Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Weekly iPod Wars: Battle #2

In a somewhat surprising turn of events, The Duke Spirit triumphed over Paul Weller in last week's battle. But can they win battle #2? Sure, Leila Moss may bring in extra votes because of her blonde prettiness, but her band is up against Squeeze this time around. And who was blonder and prettier than early 80s Glenn Tilbrook??

Song #1: "So Good To Hear," The Duke Spirit


Song #2: "I Can't Hold On," Squeeze

I know it may not seem like it right now, but I really do listen to non-British music. One of these weeks, my iPod will prove it.

I still haven't had a chance to play with fancy voting buttons, so for now please continue to cast your votes in the comments section!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sonic Sunday: The Soundtrack of My Life (1976)

Continuing along on this Quantum Leap-esque stroll through my own musical lifetime, here are some of my faves from 1976.

1. "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," Elton John & Kiki Dee
Don't go breaking my heart/I couldn't if I tried/Oh honey if I get restless/Baby you're not that kind/So don't go breaking my heart/You take the weight off of me/Oh honey when you knock on my door/Ooh, I gave you my key

I'll always have a special place in my heart for this song, as it was my favorite from childhood. (EDIT: This mp3 is not my favorite. For some reason, it's being a little bitch and won't load. Until I get it figured out, here is a surprisingly high-quality clip of Elton and Kiki performing the song at Live Aid.)

2. "Somebody to Love," Queen
Each morning I get up I die a little/Can barely stand on my feet/Take a look in the mirror and cry/Lord, what you doing to me?/I've spent all my years believing in you/But I just can't get no relief, Lord!/Somebody, somebody/Can anybody find me somebody to love?

Not only my favorite Queen song, but one of my favorite songs, period.

3. "Last Child," Aerosmith
Take me back to a south Tallahassee/Down cross the bridge to my sweet sassafrassy/Can't stand up on my feet in the city/Got to get back to the real nitty gritty

Annnnd here's my favorite Aerosmith song! Remember when those guys rocked? They really all need to start taking drugs again.

4. "Crazy on You," Heart
My love is the evening breeze touching your skin/The gentle sweet singing of leaves in the wind/The whisper that calls after you in the night/And kisses your ear in the early light

Although I wanted to be Olivia Newton-John as a kid, part of me thought it would be fun to be one of the Wilson sisters. I didn't really care which one because they were both kick-ass.

5. "Hot Line," The Sylvers
Operator, excuse me please/But this is more than an emergency/Take those phones off of your ears/'Cause this is only for my baby to hear/Stop all the calls in the world 'til I catch you, girl/Catch you at home/I asked the CIA/They said it was ok, to use their private phone

Yet another favorite from my childhood. I remember dancing my butt off to this one on a regular basis. It may also be the song that started my love of hand claps.

6. "Sir Duke," Stevie Wonder
Music is a world within itself/With a language we all understand/With an equal opportunity/For all to sing, dance and clap their hands/But just because a record has a groove/Don't make it in the groove/But you can tell right away at letter A/When the people start to move

A great tribute to jazz legends by an R&B legend.

7. "New Kid in Town," Eagles
There's talk on the street, it's there to remind you/That it doesn't really matter which side you're on/You're walking away and they're talking behind you/They will never forget you 'til somebody new comes along/Where you been lately?/There's a new kid in town/Everybody loves him, don't they?/Now he's holding her, and you're still around

This has always been my favorite Eagles song. I always thought it was like a movie set to music.

8. "Something About You," Boston
When I get angry I say things I don't wanna say/I really mean it, I don't want to leave you this way/I couldn't help my reaction/I want you to know/I lose control over you/I just wantcha to know/Got this feeling inside/Gotta have ya, have ya /Ain't no good to hide

I guess it's cool these days to make fun of Boston, but I'm not sure why. That first album was pretty perfect. Yeah, all the songs sound pretty much the same, but they're all good!

