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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 mp3.com 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 mp3.com 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.
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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.
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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.

Playlists

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.)
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I had fun making up a playlist for [personal profile] ghost_lingering the other day. I want to do more of that.

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.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
My sister's engagement party was today. At my sister's insistence that music would drown out conversation and ruin her special day, we pitched the music low enough that it was mostly not audible over the din, so it only sporadically served any purpose, but I'm pleased with the playlist anyway. Five hours of Jewish instrumental music of various sorts. Enjoy!

My sister's engagement party playlist
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Results via facebook, DW, and my own googling of the search for Chanukah music


-Several recommendations of the Adam Sandler "Hanukah Song", which.... I have mixed feelings about. Certainly, it's not melodically very good, but that's sort of the point and hardly a point of critique. It's a bit of more or less off-the-cuff shtick, though like most Sandler jokes it's been pushed too far over the years. More positively, I appreciate part of the song's sentiment. It is true that it can be lonely being a Jew in a Christian country, particularly at moments when Christian activity is at a peak. It is also true that for this reason and others, Jews take comfort in the success and prominence of other Jews. I value "the Hanukah Song" for taking a step back to appreciate that success and appreciate its context: that there are a number of Jews in Hollywood, but they are still outliers and we as a nation are still outliers. That in fact, there are so few Jews in Hollywood that one can sing a couple of songs and name them all.

On the other hand, while I think Sandler grasps that subtlety, I don't think much of his audience does. I worry that "The Hanukah Song" reinforces anti-semitic lies about Jews and the media. I don't worry a lot, but I do worry. And more seriously, I worry that "The Hanukah Song" positions Chanukah so strongly in opposition to Christmas- "the only kid in town without a Christmas tree" etc... Chanukah as an observance has very little connection to Christmas as an observance except calendar compatibility. I don't want my Chanukah music to be anti-Christmas music, I want Chanukah music that is about the Jewish significance of Chanukah.

My subtler complaint about about the song is that it conflates Judaism and observance in subtly erroneous ways. Most of the show business Jews Sandler sings about are not in any meaningful sense observant Jews, but Sandler uses observances as synecdochic allusions to tribal affiliation. Rather than just saying that David Lee Roth is Jewish, Sandler says that Roth "lights the menorah". Rather than saying that Jon Bauman and Henry Winkler are Jewish, he says that they "eat together at the Carnegie Deli". I take it as assumed that Sandler isn't actually asserting these things as statements of facts. I don't think he is claiming that David Lee Roth makes a point to light a menorah all eight days of Chanukah. Rather he is asserting that these are things that Jews do, and therefore as Jews, they are things that Roth, Bauman, and Winkler might do.

Of course, the Carnegie Deli is not a kosher deli, but that doesn't bother Sandler because he's not actually talking about Jewish observance, and he's talking about people who don't much care about Jewish observance. "The Hannukah Song" is a song about being Jewish, it's not a song about living Jewish lives.

-Several recommendations for Anander mol anander veig, an album of remixes of classic Chanukah and other Jewish melodies. I liked a few of them, but was overall not impressed with the album, and even a few of the good ones left me scratching my head in the way that good remix sometimes does- the remix of Dave Tarras's Di Goldene Chasene was fun and clever and made playful use of Tarras's frantic note-switching, but... Dave Tarras was playing clarinet on the original. It's freaking Dave Tarras, why would you listen to even a good remix when you can listen to Dave Tarras? He's pretty close to perfection, and before the request for Chanukah music, my party playlist already had as much Tarras as I could find.

-A recommendation for Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus", which is definitely good Chanukah music, but which I don't think I can play at my sister's engagement party. Nonetheless it's worth noting that Handel is a master of Baroque oratorio and his "Judas Maccabaeus" is overloaded with magnificent music.

-A recommendation for Shir Soul's new a cappella Chanukah medley. I found it a little dull, but the recommender and I both went to school with one of the members of the group, so I think the appeal is mostly in "Hey look at that cool thing our friend did!" On those terms I can recommend it. The singing is bright and appealing, the dreidel play is kind of fun, and the songs are not great, but it's worth watching for a smile, I think.

-My own discovery of an Andy Statman Hannukah medley. You know all those feelings I wrote above about Dave Tarras and how he's basically perfection on clarinet? Andy Statman was Dave Tarras's student. I don't think this medley is Statman's best work, but it is one of the best Chanukah things I have found and I highly recommend it.

-I got this album of Michael Silverman Jewish piano tunes because if I'm going to have to play the familiar annoying Chanukah melodies, at least they won't be on an annoying synth keyboard.

-The Chanukah Lounge is a thing that exists. It's... well, at first listen it doesn't sound all that bad, so I think I can sneak one or two of these songs onto my playlist, but the more you listen, the less is actually there. These are not songs that illuminate and add depth to the classic Chanukah melodies, they are songs that use gimmicks and tricks to try to milk the classic Chanukah melodies. On the plus side, I did discover the Afro-Semitic Experience via this record- their "Descarga Ocho Candelikas" is the best thing on the record. And the Afro-Semitic Experience has a mindblowing record called "Further Definitions of the Days of Awe" that has me already aching to buy more of their music and just wallow in the brilliance. On the other hand, it was never difficult to find great Rosh Hashanah music, so... I guess I just accidentally found some more great Rosh Hashanah music while searching for Chanukah music. Oops.

-Some mentions of the Maccabeats... Which, look, like the Shir Soul video above, part of the allure is no doubt that I was in youth group with one of the members of the Maccabeats, and one of my best friends was roommates with the guy who makes their videos, and the whole NYC Jewish community is very incestuous and it's cool when people you know are successful. I like that "Candelight" and "Burn" and "All About That Neis" are pretty explicitly positioned as a response to my complaint that Sandler's "Chanukah Song" is an anti-Christmas song more than it is a song about people who live Jewish lives celebrating Chanukah. It is obvious from the music that Chanukah actually means something positive to the Maccabeats- that unlike David Lee Roth lighting the menorah, the Maccabeats light the menorah and then watch the candles burn down. I like that at this point several years down the line, "Candlelight" has probably been permanently added to the Chanukah songbook, which is great because it's been quite a long time since anything fresh at all has been added.

-Uh... I dunno, I remember being excited a few years back when I learned that Jason Robert Brown had written a choral Chanukah suite, but not too excited when I actually listened to it. And when I consider the choral politics associated with getting it performed, better off just listening to "Shiksa Goddess" again.


So... this probably didn't really add much to anyone's knowledge of good Chanukah music. It might be out there somewhere but if so, I haven't really found it. But it is what it is. Freilichin Chanukah, everyone!

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