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For [personal profile] morbane

A Playlist of Interesting Instrumental Music

"River Pulse" - Anoushka Shankar

Shankar is ravishingly, ferociously talented on the sitar, in ways that feel so individualistic that comparisons to her famous sitarist father don't seem useful.

"Carmen Fantasie- Movement 1" - Anne Sophie Mutter

I love the whole thing, a virtuoso violin adaptation of themes from Bizet's opera, and I particularly love Mutter's rendition, but here, have a taste and see if you can choose not to seek out of the rest.

"Death by Triple Fiddle"- Edgar Meyer, Joshua Bell, Sam Bush, Mike Marshall

-So many fiddles! So fast! And Joshua Bell's electrifying solo!

"Mah Yedidus" - Andy Statman and co.

-I just mentioned Statman's concert last week. This song... It's a bluegrass rendition of a Jewish song traditionally sung at Shabbat lunch. I love the fusion so much.

"Caravan" - Fanfare Ciocarla

-Romanian wedding band cover of a Duke Ellington classic

"King Porter Stomp" - Wynton Marsalis

-An elegant modern take on one of the THE essential jazz tunes... which honestly I am putting here because I HATEd leaving it off the playlist I made for [personal profile] liv.

Download morbane's playlist here

For [personal profile] bookherd

A Playlist of Songs I Can Listen to On Indefinite Repeat When I Have A Headache

"Twinklebell Canon" by Rodney Farrar's Fat Notes

-Cello choir mashup of Pachelbel's Canon and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It actually works, trust me.

"Vexation of Erik Satie" - Jean-Yves Thibaudet

-A ridiculous piano piece that comes with instructions to play 840 repeats. Needless to say, it's not been performed in its entirety many times, and it's unclear if Satie ever really intended for it to be performed, but it hits a nice balance for me between repetitive and having enough harmonic content to hold a tiny part of your brain occupied.

"U Smile Slowed Down 800%" by Justin Bieber

-This was a weird viral hit a few years ago, and I actually wrote a whole NaNo novel while listening to this on repeat. It's freakishly soothing.

"Sakura, Sakura" by Chanticleer

-Honestly you can't go wrong with anything by Chanticleer, right? This is a Japanese folk melody.

"Untitled 1" by Sigur Ros

-From their weird Hopelandic album (), spacy and gorgeous, with a clear sense that the band is operating in a different paradigm of time.

Download bookherd's playlist here
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For [personal profile] liv

A Playlist of Jazz from the Last 20 Years

This turned out to be harder to make than I thought it would be... I cut a lot of great music to keep the time down to something sort of reasonable.

"Sleeping Wild" by Norah Jones

-Wonderfully insistent bass line, perfect minimalist piano solo, and simple, affecting vocals from Jones... a song that looks like it could've been song from her debut album except that the musicianship is better in every way.

"Hadasha" by Electric Masada

-Mutated version of the Klezmer/Avant Garde jazz fusion that John Zorn pioneered in the early '90s with Masada. This is from an early '2000s concert held in honor of Zorn's 50th birthday. A set of inspired musicians led by guitarist Marc Ribot, percussionists Cyro Baptista and Joey Barron, with extra weirdness contributed by Ikue Mori. And of course some wonderful saxophone from Zorn, reminding you at times of how much he's taken from Coltrane.

"Umbrella" by Postmodern Jukebox ft. Casey Abrams

- Um... It is a jazz cover of the Rihanna hit. Because it's silly. With winks to the standard "Singing in the Rain" for extra fun.

"Bear Town" by Polar Bear

-I originally was going to have both Polar Bear and Basquiat Strings hold down the fort for modern experimental jazz, but realized that was kind of redundant, since Seb Rochford drums for both. I went with this song, which has one of the best grooves of either band.

"Pointless Nostalgic" by Jamie Cullum

-For my money, Cullum is the best of the modern standards singers, with a bright tone and a willingness to borrow selectively from modern pop without sounding like he's trying too hard to create a crossover hit.

"Transit" by Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

-It's an argument that the big band is not yet dead. And a pretty convincing one, if you ask me.

"Transformation" by Terri Lyne Carrington

-Off "The Mosaic Project", an album featuring a range of female vocalists and an all-female jazz/funk band helmed by drummer Carrington. This song features vocals from Nona Hendryx of the soul trio Labelle.

"Optimism" by Vijay Iyer

-I struggled for a while trying to decide which song from Accelerando I wanted to include here, because I love the whole album so much. Iyer's piano sound is so exciting.

Download Liv's Playlist here

For [personal profile] chaila

A Playlist of Music That Could Maybe Possibly Be Wonder Woman Vidsongs??!?

Yeah, I dunno, [personal profile] chaila and I choose vidsongs based on such different criteria that the odds I give her anything useful are pretty low, but hopefully the songs are enjoyable on their own terms.

"Oxygen" by Renee Fleming

-"I wanna be cooler than T.V. / For all the kids that are wondering what they're going to be" List of previous fannish characters I have suggested vidding this song to: CJ Cregg, Birgitte Nyborg, Kara Danvers.

"Naima" by Karrin Allyson

-Lovely vocal cover of John Coltrane's ode to his wife.

"Legends" by Julia Ecklar

-"I remember Apollo, / Who flew the chariot of the Sun. / And I wonder of the legends they will tell / A thousand years from now."