9. "American Girl," Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Well, she was an American girl/Raised on promises/She couldn't help thinkin' that there was a little more to life/Somewhere else/After all, it was a great big world/With lots of places to run to/And if she had to die tryin'/She had one little promise she was gonna keep

As an American girl, I'm required to like this song. But anytime it comes on while I'm by myself in the car, I always get a little afraid that someone's gonna kidnap me and force me to put the lotion in the basket.

10. "Serenade," The Steve Miller Band
Did you see the lights as they fell all around you?/Did you hear the music?/A serenade from the stars/Wake up, wake up/Wake up and look around you/We're lost in space and the time is our own

My favorite Steve Miller song, and one that he didn't play the first three times I saw him. (I've seen him, like, seven or eight times because tickets were always cheap and it was just like going to a fun, outdoor party.) He finally played it (and kept it in the setlist) around show #4, much to my drunken twirling delight.

Past installments:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Weekly iPod Wars: Battle #1

So, I know I haven't written anything in a while. But look, it's summer. My blog inspiration receptors are fried. And it's hard to muster up the energy to mock Rebecca Black's latest embarrassing musical failure or care about Jennifer Lopez's latest embarrassing marital failure when 85% of what's running through my veins is straight mosquito poison. Also, I think Rupert Murdoch put a chip in my brain and is erasing all of my ideas.

Anyway, since I figured I should probably put something in this space (content over quality—just like AOL), I've created a new feature that will entertain you with the minimum amount of effort on my part! It's called Weekly iPod Wars. Each week, I'll activate my iPod's fancy randomizing application (which some of you crudely refer to as "shuffle play"). The first two songs played will then have to fight it out here on my blog for YOUR affection. You know the drill: two songs enter, one song leaves.

Since I'm still forming how exactly this feature will work, I'm looking for your feedback. Should a winning song get to battle new songs until it's defeated, or should each week feature two new songs? While you think about that, let Battle #1 begin!

Song #1: "So Good To Hear," The Duke Spirit


Song #2: "Savages," Paul Weller

Now, rock the vote. You don't even have to be 18!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sonic Sunday: Best Albums of the Year...So Far

Since we're about halfway through the year, I'm taking a little break from the "Soundtrack of My Life" project to give some shout-outs to my favorite albums (so far) of 2011.

Suck It And See, Arctic Monkeys
With an album title that would make Beavis and Butthead huh-huh-huh themselves hoarse, you might not expect the Arctic Monkeys' fourth release to be chock-full of sweetness and love, but as the album's closer goes, that's where you're wrong. (Turns out the title is a rather innocuous British phrase meaning, "give it a try and see how it goes.") This is probably the most straightforwardly poppy Monkeys album, which is great for me because, although I've liked all of the band's records, I've always preferred their pop side to their ultra-hip dance-punk side, gravitating toward the infectious melodies of songs like "Mardy Bum," "Fluorescent Adolescent" and my favorite track, from the unfairly maligned Humbug, "Cornerstone." While there are still some harder-edged tunes on Suck It ("Brick by Brick," "Library Pictures"), they turn out to be the weakest tracks. It's the pretty ditties, which perfectly showcase Alex Turner's adorably clever songwriting, that end up stealing the show, including standout track (and new single) "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala," the bouncy "Black Treacle," the lovelorn one-two punch of "Love is a Laserquest" and the title song, and the aforementioned catchy closer, which sounds as if it could have been plucked straight from the ending credits of a John Hughes movie.

Suck "Suck It And See" and see! (Wow, that's confusing.)

Middle Brother, Middle Brother
I'm not sure we can really call Middle Brother a "supergroup," considering that none of its members—Matt Vasquez, John McCauley and Taylor Goldsmith—have reached "super-famous" status with their full-time bands, Delta Spirit, Deer Tick and Dawes, respectively. Still, the record certainly features super songwriting and super harmonies and, as a big Delta Spirit fan, I tend to think that anything Matt Vasquez is involved in must be pretty super. Unsurprisingly, I lean more toward the Vasquez-penned and sung tracks here: the foot-stomping "Blue Eyes," the plaintive "Theater" and the Phil Spector-esque "Someday." But it's actually two McCauley tunes, the rollicking "Me, Me, Me" and the title track (co-written with Goldsmith and someone terrifically named Johnny Corndawg), that are the most irresistible.

