the song changed as well.

Hey Bulldog is one of those songs in which The Beatles sneak an incredible set of lyrics, base lines, and piano notes (it was written as a piano rocker originally). It appears on the otherwise flippant Yellow Submarine album and as a b-side to Lady Madonna (also a piano rocker), and doesn’t make many Top 10 Beatles Songs lists in 2015. However, the song has amazing staying power and has been covered countless times by everyone from Dave Matthews to Dave Grohl. It’s one of my favorites, as well.

It’s not a *nice* Beatles song. John’s lyrics don’t speak of young and un-requited love, or the need for love. Instead, the menacing guitar from Harrison, grandiose bass line from Paul (Harrison was fond of telling Paul to tone down the bass on the songs he wrote as Paul tended to dominate the melody otherwise), and rambling piano backdrop are matched by Lennon’s lyric structure employing a simple but clever repetition of “Some kind of…” at the start and an eyebrow raising cutdown to finish the phrase.

“Some kind of solitude is measured out in you
You think you know me but you haven’t got a clue.”

Loneliness, solitude, innocence… all get measure out in the listener and John doesn’t hold back. He tells us if we’re lonely, we can talk to him in a passive aggressive manner that runs opposite of the sentiment in a song like Tell Me What You See from Help.

It’s a tongue in cheek challenge to misguided reliance on others and false dependency (in my mind, at least… feel free to argue). Even so, there’s the beauty of the interaction and changing of minds happening in a meta real time sense during the recording sessions.

There’s the obtuse and avant-garde rap battle between John and Paul after the barking. And John changed the title mid-way through the song.

The change of the lyric, and ultimately song title, is an outward expression of the creative genius of The Beatles as well as a beautiful testament to the interplay (on the spot sometimes as here) between John and Paul as musicians, friends, and partners.

We have the same opportunities everyday to influence those around us, and be influenced by those around us (or virtually in the case of online interactions). Every major religious system includes an ethical component for these types of influencing and interactions. We’d do well to follow those guidelines. But speak up.

Wilco’s Star Wars and My Personal Helicon

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Only Wilco could make something this eruptive feel so comfy, like a steel-wool security blanket.

Source: Wilco’s New Album: Star Wars | Rolling Stone

I’ve been enjoying the heck out of this album over the past week. I was skeptical at first … it being a “free” and “surprise” album with a cutesy yet askew title that Wilco just dropped on us all last week.

After listening to it in the office throughout the week then on replay during a 5 hour drive (the album is just over 30 mins, which is something of a miracle in itself for a Wilco production), I’m a believer.

To make it completely personal and anecdotal, Tweedy’s lyrics and the band’s music reminds me that even though I’m heading into my 37th year of being here and continue to find my own way in business while working with my clients, there are still opportunities to explore the cracks in the sidewalk and allow myself to be creative. I’ve smoothed over those moments of opportunity. I’ve wasted my words and openings for personal and work actualization. This album has helped me realize that.

It’s not enough to coast. Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (The Album) and The Whole Love were fine albums in their own rights. But they didn’t cause the type of “woah, wait a minute … think about how these lyrics and this music can get you to explore your own space, Sam” moments that made me start listening to Wilco in the first place.

The first time I heard Misunderstood from Being There, I was in college and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. So, I got a religion major. It made sense at the time. That song was a part of that decision that seemed so flippant yet daring looking back on my younger self. “I would never do that today,” I think to myself as I take my multivitamin supplements and do my morning stretches while looking at my agenda.

Shortly after I took my first office job, my friend Jon said I needed to listen to something and slipped me a CD (it was the style of the times). While sitting in my fluorescent cubicle, I plugged in my headphones and the first cacophonous notes of  I Am Trying to Break Your Heart from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot entered my consciousness. I started blogging. My career took me on a path I could have never imagined. That song could be a metaphor for my 20’s (at least in my own head) both in terms of work, exploring my creativity, and relationships. It still gives me chills. It, like Misunderstood, was a strange reflecting pool where I could see myself askew and needed to explore that further before I could look away.

The songs on Star Wars are pushing me to that type of mirror pool reflection. The trick, I think, as I turn 37 is to realize that there will be other songs to push and pull me later, but I need to enjoy these for now and see where they go. Creativity in work, and life, is a blessing and a curse as it seems to come as quickly as it goes. You’re thinking up the color of the tech world at 27 and then you realize you’re 35 and still using the same palette.