"No Anthems" by Sleater-Kinney

-"To feel rhythm in silence / A weapon not violence / A power, power source". Also Sleater-Kinney for all the vidsongs!

"One of the Boys" by Gretchen Wilson

-"But I still got this little girl inside of me / That likes to be treated like a queen". A song where you'd have to work against the regressive country-music-ness of it, but I think all of the problem lyrics are at least potentially workable.

"We Can Rise" by Chana Rothman

-"Where on Earth will my help come from? / I come from heaven/ I come from Earth / I come from life / I come from my birth." Also, Hebrew for Gal Gadot? (Adapted from Psalm 121, fwiw)

"Sunrise" by Jefferson Starship

-"Two thousand years / Of your / God damned / Glory" Because Grace Slick is the best. And fuck the patriarchy.

"Laughing With" by Regina Spektor

-"But God can be funny/ at a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke." Because Diana's divinity is so interesting and complicated.

Download Chaila's Playlist here

[personal profile] morbane, your playlist may take another couple of days.
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I haven't done this in a few years, and I had fun the last time...

Comment on this post and I'll make you a playlist. If you want to specify things you are looking for musically, you can, otherwise I'll just surprise you.
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I did something this week I'd been meaning to do since I was in college: Went to one of Andy Statman's regular residence gigs at the Charles Street shul in the Village. He's been in residence there since, like, the late 90s, and I spent four years in the mid '00s just a half mile east, and I knew he was playing shows, and I knew I loved Andy Statman's music like burning, but I never managed to do it. Because his weekly gig was on Thursday nights and Thursday nights were usually frisbee team practice in Union Square, I think.

Statman is a klezmer clarinetist and bluegrass mandolinist and sometimes a jewgrass mandolinist/clarinetist. He plays both instruments with prodigious speed and fluency, and more importantly, with tremendous soul and spirit. He was a student of the great klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras and became one of the great proponents of the '70s klezmer revival.

I came across one of his albums in the library last week and said "Hey, I wonder if he's still playing at Charles Street" and I checked and he was, so I went in to the City to see the show.

The concerts are in the tiny and cramped basement of the shul, with Hebrew school posters of the Alef Bes on the walls. There was a bottle of vodka and some pareve cookies on a table, apparently for anybody who wanted to take. They didn't take admission, but at intermission the shul president asked everyone who could afford it for a fifteen dollar donation. When a woman tried to give him a twenty, he forced her to take change. It was, in short, one of the most heimishe concerts I've ever been at.

And the music was splendid, an opening set of klezmer with Statman blowing beautiful strings of notes on his clarinet along with his trio of bassist Jim Whitney and drummer Larry Eagle (Highlighted by 'the Lobster song', supposed a song played by Romanian Jewish lobstermen in early 20th century Maine while they gathered their treif bounty), followed by an instrumental bluegrass set. They were later joined by visiting guitarist and bluegrass singer Gene Yellin for a handful of songs. They made up the setlist as they want along, sometimes just strumming a chord or a simple melody to get the rest of the band on the same page. Yellin wanted to play a couple of songs that Whitney and Eagle didn't know- Whitney told Yellin and Statman- "You two get started, we'll either figure it out and catch up or we won't." Spoiler alert: They figured it out.

The whole experience was a blast, getting to hear such great music in such a low key setting. I need to go back again when I get a chance.
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I bought it a couple months ago, but I've finally given Norah Jones's latest, Day Breaks, a few listens in the past few days. It's quite an impressive album.

The media around it has talked about it as a return to the sounds of her full length debut "Come Away With Me". Aside from the ubiquitousness of "Don't Know Why", "Come Away With Me" was not my first introduction to Jones and is still not my favorite mode of Norah Jones, though I do think it's also an exceptional piece of work. Each piece of it is a small mastercraft unto itself, a little story that doesn't push very hard but knows exactly what it is and where it lives in the history of jazz and pop. After that and the sudden success it afforded her, Jones created a marvelously odd set of albums bouncing off in all sorts of surprising and exciting musical directions, and I caught on that Jones was something more than just a pop-jazz songstress.

Purely in the sense of genre, Day Breaks is a return home to the language of "Come Away With Me", but Day Breaks is a very different, and in my opinion much better album. The musicianship both of Jones and her accompanists is worlds better, and conscious of this improvement in quality, the mixing brings the instruments more to the fore and blends Jones's stellar, remarkably controlled vocals deeper into the ensemble mix. There is a sharpness and a precision in the sound that isn't there on "Come Away With Me" that comes of bringing musicians of Wayne Shorter's caliber to play with Jones, and more importantly, comes of having producers involved with the musical intelligence to understand how to take advantage of bringing in people of that caliber (Jones co-produced the album herself- clearly she knows a thing or two she didn't know fifteen years ago).

I'm always going to love it more when Norah Jones makes weird shit with her friends like El Madmo, in which a group of brilliant musicians perform the perfect deliberately bad punk album (A song like "Carlo" is such a studied contradiction, with remarkable guitar work playing stupid-obvious chords and controlled vocals shout-singing the absolute dumbest punk lyrics). But if Norah Jones wants to return to her most commercial fare, this is absolutely the way to do it.
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So this is about the time where traditionally (You do something twice and it becomes a tradition) I post a playlist for [personal profile] bookherd of the best new songs I found this year.

