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Friday Music Break

Look Sharp
A media tragedy occurred in New York today, when because of a truly awful story about a nanny murdering two of her charges, the New York Post found themselves unable to run the story of the cannibal cop on their front page, depriving New Yorkers of what could have been a headline for the ages. The hive mind stepped in with suggestions (my favorite was "You Have the Right to Remain Soylent," with "Cook 'Em, Danno" in second), but who knows what the geniuses at the Post might have come up with? It could have been another "Headless Body In Topless Bar." Which leads me to the Music Break: Joe Jackson, with "Sunday Papers."

Friday Music Break

Today's Friday Music Break is for my friends in AC15. Message being: You're old. It's the Talking Heads, with "Psycho Killer." Stop Making Sense came out a remarkable 28 years ago.

CSI: David Byrne

An investigation of music’s power by one of its great polymaths

(Flickr/DividedSky46)
(Flickr/Dividedsky46) David Byrne at Bonnaroo in Manchester Tennessee, 2004. I f you listen to music too soon after reading David Byrne’s new book, How Music Works , especially Chapter 5 (how recording studios shape what we hear), Chapter 6 (how collaborations shape what we hear), and Chapter 7 (how recording budgets shape what we hear)—you might be in for a disorienting experience, like watching a magic show after you’ve been taught all the tricks. I happened to put on Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel , an album I’ve enjoyed repeatedly over the past few months. Suddenly, instead of the songs I’d come to know by heart, with their minimalist but emotionally brutal stabs at self-analysis that it took Apple seven years to complete, I heard an assembly of parts. I became obsessed with microphone placement and where each song was recorded, debated whether I was hearing an upright piano or an electronic keyboard, tried to picture the number of musicians, imagined Apple’s writing process (words...

Friday Music Break

XTC, Skylarking
For today's edition of Catchy Yet Blasphemous 80s Pop Tunes, we have XTC, with "Dear God." Have a good weekend, everybody.

Laura Is a Punk Rocker

The lead singer of Against Me! changes gender and challenges the male punk scene.

(Flickr/Kmeron) Laura Jane Grace and Against Me! take the stage in Belgium earlier this summer. O n a sticky night in mid-June, the four members of Against Me! walked onstage at Amos’ South-end, a narrow, two-story club just past the edge of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. Three wore some variation on the plain black T-shirt. Laura Jane Grace, the band’s singer and star, had on skinny pants and a sleeveless black blouse that let the crowd see her lean, muscled arms, which were covered in tattoos. At big arena shows, bands prime the audience with flashing pyrotechnics and a video intro. At dingy punk clubs, the options are limited, though a well-selected walk-on can help. This summer, Against Me! chose the opening snippet from “Gonna Fly Now,” the tune that played while Rocky Balboa trained to fight Apollo Creed. The use of Bill Conti’s trumpet riff—instantly evoking a hokey, inspirational montage—by a pop punk band with self-proclaimed hints of outcast rebellion (even though their...

Friday Music Break

Virginia Coaltion, "Home This Year"
For today's Music Break, we're doing kind of a swaying-back-and-forth-with-gentle-head-bob thing. This is Virginia Coalition, doing "Home This Year" in somebody's back yard. The guy in the back is the keyboard player, who, having no keyboards, decides to make the most out of that tambourine.

Friday Music Break

Hey, baby.
This past Wednesday would have been Barry White's 68th birthday. So I thought we could check out this groovy video of "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" from 1974, featuring just one of the many spectacular outfits White wore over the years. A warning: If you're watching this video at work, please do your best to maintain a professional demeanor. Take all those sweet, sexy feelings, put them in your pocket, and take them out to share with your special someone when you get home tonight.

Friday Music Break

Sheila! Sheila!
We're going historical for the music break today. Fifty years ago on this day, the #1 song on the Billboard 100 was "Sheila," by Tommy Roe. It didn't survive quite as well as some other songs on the chart that week—I have to admit I'd never heard of the song, or Roe himself, before looking it up. But he seems like a nice enough fella. And by the way, 30 years ago on this day the #1 song was "Abracadabra" by the Steve Miller Band, which is at a minimum one of the three or four most dreadful songs ever written (I say that as someone who wore through his LP of "Book of Dreams" as a kid).

Friday Music Break

Tap.
I have to say that I really thought the Republican convention was going to have more hippie-bashing. After all, there's nothing a Republican loves more than telling a stupid hippie where to get off. But perhaps because the party decided that the culture war isn't going their way, they decided to leave that stuff behind and just focus on how much Democrats hate capitalism. So to honor what was missing from the RNC, this week's music break is "Listen to the Flower People," from This Is Spinal Tap , the funniest movie ever made.

Friday Music Break

Asia, "Alpha"
Spurred on by Dave Weigel's epic series on the history of progressive rock, for this week's Music Break we have Asia, with "Don't Cry." Although I'd contend that Asia wasn't really prog rock; instead, it was a supergroup made up of prog rock royalty (members came from Yes, ELP, and King Crimson) who then made what was basically pop-rock with just the slightest prog hints. In any case, I thought of going with "Heat of the Moment," but this video, with its Raiders of the Lost Ark theme that has absolutely nothing to do with the song, is just too hilariously awful to pass up. Throughout, lead singer John Wetton has an expression on his face that says, "How the hell did I let them talk me into this?"

Friday Music Break

Peter Gabriel
For today's music break, we're slowing down the pace a little. This is Peter Gabriel looking oh so young as he does "Here Comes the Flood." YouTube tells me this is from a 1979 Kate Bush Christmas special, which sounds like it must have been both wonderful and profoundly weird.

Friday Music Break

Aaron Neville and John Hiatt
For today's Music Break, we're going down to New Orleans for the Neville Brothers, joined by John Hiatt, doing "Yellow Moon." Do you know something that I don't know?

Friday Music Break

"Waiting for Columbus"
For today's edition of Gentle Yet Strangely Uplifting Songs About Truck Driving, we have Little Feat, led by the late Lowell George, with "Willin'." Extra points for any reader who has been to Tucumcari, Tehachapi, or Tonopah. No points for having been to Tucson.

Friday Music Break

Big Country, "The Crossing"
Today we're continuing with the '80s nostalgia, for no particular reason. So for this edition of Songs By Scottish Bands With Titles That Include the Band's Name, we have Big Country, with "In a Big Country." As they say in the song, "Ha!"

Woody, Harry, and Irving

(Flickr / mathnerd)
This past weekend, American journalism commemorated the 100th birthday of one the nation’s greatest songwriters, Woody Guthrie. Many of the articles noted that Guthrie’s universally known national counter-anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” was written as a rebuttal of sorts to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” America had too much squalor, too much disparity of wealth, Guthrie believed, to be thought of as blessed, and his song includes a seldom-sung verse identifying “private property” as the culprit. What’s far less known is that Guthrie was the second songwriter to have a critical take on “God Bless America.” The first, Harry Ruby, actually delayed its release for 20 years. Berlin wrote “God Bless America” in 1918, while he was in the World War I army and stationed at Camp Upton, in the town of Yaphank, outside New York City. It was one of a number of songs he composed for his upcoming all-soldier Broadway review, “Yip, Yip Yaphank,” among them “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the...

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