Listen to "Me, Me, Me."

This Modern Glitch, The Wombats
OK, so The Wombats aren't exactly changing the face of music, but who cares? Everyone doesn't have to be Radiohead (which is fine, since we definitely don't need another King of Limbs). I've loved these guys ever since I first laid ears on what is still one of my favorite songs ever, "Let's Dance to Joy Division." I adore the latest record by these '80s-inspired Brits, especially considering that the new album from my favorite from the '80s Brits, Duran Duran, ended up being a bit of a disappointment. Everything I would expect from the Double D is here: dance club rave ups ("Our Perfect Disease," "Tokyo"), moody new wave numbers ("Jump Into the Fog," "Anti-D," "1996") , pumping pop tunes ("Last Night I Dreamt," "Techno Fan," "Walking Disasters") and something kind of weird ("Schumacher the Champagne"). The only slight misstep is "Girls/Fast Cars," which sounds a bit like The Killers trying to cover a Warrant song, but it's still not terrible and is probably completely tongue-in-cheek anyway.

Listen to "1996."

Born This Way, Lady Gaga
Yes, the Lady Gaga backlash is in full effect but whatever. I don't think half of the people who are suddenly hating on her have even bothered to listen to this album. If they had, they'd probably have a hard time keeping still and an even harder time denying that it's a delightful dancegasm. Everyone's already experienced the pop power of "Born This Way" and "The Edge of Glory," the metal-disco of "Judas" and the teen girl anthem, "Hair," but there is a lot more worthy of attention here, most notably "Marry The Night" (a driving rocker that could have been written by Jim Steinman if it were about four minutes longer), "Scheiße" (full of fake German and techno beats) and "Bad Kids" (a throbbing, impossibly hooky song with just a hint of "Open Your Heart" in the chorus). Also, any album with a song called "Highway Unicorn" on it is a winner in my book.

Listen to "Marry The Night."

Mission Bell, Amos Lee
So, 2011 seems like the year of folk (or alt-folk), with new albums from Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes and The Low Anthem, just to name a few. Although Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes have dominated all the other "best of" lists I've seen, Amos Lee's latest is my favorite among the Folk Pack. While all the hipster sites (I'm looking at you, Pitchfork) can write 12 paragraphs about why I shouldn't be left as completely cold as I am by Bon Iver's "brilliant" album, I can't even completely explain in one why I love Lee's (relatively uncelebrated) record so much. All I can say is that there is just something about his voice that moves me. And that feeling trumps all the tl;dr five-star write-ups the reviewers can dish out.

Listen to "Violin."
Other choice cuts: "Windows Are Rolled Down," "Flower," "Cup of Sorrow"

Early In The Morning, James Vincent McMorrow
Technically, this album was released in 2010 (only in the UK), but I can get away with putting it on my list because it wasn't released in the US until the beginning of this year. I was actually just recently introduced to this guy by Bloody Awful Poetry. (Thanks, kiddo! I'll take all the Irishmen you can throw at me.) I wasn't sure I would like him when she compared him to Bon Iver, but after I took a listen, I thought, "Yeah...Justin Vernon WISHES." As I said before, Bon Iver's music just leaves me cold. I just don't get it. It all seems so soulless. (Well, OK, "Calgary" is a pretty good song and "Beth/Rest" takes advantage of my love of all things '80s.) McMorrow, though, oozes soul. So if you only have one spot left in your life for a guy with a high voice and an acoustic guitar, pass on Vernon and go for McMorrow. I did, and I'm happier for it.