But I thought about it and realized that it's just Beyonce's "Lemonade". All of it. From her performance of "Formation" at the Super Bowl to the release of the visual album to just many, many listens over the course of the year, "Lemonade" dominated my musical consciousness. Every song has something to offer, every song has something to say.

"Hold On" and "Sorry" are my favorite songs, and I've listened to them the most, but the rest of the album has textures and themes I keep returning to depending on my mood. If you haven't listened to "Lemonade" yet, you should.
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Terry Riley's "In C" is a really special piece of music. It consists of about fifty short snippets of music, all of course in the key of C, to be performed by any number of musicians, in order, but each of the snippets is to be played any number of times, at the discretion of each of the performers. The result is amazing, a tug of war between musicians that will never turn out the same way twice. The piece can be as short as twenty minutes, or over an hour in length.

I got minorly obsessed with it last year and collected about ten different recordings, all of which I've listened to multiple times. It astonishes me how the same piece of sheet music can yield so many different interpretations, and each of the interpretations astonishes me on its own as an expression of musical joy and creativity. What I have always loved most is the moments of overlap, where some musicians have moved on to the next snippet while others are still playing the last one.

A high school friend invited me to see the Darmstadt Ensemble play it live at le Poisson Rouge last night and I could not say yes fast enough.

And it was a blast, a performance that lasted over an hour, some thirty musicians playing and singing for the love of it for a rapt, packed crowd. And though what I have always loved most about "In C" is those moments of overlap, what caught me seeing it live was something else. The moments of overlap represent the negotiation. Riley has, of course, ceded some of the composer's power to each of the musicians. In order for music to emerge, they must negotiate with each other to decide how to perform. And I've always loved listening to that negotiation, the back and forth, the disagreements. But what was coolest about Darmstadt's performance was not the negotiation, but the eventual agreements that emerged, those times when the whole group found itself together again. Those were moments of the highest kind of musical communion, ecstatic celebrations of the power of music.
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Last year I made a playlist for [personal profile] bookherd of my favorite songs from 2014. Here's the 2015 version.

Favorite Songs of 2015

-"Elevator Operator" by Courtney Barnett. "Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit" was my favorite new album this year, which should be of little surprise as I've posted about it several times and written fic for "Pedestrian at Best". I was torn between putting "Elevator Operator" here or putting "Pedestrian at Best" here or both, but my gut tells me "Elevator Operator" is a step up. The inversions it takes you through, with such wicked lyrical precision... it is a deep song disguised as something petty and insignificant, or vice versa.

-"Young Moses" by Josh Ritter, the best song on Ritter's new album, and it is no surprise a new Ritter album means a place on my best of 2015 list. I love what this song says about American faith in the context of traditional faith, and also faith as a journey of constantly growing.

-"Ready to Get Down" by Josh Ritter, the other best song on Ritter's new album. My favorite thing here is Ritter's riffs through Biblical storylines: "It's four long years studyin' the bible,/ Infidels, Jezebels, Salomes and Delilahs" and later "Every little thing they ever hoped you'd never figure out/ The Red Sea, the Dead Sea, the Sermon on the Mount." This is a song about how the antidote to bad religion is actually READING THE FUCKING BIBLE.

-"Lincoln's Nigun/ Yamin U'smol" by the Joey Weisenberg and the Mechon Hadar Ensemble, which has unexpectedly stolen my headspace for the past week after a friend posted a live recording on Facebook. It's a lovely melody, and the album cut is gorgeous, but the live cut is what really does it for me. It was recorded at SCI, a weeklong seminar in using Jewish song to uplift Jewish communities and hearing dozens of Jews singing together out of the pure joy of singing is just wonderful.

-"The Ascendant: No. 1. The Beginning And" by Wally Gunn, performed by Roomful of Teeth, setting of a poem by Maria Zajkowski. This was so lovely that I sought out the poetry book it's from, a small volume of simple but marvelously composed poems about death and what comes after. Unsurprisingly, Roomful of Teeth knocks it out of the park.

-"Somebody Will" by Ada Palmer, performed by Heather Dale. The original Sassafrass version is amazing, but isn't from 2015 but Heather Dale's new cover is pretty great, too. I first met this song at Balticon, when Jo Walton introduced it as her favorite song and asked Sassafrass to perform it as part of her Guest of Honor Q&A. It speaks so much to the geek's sense of purpose, that there is a meeting of the mind's between being dreamers and being practical workers toward a better future.

"No Anthems" by Sleater-Kinney... It was such a joy to hear Sleater-Kinney reunite this year, picking up their place in the culture as if a decade hadn't happened.

"Foreign Object" by the Mountain Goats because of all the lulz. Such a delightfully danceable melody, such delightfully murderous lyrics.
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Josh Ritter's new album is out today, "Sermon on the Rocks", and I can't wait to listen. I thought I'd do a quick review of Ritter's discography.

-Josh Ritter- his eponymous self-published debut was my first encounter with Ritter, from the sample tracks posted on for free download. "Potter's Wheel" has held mindspace for me continuously in the fifteen years since- the rolling chord progression makes the whole thing feel cyclic and insistent and makes me ruminate on the mysteries of life. "Hotel Song", less impressive on its own, remains memorable to me for a concert performance where Ritter interrupted the song to tell a story about grave robbing.

-The Golden Age of Radio- actually the third Ritter album I listened to, after Hello Starling, it's Ritter's best pure folk album, particularly in its fully acoustic guise. "Harrisburg" I like to say is the best railroad ballad written in this century, and while that's a peculiar distinction it makes it no less powerful and evocative a song.