It’s time to push the obtuse in my work, and find the angles that I smoothed over.

Then, I have to walk on and find the next mirror pond of songs before settling in as I did before:

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

“What Lies Ahead I Have No Way of Knowing”

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s 1993 Greatest Hits album was the first CD I ever bought with my own money (big day). I was in full blown “Grunge Sam” mode at the time listening to mostly Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Alice In Chains etc, but this Tom Petty CD was always on the player.

In 1994 when Wildflowers came out, I had to go buy it. I’m glad I did… just relistened to the album for the first time in a while and I could still sing almost every word. It’s funny how certain albums stick to your mind.

It’s great that we live in the world of Spotify and Pandora streaming almost any song we can think of, but it’s sad that we don’t buy whole albums and commit them to memory.

Or maybe I’m just getting old.

Oh well…

“Excuse me if I have some place in my mind where I go time to time.”

New Album with Old Music

Looks like a beautiful collection of ancient Mesopotamian poetry set to the original lyrics (relatively, of course) with close-to-original instruments.

I’ve always wondered what the Hymn to Nikkal (the world’s oldest song that we’ve recovered) might have sounded like.

Of course, we don’t really know what ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, or even Attic Greek really sounded like, but we do know that these languages were inherently more “musical” than English.

What did ancient Babylonian songs sound like? Something like this.

Ordered!

Who Is Paul McCartney?

I hope that many of these tweets are people just trolling us old folks…

Kanye West’s emotionally charged new single, “Only,” is dedicated to his late mother and 18-month-old daughter. It’s become an instant hit, with a little help from another musical genius, Paul McCartney, on keyboards.

Based on their tweets, it appears that some of West’s younger fans don’t’ know who the Beatles legend is.

via Who's That Guy Paul McCartney? Some Kanye West Fans Apparently Have No Idea – Yahoo.

My Interstellar Review (Spoiler Free!)

I was excited to see Interstellar last weekend. I’ve always been impressed with Director Christopher Nolan’s movies and the artistic vision he has brought to everything from Batman to Inception.

It’s hard to write a full review of something as expansive as Interstellar, especially since I’m not a film critic and there are a number of supposed plot twists, surprises, and a “big reveal” at the end that I’m guessing was supposed to move viewers in a Sixth Sense manner. Accordingly, this will be a short review.

Overall, I was disappointed.

The music score was beautiful, the sound (Merianna and I saw the film in its intended IMAX experience) was deafening but very well done and effective. There were grumblings from early reviewers that the awesome (I use that word in its intended case) sound of the movie drowned out dialogue in key parts. Nolan later revealed that was intended. I would argue that’s probably a good thing because the dialogue we are left with is trite and oozes with sappiness that a movie of this intended grandeur should not include. The exception was Murph as a young girl, who was fantastic. The special effects were incredible and definitely kept you engrossed despite all the plot holes (some as big as a black hole) and inconsistencies of actual science as applied in the movie.

Yet, the movie kept trying to be something bigger than it was. It was reaching to be the 2001: A Space Odyssey of our generation. It fails to do that.

Perhaps my disappointment in the movie is my own fault because I love “hard science” sci fi and I’ve seen 2001 too many times. For a casual movie goer who wasn’t a science teacher, it’s probably incredibly moving and scientifically “awesome!”.

I’ve tried to like the movie all week in my head. As a final attempt, Merianna and I watched 2001 last night because of my grumblings about how similar Interstellar tried to be to that classic. 2001 holds up well, in my opinion and is much more of an expansive, intimate, and anxiety causing experience (about our own humanity, about our place in the cosmos, about the still small voices in our head etc). Compared to 2001 and the oblique absence of dialogue or emotions from the humans (HAL 9000 is the most emotive character), Interstellar is closer to Armageddon (I’m sorry).

What really let me down the most about Interstellar besides the cheesy dialogue, the utter ridiculousness of attempting to make love some sort of quasi-scientific force akin to gravity or electromagnetism, the plot leaps (why is the rocket facility that close to the farm??… I could go on and on but don’t want to spoil anything) was the ending. I won’t reveal anything, but it’s terrible.

