Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And the winners are . . .

ChrisMix 2:007

Another year, another mix. In case you were wondering, there is no James Bond connection for this album, although it is 48% British. The rules of ChrisMix 2 are simple: the band must be new to me this year, each band only gets one song though I should like the entire album, and to appeal to a mass market there should be no swearing. Here goes:

1. Maybe This Christmas – Ron Sexsmith

Seeing as I release this list at Christmas, it made sense to include a Christmas song. In comparison to other topics, there are relatively few Christmas songs released each year. This is definitely one of them.

2. Suicide Girl – Eskimo Joe

This starts the Oceanic portion of the album. Eskimo Joe is a great little band from Australia. They’ve got some great cover art on their latest album. They’re great. I’m not doing very well with my insightful commentary. Thankfully my livelihood doesn’t depend upon it.

3. Hello – The Cat Empire

Another Australian band, though chances are you’d never have guessed it. Do they sound Australian? I guess I expect every band from down under to sound like Men at Work. Interestingly enough they recorded this album in Cuba. I’m not sure why. Possibly to sound less like Men at Work.

4. Albi – Flight of the Conchords

I couldn’t very well put together an album this year without my beloved Conchords. They’ve taken the majority of their songs and worked them into episodes of the HBO show, including this one. I was very surprised when they fit a song about a racist dragon coherently into a plotline, but they are a talented duo. New Zealand, I salute you. Now on to the British section:

5. Chelsea Dagger – The Fratellis

I don’t attend very many concerts, but I did catch the Fratellis when they came through Columbus this summer, and it was pretty great. I really like every song on Costello Music (your cue to get the album) so had a devil of a time picking one. It finally came down to the fact that Flathead and Chelsea Dagger both have scantily clad women in their music videos and Flathead is overplayed. Unfortunately there were no such women at the show.

6. Prescilla – Bat For Lashes

Crazy band names are a staple of the music industry. How else will people remember you? The quality of your music? Pish posh. However this trend has now caught up with single female vocalists. Bat for Lashes is just a crazy name. St. Vincent narrowly missed the cut for the album, as did A Fine Frenzy. But Prescilla (also an unusual name) was definitely good enough to crack my top 20.

7. Hope For Us All – Nick Lowe

Nick hasn’t taken the American Idol path to fame. His first album is from 1966, he’s written a lot of music for Elvis Costello, he has worked as a producer for several decades, and finally became a millionaire when a song he wrote was covered by another artist and included on The Bodyguard soundtrack, which then sold 15 million copies. Not too shabby. If you’d like to hear him sing as an opposite persona to this one, listen to I Trained Her to Love Me which is great for entirely different reasons.

8. She Moves In Her Own Way – The Kooks

Admittedly, this year’s list is less indie than last year. Chances are that you’ve heard the Kooks on the radio by now; I don’t listen to it much so I’m not sure. But they are a great band and I sorely regret not seeing them this last summer. It was 5 bucks! How foolish I am.

9. Versatile Heart – Linda Thompson

I’m pretty sure that this is the girliest song on the mix. Not only does it make me look like a woman, but a fifty year old one at that. Oh well. I really enjoyed this whole album, which switches from folk to blues to celtic to country. Linda is versatile indeed, and one classy old broad.

10. Skeleton Song – Kate Nash

England seems to be an endless source of young female artists these days. Sovreign, Winehouse, Stone, Lily Allen, etc. Each has their own unique niche, but they all seem to have a bit of an attitude, which I like. Nash has a quirky mix of pop and folk, and curses like a sailor, though not in this particular song. If you can put up with her tongue, she’s a fun new member of the group. The five of them should really form a band and fight the Spice Girls. I knew who my money’s on.

11. Pretty Green (ft. Santo Gold) – Mark Ronson

Mark is a British producer, much in the vein of Timbaland in the states. On this album he ODB, Britney Spears, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Robbie Williams and others. The whole thing is funky and fun, and I had a hard time picking a song. I almost chose Winehouse’s track (since she is one of my favorite new artists this year) but since she’s so popular, I didn’t feel the need to publicize her. And despite the fact that I have no idea who Santo Gold is, this track is fantastic.

12. A Little Bit More – Jamie Lidell

The sad fact is that I got this song from a Target commercial. My only consolation is that I did have Jamie in my relatively lengthy list of artists I am supposed to try out. And Target is a fine store. This song has some great bass, so listen to it on the right speakers. The mix of highs and lows is very pleasing, as is the mix of hip hop and traditional styles. All around it’s a great synthesis piece.

13. Wanna Be (ft. Lily Allen) – Dizzee Rascal

I’m a pretty big Lily fan. She’s catchy, she’s pretty funny, she’s not unattractive. I’m not a huge Dizzee fan, but his grime music is an interesting tweak of standard rap. But the nostalgia value of the track’s Bugsy Malone sampling made it win out of my favorite Lily songs, The Littlest Things and Not Big.