-Hello Starling- most of the music I found on in its heyday as a source for interesting indie music, I lost track of the musicians after the demise of the site. When I found Hello Starling in Tower Records (RIP as well), I was excited to learn that Ritter had gone on to better things, especially once I listened and heard how impressive it was. It's still probably my favorite end-to-end Ritter album, and "Kathleen" is still my favorite Ritter song, with its sharp and memorable lyrics and evocative portrait of making the best of unrequited love. But from start to finish it is fully of songs that put a smile on my face, from "Bright Smile"'s charming seduction to "Bone of Song"'s meta meditation on storytelling's power to "Wings"'s post-apocalyptic landscape.

-The Animal Years- the only Ritter album that gives Hello Starling a run for its money, sharply bookended by the brilliant "Girl in the War" and the terrifyingly passionate "Thin Blue Flame". It's an album of the late Bush years, and it is deeply about the politics of the era, but it's not a polemic in any fashion. It's a collection of songs about faith and doubt and love in the face of terror and fear. I've seen "Thin Blue Flame" live twice- once it was plaintive, a prayer for a certainty we know we'll likely never have. The other time, it was angry, furious about a world so broken that prayers seem to have no effect. Both ways it was mesmerizing, eight minutes of building emotion to a powerful payoff.

-The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter- Evolving out of the heavier sound developed in "Thin Blue Flame", and taking advantage of the solidification of Ritter's Royal City Band in the aftermath, marks the beginning of a shift in Ritter's music from folk-rock toward more songs that are more clearly in a full rock 'n roll vein. Overall, the songs are less memorable than Hello Starling or The Animal Years, but there is one clear advantage to the rock-ier songs- they make for a more danceable concert. And there's one notable exception to all this: "The Temptation of Adam", a song which I have written fic for twice because it's such an amazing story and it's so well-told. It's about lovers in a nuclear missile silo contemplating ending the world so their love can endure till the end of days, chilling and disturbing and yet somehow really, really believable. It's also the song that probably introduced a lot of fandom to Ritter by way of [personal profile] isagel's "The Temptation of John Sheppard", one of my all-time favorite fanvids.

So Runs the World Away- Likely my least favorite Ritter album, it does at least have the mummy love story of "The Curse", but it doesn't have much else worth remarking on.

The Beast in its Tracks- Ritter's post-divorce album, it's more introspective than the albums that precede it and it's mostly maybe a little too personal, a little too hard to connect with. But "Joy to You Baby" is I think Ritter's best song since "Kathleen", with the lyrics perfect and memorable and clever while still being incredible emotionally resonant as a story about letting go of a relationship and trying to feel good about it despite the pain. And here I'll once more mention my own Ritter fanwork, a Fringe vid that uses the sharp sense of place in "Joy to You Baby" to resonate with the AU NYC of Season 5 Fringe.
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In memory of the great Yossi Piamenta, a playlist of songs of yearning for the Redemption, including Piamenta Band's "Yalla Mashiach".

Download here
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Ornette Coleman's "Tone Dialing" came out in 1995, but I probably didn't discover it until around 2000. I still don't universally love the album, but there were enough surprising and delightful things on it, particularly a reinterpretation of a Bach Prelude, that it stuck in my head. It blended funk and jazz and 1990s electronica with surety and style.

Eventually, of course, I was led to Coleman's "Free Jazz" by a co-worker on one of my college internships. Now that was a revelation. Over the last decade, I've probably listened to the whole forty minute thing a dozen times, when I'm looking for creative inspiration. Last time was about a year ago. It's still so fresh sounding, so original, so expressive. I think that last is the most striking thing about "Free Jazz"... I hadn't realized, before my first listen, that music was capable of saying the things that "Free Jazz" says. Its exuberance, its playfulness, its sense of freedom, remains unrivaled.

Coleman's death is a great loss.

Music Post

Apr. 13th, 2015 10:16 pm
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I saw The Mountain Goats last night at City Winery. It was fantastic.

The Mountain Goats new album is a concept album about wrestling, which is intriguing. As I think I mentioned in a recent post where I mentioned this, I like the idea of wrestling, of storytelling made physical, more than I actually enjoy watching wrestling programming. The thing I thought was interesting about the songs from the new album that Darnielle played was that they committed to kayfabe a lot more than I thought they would. I figured Darnielle's angle would be behind-the-scenes, telling stories about the lives of the wrestlers, and to a degree he did, like "Southwest Territory", but he also had songs that were in-character, or at least mostly in-character, like "Werewolf Gimmick" ("a song about a wrestler who has a werewolf gimmick") and "Foreign Object".

In a way, it's a little perverse that I love the Mountain Goats. John Darnielle is one of the ultimate creative anarchists, and my aesthetic preoccupations are almost always obsessed with form. Darnielle doesn't subvert form- he flat out isn't interested in form. During both covers he played during the show- Ozzy Osbourne's "Shot in the Dark" and the Grateful Dead's "St. Stephen"- he stopped in the middle of the song to ramble about his interpretation of the lyrics. He claimed to have retooled the band's orchestrations in a stripped down form just that afternoon, and while I've heard other claims like that from bands at concerts that I put down just to showmanship, I'm pretty sure Darnielle wasn't lying- the band was too discombulated for it to have been a total lie. He told the crowd at another point that he'd put an audible into the show- a place he'd worked out with the sound people where he could choose to play one of two songs. And as he was explaining this, he was very clearly working out in his head which of the two songs he wanted to play.