The first 20 and last 20 minutes of 2001 are dialogue free. There’s only music. It’s moving, strange, and engrossing. Interstellar attempts something similar and when Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) has a similar experience to Dave (from 2001) at the end of the movie, I was impressed. Interstellar reaches its moving crescendo and leaves room to breathe emotionally, visually, and even a little philosophically. I was sure the movie was done and started mentally preparing to try to find our way out in the crowded theater. But Interstellar didn’t end. It kept going. And it sucked for those last 20 painful minutes.

It’s a fun movie. But it could have been so much better had Nolan left room for the audience to explore themselves. For all of its celebration of humanity as a species of explorers, Nolan treats the audience like a group of primates protecting a watering hole on an African savanna rather than an advanced life form. Too many banal chalkboards, whiteboards, sappy conversations, and drippy conversations for me to elevate this movie to where I’d hoped it would be.

My Favorite Albums

My friend Royce challenged me to list my favorite albums on Facebook.

I love music, so this is hard. But here we go…

Nirvana: Nevermind (the album that made me like music and changed my life and my generation.)

The Beatles: (The White Album) (sure, Abbey Road is a/the masterpiece, but I’ve always loved the chaotic underbelly of the Beatles…for me, this is pure music perfection.)

Willie Nelson: Spirit (the best Willie album… “it’s been some of them days, Lord.”)

Flaming Lips: Soft Bulletin (cause “It’s getting heavy…”)

Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker (even if it is named after a Mariah Carey song.)

Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Reservations is my anthem and this is the best album of the century so far.)

Not too far away from my list in 2008.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

The album Nevermind was released by Nirvana / Geffen 23 years ago in 1991 (I was 13).

I remember this intensely because the day the album was released I was riding with my mom to the local discount superstore (Roses in Marion, SC) and I was intent on buying an Eric Clapton tape.

On the way, mom switched on the radio and I’ll never forget hearing the first few riffs of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana on her Honda Accord speakers.

It changed my life. I was 13 and I finally heard music. I’ve preached sermons about this moment. Seriously.

“For this gift, I feel blessed.”

I bought the Nevermind tape instead of Clapton’s. It has made all the difference.

Thanks, Kurt.

U2’s New Album

I was a huge fan of U2’s Achtung Baby, Zooropoa and Pop albums. They are still three of my “desert island” albums that I go to when I need a good listen while grinding out some work.

I own a number of b-sides, collectibles, and even vinyl versions of U2 albums that I’ve collected over the the years because of what their music in the 90’s meant to me. However, I was pretty disappointed in the new album (you know, the one that Apple put on your iPhone and iTunes without asking) on first listening.

After my third listen tonight, the album is warming up to me with a couple of standouts, but I’m still trying to get to the point where I actually like it.

Fricke knows his stuff, though. Here’s a good review…

“We can hear you,” Bono swears. “Your voices will be heard.”

via U2’s New Album: Songs of Innocence | Rolling Stone.

No Depression Legacy Edition

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Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression is one of my favorite albums of all time. So excited to see this release…

Released in 1990, No Depression, is a genuine milestone in American rock n roll, a still striking fusion of traditional folk and country with post punk innovation and hardcore ferocity.

Amazon Link

1996 Wilco

Forget Ryan Seacrest, this is a great listen to ring in 2013 (especially Box Full of Letters starting around min 24):

Willie and Trigger

It’s amazing to think that one instrument has pretty much provided the soundtrack of my life:

Trigger: Texas Monthly December 2012: “Without Willie, there would be no Trigger. And it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that without Trigger, there would be no Willie. Willie likes to say that his guitar will probably wear out just about the same time he does. But instead of slowing down, as most people do when they approach their ninth decade, Willie keeps doing the things he’s been doing for years, and so does Trigger. The pair did more than 150 shows this year, and they’ll likely do about that many in 2013. They’ll make some more albums and write some more songs. They’ll play as if they’re going to play forever.”

Fantastic article on my favorite musician and favorite instrument.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps Bass

Densely packed and wonderful song, but isolating the bass track really shows Paul’s creativity and ability to add such an ominous feel to what would otherwise be a syrupy song.

Sorta like how McCartney changes the feel of I’m a Loser with the bass (can’t find an original of just Paul’s bass).