Listen to "We Don't Eat."
Other choice cuts: "If I Had A Boat," "This Old Dark Machine," "Hear the Noise That Moves So Soft and Low"

Yuck, Yuck
Wow, was this band formed in the wrong decade! The biggest influences I can pick out of Yuck's debut album are The Cure, Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub and any number of shoegaze bands. They're really good about not completely ripping off any one band's sound, while managing to sound like just about anything you might have heard while lazing on the couch, half-watching 120 Minutes. I've never been a huge fan of Sonic Youth, or really any of those types of fuzz-rockers, so I'm not really that keen on a few of the more lo-fi sounding tracks, like "Rubber" and "Operation" (although I want to like the latter because it has a nice guitar riff). But when Yuck focuses on their melodic side...God, they make me wish I was back in college.

Listen to "Sunday."
Other choice cuts: "Shook Down," "Georgia," "Stutter"

21, Adele
This girl's voice is just stunning. If I may steal a frequent American Idol-ism, she could sing the phone book and it would sound wonderful. Hey, she manages to take a couple of songs co-written by Ryan Tedder ("Rumour Has It" and "Turning Tables") and keep them from sounding like every other Ryan Tedder-penned song, which is no easy feat. By now, everyone's quite familiar with the kick-ass single, "Rolling in the Deep," and many of you have probably heard the heart-wrenching "Someone Like You," which is actually only really heart-wrenching in the live version. In fact, my biggest complaint about this album is that the studio version of that song is so blah and emotionless. And whose idea was it for Adele to go up into her higher register at the end of the chorus? Whoever it was: way to ruin the song, pal.

Listen to "Turning Tables."
Other choice cuts: "Rumour Has It," "Don't You Remember," "One and Only"

Ukulele Songs, Eddie Vedder
Clearly, this album isn't going to be for everyone. Most of the negative comments I've heard about it, though, revolve around the idea that all ukulele songs start to sound the same after a while. One could say the same thing about an album full of songs accompanied only by acoustic guitar, but no one ever does. Sure, the ukulele has a much more distinctive sound than an acoustic guitar, but so what. Eddie's created some beautiful melodies here. This album transports me. Specifically, it transports me to a canoe in the middle of a beautiful lake, where Eddie is sitting across from me plucking away, sweet words dripping from his lips and the sun forming a halo around his perfect, wavy mane. Uh, and then other stuff happens that I won't get into here.

Listen to "You're True." (Yes, the main riff does sound like a Hawaiian "Pinball Wizard.")
Other choice cuts: "Without You," "More Than You Know," "Longing to Belong"

Kiss Each Other Clean, Iron & Wine
And here's your last blast of alt-folk, courtesy of Sam Beam. Of course, his newest record seems to be riling a lot of long-time fans who think he should be more like Justin Vernon and lock himself in a cabin and keep his songs as sparse as possible. I am with the majority as far as liking the last album (The Shepherd's Dog) better, but I might be in the minority as far as thinking that Beam is heading in a really interesting direction. Bring in more horns, I say!

Listen to "Tree by the River."
Other choice cuts: "Me and Lazarus," "Glad Man Singing," "Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me"

Honorable mentions:
Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes
The Future Is Medieval, Kaiser Chiefs
Collapse Into Now, R.E.M.
Codes and Keys, Death Cab for Cutie
Little Hell, City And Colour

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

BeckEye's Not-So Excellent Adventures in Fashion

Normally, I dredge up the worst fashion choices of my youth for your amusement, but when I found this picture recently, I knew I finally had a style snapshot that I could display proudly.

Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to ask a favor of you, my dear readers. Could you all get together and take up a collection to buy me a pink satin jacket just like this in an adult size? I need that jacket back in my life.


Who Does This Broad Think She Is?

My photo
I am a winsome muse who was sent to Earth to inspire an artist to turn a vacant building into the world's coolest disco roller rink. We fell in love along the way, and I foolishly gave up my immortality. When the disco craze ended and all the roller rinks were shut down, that lazy bum wouldn't get a job. We broke up and I was stuck on Earth with nothing to do and no one to inspire. So, now I write a blog.

What Do Others Think of BeckEye?

"You're like an idiot savant of terrible garbage entertainment." - Falwless

"You're my hero." - Candy

"Get yourself a life. Better yet.....eff off." - Ann Onymous

"There's no one like you." - Klaus Meine