14. Beware Of the Dog – Jamelia

One critic touted this as the perfect pop song. That may be a bit strong, but it is a fun song, and it samples Depeche Mode, which is a plus I guess.

15. I Talk Too Much – Just Jack

I must confess: Jack wasn’t exactly new to me this year. Up and coming artists sometimes load their songs onto C-Net for free download to get publicity, and I downloaded a song of his two or three years ago. And although I thought it was a reasonably good song, it wasn’t enough for me to seek him out again. When his new album came out I decided to try it out and have enjoyed it quite a bit. You’ve got to love a song where the chorus is “Sometimes I don’t say the right thing to make you love me anymore than you do.”

16. Cobrastyle (ft. Mad Cobra) – Teddybears

The British is finally over! Now onto the Swedish music section, consisting of this song. Seeing as I have heard this song on both The Black Donnellys (RIP) and Chuck, it’s quite possible that it’s been played elsewhere, perhaps ad nauseum. But on the off chance that you haven’t been exposed to it, here it is in all it’s zippy glory. The rest of the album is similarly catchy, and includes Iggy Pop! Bonus.

17. My Shadow Is A Monday – Lavender Diamond

Probably the second girliest song on the mix, and definitely with the girliest band name. And a strange band it is. Most of their songs are extremely repetitious, primarily lyrically, which nearly becomes chanting. But it’s very catchy chanting that will stick in your head for hours afterwards. The instrumentation also seems especially strong, and integrates very well with the singer’s voices.

18. Days Aren’t Long Enough – Steve Earle

I had originally picked City of Immigrants as Steve’s contribution, but then realized that I already had Albi as my song about racism. So instead we get this lovely duet. I’ve started to listen to some more “traditional” rock music this year, whatever that means. Mostly that the singers are old and generally not popular. That’s what rock is I guess.

19. Turpentine – Brandi Carlile

As with most artists included on this list, I really liked the whole album this song came from (The Story, go get it) so had a hard time choosing a single song. The final two were this one and My Song, which is more of a traditional power ballad. This was the sadder of the two songs, and since that’s my cup of tea, it won.

20. Breakin’ Up – Rilo Kiley

Various people who share my musical taste have told me to listen to Rilo Kiley. For some reason I have refused to do so. I’m stubborn sometimes, with no apparent reason. But I finally did this year. They’ve got an original sound, some clever lyrics, a female vocalist (which I prefer.) Turns out I like them.

21. Veni Vidi Vici – Black Lips

What a weird band. This is a normal enough song, but others are about Navajo Indians and how to tell a kid that their gym teacher died. Listen to the Flaming Lips and the Black Lips together for a trippy afternoon. The Black Lips describe their music as Flower Punk, which means nothing to me. I haven’t heard of any of the bands they say influenced them. I haven’t heard of any of the bands that LastFM tells me they sound like. But since I like them, I should probably investigate further.

22. Can’t Believe A Single Word – VHS Or Beta

Yet another band that came to Columbus, and I missed them. Curse you med school and your stupid studying! You ruin all my fun. Honestly I’m getting tired of writing these blurbs. Listen to the song. You’ll like it. 93% guaranteed.

23. Falsa Baiana – Paulinho Moska

This song is kind of out of left field, but I like it and it’s my mix, so deal with it. I don’t listen to bossa nova all that often, but it is my favorite of all South American styles. I happened upon the movie Woman on Top (Penelope Cruz? Suggestive title? I should see that) and it turned out that it had a fantastic soundtrack. And Penelope Cruz, and suggestive situations. So it was a pretty big success.

Here are some other songs that didn’t quite make the cut:

Valerie (ft Amy Winehouse) – Mark Ronson (Amy is overplayed)
Tears Dry On Their Own – Amy Winehouse (same reason)
The Littlest Things – Lily Allen (wanted the Dizzee track)
Put Your Hands On Me – Joss Stone (Good, but not fantastic)
Paralyzer – Finger Eleven (one curse)
Catacomb Kids – Aesop Rock (swearing)
Give ‘Em Hell – Talib Kweli (swearing)
Supermassive Black Hole – Muse (I’ve known the band for several years)
Can I Get Get Get – Junior Senior (known the band for a couple years)
Birdie Brain – The Fiery Furnaces (crazy weird)
Beanbag Chair – Yo La Tengo (little too mellow)
Put a Penny In The Slot – Fionn Regan (have only heard this one song)
Better Than – John Butler Trio (too many Australians)
Between The Flatland and the Caspian Sea – Keren Ann (too many girly girl singers)
The Minnow & The Trout – A Fine Frenzy (too long)
Marry Me – St. Vincent (not top 20)
Self-Help Book – Simple Kid (not top 20)
Emerald City – John Vanderslice (not top 20)
Even If – The Honorary Title (not top 20)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

9th Time's the charm

So I don’t think I’ve talked about my most recent movie at all on this lovely blog. Seeing as it took up a large portion of my life for several weeks, it probably should have received some mention.

