Thursday, September 20, 2007

And Speaking of Brains...

If any zombies come looking for yours, don't come to me for help. I apparently only have a 38% chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse.


But there's safety in numbers, right? Right? Hello? Anyone there.....? Randy, is that you?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

To: Randy Newman Re: Your Brains

Yes, those true geeks among you will already know will know where I'm going with this one. I had the privilege to go see Johnathan Coulton last night at the Paul Gleason theatre in Hollwood. (You can see my friend Rude Morgue's excellent review of the concert here).

(note: this entry took me several days to write due to suddenly being so busy at work.)

Until recently, I mostly knew Coulton as the voice behind several You Tube do-it-yourself World of Warcraft music videos. He seems a popular musical choice for the fan-film set. Rude Morgue had been preaching the gospel of JC for some time, however, and so I also became acquainted with such greats as "Re: Your Brains" and "Code Monkey" (itself a subject of a brilliant anime fan made video found here.) And let's not forget "The First of May".

Happily, all of these songs and much more made it into Coulton's Hollywood show. He's a great performer, and his set consisted of not only his quirky humorous songs, but also some heartfelt "serious" music and some great covers. (His folksy cover of "Baby Got Back" must be heard to be believed.)

Coulton's opening act was a duo called "Paul and Storm" and they proved to be just as talented as he was. Lots of funny songs--starting with the apt number "Opening Band".

We are the opening band
We are here to do five or six or seven songs
“Don’t go too long, and get the hell off the stage”
We are the opening band
We’re probably not the band you came to see tonight
But it’s alright, ’cause soon we’ll go away

Well, okay, it's funnier when you hear it.
Their act was spiced up by a hilarious set of "Rejected Commercial Jingles" and "Randy Newman sings the Theme song to (Insert Movie Here) ". And truly, any movie would be better with a Randy Newman theme song.

Trying to explain how great these guys are is tough to explain in mere words. The best way to find out is to listen yourself.

Ink Gorilla gives these guys four thumbs up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Zero Punctuation.

Yahtzee, a British-born writer and gamer, has possibly the best reviews of anything I've ever seen. This one is a review of "Tomb Raider: Anniversary"

My Money's on Jazz Hands

Cnet's tech blog Crave has an interesting contest going:

Battle of the Nonviolent Robots

I missed the first round of voting, but we're already to the "Sweet Sixteen" so you still got time to help decide who will win.

Even if you don't vote, the recruiting reports on the metallic atheletes are a fun read.

(I think that Bender, as big a fan as I am, should be disqualified, because he usually tops the list of "Most Violent Robots"....But then, he probably bribed his way into this match, anyway.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

iPod Shuffled Songs Challenge

My friend over at the Rude Morgue has posted his own iPod Shuffled Songs challenge. Here's my entry, but I highly recommend heading over to his site to check it out and add your own!

1) 29 Ways
Willie Dixon
Chess Blues 1954 - 1960

This is from a 4 CD compilation of Chess Records' greatest hits. It's a perfect example of the other sound of the Blues -- rollickin' & riqsue. Willie's got "29 Ways" to make through his baby's door....

"One in the basement, two in the hall /
When the goin' git tough, I got a hole in the wall."


"I got a way through the closet behind her clothes
A way through the attic that no one knows /
A Master key to fit any lock/
a hidden door behind grandpa's clock"

... if you know what I mean....

2) The Heart of Saturday Night
Tom Waits
The Heart of Saturday Night

As far as I'm concerned, it's hard to beat early Tom Waits (though I like his weird, creepy later stuff, too). There's something spiritual, soulful, and even folksy about this album, especially the title track. It's an-almost Norman Rockwell ballad of a bygone age of carburetors & cruisin' in your Olds. (Of course, when he wrote this song, that era wasn't long gone...)

3) Roberta (pt 2)
Lead Belly
Lead Belly Absolutely the Best

Lead Belly ( aka Hudy William Ledbetter) was a classic bluesman, from the days of what my wife likes to call "dirt under the fingernail blues." If you like the single guitar rawness of early blues greats like Robert Johnson, then you'll like Lead Belly. "Roberta, Part 2", further laments the no-good ways of one wanderin' woman named Roberta. The guitar riff between verses is the sort of stuff that later inspired bands like Led Zeppelin.

4) Building a Mystery
Sarah McLachlan

Not my favorite track, nor my favorite McLachlan album, "Building a Mystery" is nonetheless a good example of McLachlan's soul-searching, haunting melodies. This one is just a bit more hopeful than most.

5) Daylight
A Rush of Blood to the Head

This is the only Coldplay album I have, and overall I like it.
"Daylight" is not my favorite track on this album though, the melody is a bit too repetitive for my tastes. Plus, its not exactly a song you can sing along to!

6) Parameters
Ani DiFranco
Knuckle Down

Knuckle Down is one of my favorite DiFranco albums. She still seems angry, moody, edgy, but maybe a little older and wiser than previous efforts. "Parameters" is a pretty creepy track, though not really a song in a traditional sense. More of a poem set to music. Like "Daylight", not something I'm inclined to sing along to- but I recommend the album as a whole.

7) Last Living Souls
Demon Days

Demon Days has become one of my favorite albums of late, for the funky manufactured beats and desolate, electronic sound. "Last Living Souls" is a particularly good example of the bleak but mellow vibe of this album.

8) Rosemary (Sing so Sweetly)
The Central Standards
Can't Remember the Last Time

The Central Standards are a local Memphis Band; just some guys out to have fun and rock a little on the weekend (the lead singer is a high school principal!) I know some of them, and am happy to say that they've got a nice little album here.

9) South of I-10
Sonny Landreth
Doctors, Professors, Queens and Kings

"South of I-10" is from a collection a friend of mine helped to put together. (Chuck Taggert, who hosts the show "Down Home" on KCSN Northridge.) Chuck's a New Orleans native, and this is a pretty mighty compilation of tunes ranging from dixieland jazz, blues, to zydeco. "South of I-10" is sort of a paean to all those things Sonny Landreth loves best about New Orleans, sort of like what Randy Newman did for Los Angeles in "I Love L.A."

With apologies to Sonny (and to Chuck) I think I would appreciate this song a lot more if I were from New Orleans. I would have picked "St James Infirmary" or "Salee Dames, Bon Jour" as better representatives of the New Orleans sound. (Damn iPod shuffle!)

10) Lazarus
Jack L
Live at the Olympic Theatre

Jack L(ukeman) is one of my all-time favorite artists. He's something like a mix between Tom Waits, Jacques Brel, and Frank Sinatra. And that only begins to describe him. My wife and I discovered him in a CD shop south of Galway -- we'd asked the clerk to recommend some Irish music that was not "just Chieftains and celtic stuff." Three studio albums later (and several live ones) we can't get enough of Jack. "Lazarus" is a track originally from his second album, Universe, but here it's live from a concert at Dublin's Olympic Theatre. Carol was lucky enough to be there, but I at least got the CD.

This isn't my favorite performance of "Lazarus", there are a lot of theatrics and playing up to the audience which are a lot more fun when you're there. But Jack comes highly recommended.

** None of these songs are in heavy rotation at the moment. You'll find a lot more of Evanesence, Led Zeppelin, Amy Winehouse, Regina Spektor, Muse, Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd, and podcasts about the History of the Byzantine Empire in my "Now Playing" lists these days. (Along with a bajillion movie scores, but that's a different blog...)