The early Mountain Goats shows were famously anarchic venues for Darnielle's musical whims, but playing with a full band and touring a new album, this show was clearly about the internal struggle between Darnielle's raging inability to be consistent and the responsibilities of his fame. The result was entertaining, particularly because the Mountain Goats have so many good songs that whatever Darnielle chooses to play at any given moment, you're going to get something good.

He played "This Year", famous for the brutal chorus "I am going to make it through this year if it kills me." He played murder ballads and broken love songs and songs about the brutality of professional wrestling and a song about endangered species. He didn't sing "No Children" because he didn't have to. The band just played it and the entire crowd sang the song while Darnielle walked around the room, high fiving people and gesticulating wildly. It was just a lot of fun.

I know I promised a baseball playlist for opening day, but I'm sorry, Pesach was distracting. Here it is now.

1. Joltin Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown and his Band of Renown

Everything about this song is perfect, from the sound effects to the name "Band of Renown" to the fact that it's a song about how awesome Joe DiMaggio is at hitting the ball.

2. Van Lingle Mungo by Dave Frishberg

This song is just a catalog of old timey baseball names. Van Lingle Mungo actually was a pitcher. And I actually knew that before I knew this song existed, because I'm a baseball nerd. But this song is awesome because of how these almost nonsense sounds are invested with meaning by our shared baseball fandom.

3. Pastime by The Baseball Project

The non-famous guys from REM singing a song about the history and legacy of baseball. I think I particularly like it because its random sweep of baseball history means I don't need to include Terry Cashman's "Talkin' Baseball" on this playlist.

4. Tessie by the Dropkick Murphy's

Yes, yes, I know, I'm a Yankee fan. But look this song is catchy and fun, and then you add in the backstory and it's perfect: "Tessie" was a vaudeville hit adopted by Red Sox fans in the early 20th century as a theme song of a fan club called the Royal Rooters. After nearly a century without a championship, the so-called Curse of the Bambino was broken the very year that the Dropkick Murphy's did a punk cover of "Tessie" that featured several Red Sox players on the chorus. This song is literally magic.

5. Take Me Out to the Ballgame by St. Paul School

Because this version is adorable.

6. Rincon by Dan Bern

Entering the extended Dan Bern part of this playlist. This is my new favorite song about baseball, though I'm not sure I can explicate why. It's a narrative about stalking a past-his-prime, cheating Barry Bonds to a medical clinic where he may have gone to seek a 'magic cure' to the old age that is finally dragging his skills down to Earth. It's a song about the lies we tell ourselves about baseball and life, it's a song about compulsions and desires and our failure to live moral and rational lives. It is a bleak, terrible song, and yet I don't read it bleakly. The magic cure doesn't exist, and Montezuma won't find his gold, and Columbus won't find the new world, and in seeking desire without any limits, we only leave destruction in our wakes. But that's life, and the rain will wash it away to give us another chance tomorrow.

7. The Year By Year Home Run Totals of Barry Bonds

Precisely what it says on the tin. The numbers themselves are marvelous, without any adornment. One suspects that Bern's "Doubleheader" was supposed to be a Barry Bonds concept album that he couldn't quite flesh out, but the Bonds songs that Bern has are uniformly magnificent. The other song, the one I'm not including, is a dirge about Bonds's World Series appearance, in 2002.

8. Merkle by Dan Bern

Fred Merkle was a New York Giant who famously made a baserunning error that cost the Giants the pennant. This is a song about dwelling on failure to an almost obsessive extent, that marvelously droning chorus "Merkel shoulda touched second base." repeating and repeating until it has no meaning left.

9. The Game by the Damn Yankees cast

Because baseball is a game that worms its way deep inside you until you have feelings that you can't control.

Download baseball songs

And on another line, I want to recommend Courtney Barnett's new album "Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit". On "Pedestrian at Best", the album's best song, she sounds like a really, really good Nirvana rip off. At other places, her discursive storytelling, precise phrasing, and wicked vocabulary remind me of Dan Bern, Craig Finn, Joanna Newsom, and other favorite musicians. It's a really awesome set of songs.
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Stuck at work waiting for software to update, so let's talk about life.

Passover so far has been pretty excellent. I have successfully kept up my Omer count so far!

First night seder was at my aunt and uncle's house across town. Second night seder was at my parents' house. Food was great and in massive, impossible quantities both nights, and had some interesting conversations about the historical context of B'nei Brak seder with a goyish labmate of my cousin who was there the first night. He asked why we don't still eat Karban Pesach, which is one of my favorite questions ever. It's so interesting to me to imagine a Judaism that did eat Karban Pesach even after the Churban, and to wonder what that Judaism would look like and whether it would have survived.

At the second seder, I used my new shiny Asufa Haggadah, which was beautiful. I loved turning a page and being stunned by both the beauty of the art and by the reinterpretation of the meaning of the page it forced upon me. The seder as a board game with a series of steps that must be followed in order to win. Hallel as a drunken outcry of joy for the redemption. Chad Gadya as a dizzying and deadly duel with the Malach Hamavet.

My cousin was back from having made aliyah less than a year ago, with stories of the election and her life on the Tel Aviv beaches. My sister shared stories of her engagement and wedding preparations. My father ranted against Obama. My uncle wisecracked under his breath. It was family, for good and for bad. I missed my grandfather, but not as much as I'd expected I would.