I’ve had my Cool Movie written for months. I think most of it was done back in the summer. But despite how it may seem at times, med school is actually rather time-consuming so I hadn’t had a chance to do anything with it. But once cardiology was over I saw that I had a full five weeks until my renal exam (it’s usually 3 weeks until the next exam, but we had a couple holidays and evidently the kidneys are twice as important as other organs) so decided now was the time. Now being then, six weeks ago.

So I actually got 90% of the filming done in the first week of the block. The last 10% stretched over the next two weeks, but this was primarily due to my own laziness since they were mostly just narration scenes. For a while I toyed with showing the movie at our Variety Show, but when I started to compile footage and discovered the wealth of material I had before me (large portions of the movie were unscripted, so I had no idea how long they’d go) I decided it wouldn’t fit well into the show. Hence I came up with the Flight of the Conchords number that we did instead. So with no set deadline I took my sweet time editing which was a luxury I haven’t always had in the past. I debuted the film to mixed reviews, though largely favorable. Most of the complaints came from girls who hadn’t gussied themselves up and only realized the importance of doing so after seeing themselves on camera. Hardly a problem with my artistic vision.

At first this movie seems like the same type of movie that I’ve made before. It’s an instructional video on how to be cool, not unlike my video on how to stay single. It’s a fake history of coolness, much like my fake history of the SWKT. This is my ninth movie, and I try to make each different. I had very specific goals for this movie to make it at the very least a departure, and hopefully an improvement of previous efforts.

1. I made no Mormon jokes in the movie. I have no problem with these jokes and I’m sure I’ll make them in the future, but I wanted to make a movie without this crutch.
2. I wanted a quality introduction sequence. My intros are usually just text and music, but I wanted an actual opening sequence for the movie. I had a bit of one with my Cops movie, but this time I timed it much more carefully and think it’s a more interesting concept.
3. In the SWKT movie I had a short segment where I asked people ridiculous questions and got candid responses. This was one of my favorite parts of the movie, even though it had nothing to do with the rest of the feature. So I again took many candid responses (in fact the responses make up half the movie, and took the majority of the film I used) and integrated them into the movie. Some were completely random, but most actually relate back to the “plot” and “themes” of the movie.
4. The movie does have more plot and themes than I typically do. It’s by no means a story-driven movie, but it is a bit more focused than some previous efforts. The scenes are also not purely for comedic value, but make some actual statements about being cool. It’s primarily satire, but I do feel they are some legitimate observations.
5. I was fairly selective with my actors. Though only a couple parts were hand-written for a particular person, I had very specific people that I wanted in the movie. I’m confident in my writing, but I wanted people that I thought were funny and/or engaging on their own and put them into the scenes and interviews. It would seem an obvious change to make, but it’s something I haven’t really focused on in the past.

Also of note, though not intentional, is that the movie is my longest yet. It comes in at an hour and twenty minutes. The movie itself runs just under an hour, with about five minutes of bonus scenes involving the characters introduced in the movie. We then have the bonus footage, consisting of bloopers, outtakes and interviews that I thought were good but didn’t fit into the flow of the movie. So the movie ended up being about a half hour longer than I had intended. But hopefully it’s a quick hour and a half for everyone watching.

I’m starting to write my next project, a modern day Ohio legend. Look for it this March.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chocolate Rain!

If you can get me some of this new Dr. Pepper, you'll be my friend.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Chrismix 2: 007

I started Chrismix 2: 007 last week. I’ve whittled it from 150 to 60. It’s those last 40 that will be hard. Curse you bands!

My rules this year:

1. The song must be new to me this year.
2. The band must be new to me this year (this is a new rule.)
3. Only one song per band.
4. The CD must be appropriate for all ages (excluding babies who are being reared in silence.)

Rule 1 is easy. In fact I need that requirement to even make the process manageable; a generic mix would have no motivating force. Rule 2 is hard, because I do love that new Radiohead album. Rule 4 eliminates about a third of the new stuff I listen to (indie, rock and rap) which should probably tell me something, but I’m going to ignore whatever that may be. But Rule 3 is the killer. I’ve been listening to music by album more than by single these last couple years, so it’s really hard to pick the single song the best represents the band.

This is a silly project. At least it keeps me from studying those stupid kidneys. I hate the nephron, nephrology and nephrologists. Especially nephrologists.