I was born on second seder night, thirty years ago- my mother literally leaving the seder to go to the hospital. So we had chocolate pesach cake at the seder to celebrate. Tuesday was my birthday on the Gregorian calendar, marked by a terrible pesach seven layer cake. I'll mark the birthday with my friends next Tuesday, when I'll be able to eat real cake and real beer. I don't really believe you can have a real birthday celebration without those two things.

On Sunday, I've got tickets to see the Mountain Goats. Their (I never know which pronoun to use for bands with plural names but functionally only one performer) new album, which comes out this week, is apparently about professional wrestling, and I haven't listened to it yet, but hell, I'll go see John Darnielle sing songs about professional wrestling if that's what he wants to do. I'd go see John Darnielle sing about much stranger things. Pro wrestling is one of those things where the concept was always more appealing than the actuality. I love reading ABOUT pro wrestling, I love people dissecting the angles, but I don't actually enjoy watching it. So in all likelihood I will enjoy hearing John Darnielle sing about pro wrestling.

And um... that's life. Besides work, which is a sinkhole of misery from which I cannot escape. No, not really, but it would be nice if my boss had some comprehension of the fact that when he gives me a tight deadline and I say "Okay, that's tight, but I can manage it," I don't mean "I can still manage it if you also give me five other things to do." Oh well, the deadline will slip and he will just have to live with his frustration or hire another damned engineer like he's been saying he will for the past year.
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It turns out that a couple years ago, Dan Bern released an album of baseball songs. Doubleheader

I've loved Dan Bern since I found his eponymous album a decade ago, but I think this may be my favorite Dan Bern thing ever. It is also the greatest baseball album I've ever seen, by miles. The songs aren't just about fans and their relationship to baseball, they're also about baseball and its relationship to culture, politics, society. There are some absolutely magnificent songs here.

I'm planning to put up a baseball playlist for Opening Day, so you'll get to take a listen to the best songs then.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
There are two concerts I didn't attend that are on my list of regrets. There are many other concerts I would have liked to have gone to, but these two took place when I was a student in NYC. I knew about them ahead of time. I wanted to go, could have afforded to go, had the time to go. And then... busy with school, forgetful, whatever, I didn't actually go. Those two concerts were Sonic Youth's last show at CBGB's before CB's closed, and Sleater-Kinney's Brooklyn show on their final tour.

I've still never seen Sonic Youth play, but I've seen Thurston Moore solo, which I figure counts for something. I'd always assumed I'd missed my chance to see Sleater-Kinney, but they got back together this past year to record a new album, and they're touring it right now, and I bought tickets for their NYC show the day I learned this.

The show was amazing. Carrie Brownstein pranced around the stage like the rock star she is. SHE FUCKING WINDMILLED ON ONE OF THE ENCORES. Janet Weiss anchored everything with her wonderful, driving, off-kilter drumming. And Corin Tucker... well, I can't remember the last time I saw a performer so amazingly present in her performance. Her intensity was what fueled most of the show's most memorable moments. It was like she had something inside her that she needed to let out and she just released it, to share it with us.

They played a mix of new and old songs. I only have extensive knowledge of four of their albums including the new one, so I didn't recognize everything, but they hit everything I wanted to hear- "Jumpers", "One Beat", "What's Mine is Yours", "No City to Love", "Surface Envy", "No Anthems", and so on. I'd worried we wouldn't get "Modern Girl", since it's not what I would call concert friendly, but we got it as part of the encore, as a joyously ironic singalong with the whole entire crowd. Which was the best way to get "Modern Girl" I could have asked for.

Terminal 5, which I'd never been to before, is a massive warehouse-feeling club in Hell's Kitchen. And the show was sold out and it was packed so tightly that dancing was mostly limited to vertical movements. There was an enormous crowd of people who were all passionate about the music and the band and also what S-K means culturally, and I'm just so glad I got a chance to sort of right my regret about that concert a decade ago.
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Tonight I'm going to Rossini's La Donna del Lago at the Metropolitan Opera, and I'm going to see Sleater-Kinney at Terminal 5 on Thursday. I'm hoping I'm capable of the emotional transition between bel canto and riot-grrl punk in one day. We'll see. :D :D :D

[personal profile] freeradical42 has been trying to persuade me to go to Balticon. It's Memorial Day Weekend, which is Shavuos, so I was not all that high on the idea. It's tough to go to a Con where you lose a day to Shabbos, so imagine three days of the Con being restricted to not doing melacha! Also, I like to actually celebrate Shavuos, so spending time doing Con-stuff might take me out of the spirit of the day. But they ARE scheduling services at the Con, and we were bandying the idea of doing a SF-themed Tikkun Leil Shavuos at the Con, and... [personal profile] freeradical42 emailed them and they were okay with giving us a room and listing it in the program, so it looks like that might actually happen.

Tikkun Leil Shavuos is the tradition of staying up all night on the first night of Shavuos studying Torah. I've only managed it three or four times, but it's amazing, and the prospect of doing it in the context of a SF con is really, really exciting to me. Our brainstorming googledoc has all sorts of cool ideas for shiurim, from the kashrut of fantasy animals to the optics of Rav Sheshet's eye lasers to the medieval Rabbinic contributions to astronomy.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
A The Bad Plus Playlist for [personal profile] elipie

1. "Seven Minute Mind" by the Bad Plus

-Becaus Ethan Iverson's driving piano melody that opens off the track rocks hard, but it's the way they disrupt that piano melody, again and again, in different and jarring ways, that really makes this song rock. I think I particularly like the last few bars, where the melody slows down painstakingly arrythmically. It's almost like a musical heart attack.

2. "Lithium" by the Bad Plus

-Because the affinity between Nirvana and The Bad Plus is strong and because this is one of a tiny handful of songs where The Bad Plus let another musician infiltrate the tight intimacy of their trio, and it is a breath of exciting, fresh air. Also, Reid Anderson on bass, ladies and gentlemen.

3. "The Radio Has a Beating Heart" by the Bad Plus

-Because it's the first track of their first album of all originals, and it is dreamy and relaxed and spacy while still being a pulsing Bad Plus song. It tries to be everything Bad Plus all at once, and because it's the Bad Plus, it almost succeeds.

4. "Super America" by the Bad Plus

-The song I used for my Batman dance vid. It basically doesn't let up from start to finish, it's just so joyful and exuberant and retro.

5. "Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and The Bears Off Your Ass" by the Bad Plus

-Because it's a super-jazz-nerdy homage to Mingus. Also, Reid Anderson on bass, ladies and gentlemen.

6. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by the Bad Plus

- Because it is THE iconic Bad Plus cover, and because somehow Iverson's brilliant piano playing is the least interesting part of a track that has incredible drumming from Dave King and once more, Reid Anderson on bass, ladies and gentlemen.

7. "Anthem for the Earnest" by the Bad Plus

-Because someday I will figure out how to make my Danger 5/ Inglourious Basterds crossover vid to this song work. And that will be a glorious day.

8. "(Theme from) Chariots of Fire" by the Bad Plus

-Because this just might be their weirdest cover, and I have a weak spot for weirdestness. Holy shit Dave King's drumming on this song, though. Iverson keeps repeating that obnoxiously catchy melody again and again, not even really deconstructing it, just assaulting you with it, while Anderson and especially King just tear it up around it.

Download Here!
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[personal profile] sophia_sol wasn't so happy with the playlist of Haydn highlights I made for her, but she liked the Debussy Homage to Haydn, so I proposed to make a Debussy playlist.

A Playlist of my favorite Debussy works

1. String Quartet in G Minor, Movements 1 and 3 by Quatuor Ebene

-Because honestly I wanted to put the whole damn thing in here, but decided against it. But these two movements are probably the most interesting.

2. Estampes Number 2: La Soiree Dans Grenade by Claude Debussy (as pianist)

-First started listening to it because there were accusations of similarity between it and a Ravel piece, but I think it uses chromatics in really interesting and effective ways.

3. Children's Corner 1: Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum by Claude Debussy (as pianist)

- Because it's really fun and whimsical and colorful, and because it sets up #4.

4. Children's Corner 1: Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum by Bela Fleck with Joshua Bell and Gary Hoffman

- Because Debussy on the banjo.

5. Chansons de Charles D'Orleans Movement 2: Quant J'ai Ouy Le Tabourin by the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and Monteverdi Choir

-Because I wanted to show off Debussy's choral writing, and because this is lovely.

6. Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by the Paris Radio Symphony Orchestra

-Because when I asked everyone what were the obligatory pieces on a Debussy playlist, they all agreed that it was the Prelude and Clair de Lune. And because it deserves to be obligatory listening. It's so dreamy and magical.

7. Suite Bergamasque, Movement III: Clair de Lune by Peter Schmalfuss

-Because when I asked everyone what were the obligatory pieces on a Debussy playlist, they all agreed that it was the Prelude and Clair de Lune.

8. Beau Soir by Joshua Bell

-Because Joshua Bell

9. Pelleas et Melisande: : Mes longs cheveux by Mary Garden

-Because Pelleas is his operatic masterpiece, and Garden debuted the role of Melisande, and this is such a fascinating time capsule.

10. Ravel's Sonata for Cello and Violin by Jaime Laredo and Leslie Parnas

-Because I ended the Haydn playlist on a song written in tribute to Haydn, and it seemed appropriate to do likewise here. Ravel dedicated his sonata to Debussy shortly after Debussy's death.

Download playlist
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
For [personal profile] sophia_sol!

A bunch of the reasons Joseph Haydn is my favorite composer

Download here

1. Trumpet Concerto in E Flat, First Movement, performed by Wynton Marsalis and the English Chamber Orchestra

-Because you listen to the cadenza and go holy fuck a lot. And then you remember Marsalis was only twenty when he recorded this and go holy fuck a lot more. I wrote of Debussy in "The Music Speaks For Itself that "Debussy writes like he doesn't even know there are composition rules to break." That's exactly how Marsalis attacks this concerto, like he doesn't even know there are rules he's supposed to be following.

2. Concerto for Violin in G Major, Second Movement, performed by Isaac Stern and the Franz Liszt Orchestra

-Because Stern knows how to make the violin sing and Haydn knows how to make the orchestra sing, and together this is something that's half dance and half dream.

3. Symphony # 92 in G Major, Second Movement, lost track of which orchestra is playing

-Because you have to put the Surprise Symphony on here, don't you? My recommendation is that you crank the volume. (The thing about me and the surprise is that even though I know it's coming, the anticipation makes me giddy)

4. String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op.33 #2, Fourth Movement, Emerson String Quartet

-Because I love it when Haydn is a total asshole to the audience/ Because I love it when music goes meta.

5. Harpsichord Concertino in C Minor, Third Movement, Ton Koopman and Musica Antiqua Amsterdam

-As a sort of palate-cleanser/intermission.

6. Symphony #7 in D, First Movement (Le Midi), performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

-I just find it really vivid. Like stepping outside into a fresh spring morning. An early symphony, and Haydn still figuring out how to use the whole orchestra together, but some of the pieces are clearly already figured out.

7. Piano Sonata in E Flat Major, First Movement, performed by Glenn Gould.

-Because Glenn Gould.

8. Symphony #45 in F Sharp Minor, Fourth Movement, performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

-Because it is the greatest origin story of any symphony ever written. And therefore I don't care if it's probably apocryphal.

9. Hommage a Joseph Haydn by Claude Debussy, performed by Noriko Ogawa

-I already mentioned Debussy earlier. The thing that fascinates me about the clear admiration Debussy had for Haydn is that Haydn was the best at orchestral structures- father of the symphony, master of the string quartet, etc... etc... and Debussy is a 20th century composer of impressionist music that sometimes can seem formless and barely composed. One of the most important things I discovered in writing fic about Debussy was how deeply essential orchestral structure was to his music, even when it was hidden.


Jan. 3rd, 2015 02:17 pm
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
For [personal profile] sanguinity!

A Mixture of Things I Find Entertaining And Think You Also Might

Download Here!

1. "Aria (Cantilena)" from Hector Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras #5, recorded by Nashville Symphony Orchestra
-Because it does beautiful melody/ complex orchestration things, happy/sad things, Americas/Europe things, early music/modern music things, and is just generally arresting.
2. "Deep Blue" by the Arcade Fire
-Because it's a great rock song about a chess computer.
3. "Lady Luck Blues" by Bessie Smith
-Because Bessie Smith.
4. "Go to the River" by Yael Naim
-Because Yael Naim? And because I feel like the brilliance of the whole "She Was a Boy" album slipped past people because it began as a difficult-to-acquire import.
5. "Applause" by Lady Gaga
-Because I don't know [personal profile] sanguinity's feelings about Gaga, and I am curious. And this is kind of a shockingly excellent song. (I may have a kink for songs that use recorded applause as a musical figure)
6. "Joan" by Heather Dale
-Because of the chorus.
7. "Redemption Song" by The Chieftains and Ziggy Marley
-Because the original Bob Marley song is great, but this version does weirdly effective Americas/Europe things and somehow manages to not feel oppressively appropriative because of Ziggy's participation.
8. "Speeding Motorcycle" by Daniel Johnston
-Because the metaphor is weird and wonderful and this song needs to be shared and appreciated.

For [personal profile] batdina!

A bunch of synthy pop songs, mostly

Download Here!

1. "Let's Pretend" by Fluorescent Pea Pod
-Because I love how terrible a romance it celebrates
2. "Futurepop" by Eloquent
-Because it's dancy and fun and futuristic.
3. "J.S. Bach: Prelude" by William Orbit
-Because Orbit made two albums in this style and I have no idea why.
4. "Da Funky Greenspan" by Keith Spillman
-Because it recognzes the mesmeric potency of an Alan Greenspan speech
5. "Adagio for Strings" by Bond
-Because I refuse to feel guilty for loving Bond.
6. "Hardcore Symphony" by Digital Explosion
-Because it almost is symphonic synthpop, and that is silly and delightful.
7. "Little Fluffy Clouds" by the Orb
-Because the Orb.
8. "Orange Grove Lullaby" by Kiss*The*Star
-Because the band name has two asterisks in it.
9. "Sensations" by Alphaville
-Because some part of my heart is still in weird German 80s music. And this is one of the Alphaville songs with an elusive/allusive reference to Mighty Maomoondog, whoever that is.

For [personal profile] bookherd

Download Here!

A bunch of great songs released in 2014, plus a few released in 2013 that I didn't find until 2014 because I am not hip at all

1. "Grand Theft Stutinki" by Shtreiml
- Because I still haven't figured out why a band called Shtreiml sounds so Mizrachi.
2. "Banjo Banjo" by Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn
-Because it's the best song on an album of amazing duets by an adorable banjo playing married couple
3. "Big Cig" by the Hold Steady
-Because there's something Tom Waitsian about the character Big Cig.
4. "Hodu" by the Toure-Raichel Collective
-Because it was surprising and exciting to hear Raichel bring music of his Jewish faith into his amazing collaboration with Vieux Farka Toure.
5. "In Mirrors" by Colin Stetson
-Because this is probably the song my parents heard me listening to this year and were most disapproving of, and I like that I can still shock my parents with my musical taste.
6. "GTO" by Puss 'n Boots
-Because Holy Shit Norah Jones singing classic country covers
7. "Adoration of the Earth" from "The Rite of Spring" by The Bad Plus
-Because The Bad Plus recorded the complete Rite of Spring and I think I need to say that again. In capslock. THE BAD PLUS RECORDED THE COMPLETE RITE OF SPRING!!!!
8. "Brooklyn Babylon: An Invitation" - by Darcy Argue's Secret Society
-Because it proves that big band jazz is not dead. (I think it was on [personal profile] starlady's end of year list last year.)


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