A photoset of Tori Amos judging you.
According to chemistry, alcohol IS a solution.
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In a “Special Women’s Lib Issue” Wonder Woman confronts her greatest enemy: cat-callers.
Patti Smith- Birdland
I could probably write 10,000 words about this song if people would read it, but for now I’m just going to say it’s a beautiful hypnotic epic that manages to be completely engrossing and emotionally moving even when you don’t have any idea what the fuck it’s about. And once you actually do figure it out (mostly, kinda-sorta) and do the research, its lyrical depth becomes even more astounding. AND THEN you find out that it was done as a complete improv and you realize Patti Smith could be the best artist on the planet.
So yeah, I’m hoping she plays this (and/or Piss Factory, which is the other Patti song I could write a million things about) tomorrow at the Tibet House Benefit even if it’s a total long shot.
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Wolf Parade- I’ll Believe In Anything
Probably my favorite desperate co-dependent junkie love song of all time. There’s a deep off-kilter sadness and emptiness at play throughout, with the narrator simultaneously promising to be the one who’ll save the day and fix everything but also needing to be rescued himself and getting increasingly crazed and frantic as the song progresses. Of course, the only possible way to fix anything here is through a grand escape to some unknown land, and that’s a defeat in itself and impossible. The song is obsessed with possibilities and all the things the narrator could do, but in the end nothing actually changes. I interpret the “if I could take the fire out from the wire” line as a drug reference, but you can interpret it as any kind of continuing problem and the overall effect remains the same. There’s a constant pain keeping things from being how the narrator thinks they could be, but there’s no solution. All we get is the dream of hopeless freedom where none of your choices actually have a meaning to anyone outside of yourself and you’re free to do anything, including destroy yourself.
I know that makes the song come off as super dark and depressing, but I sincerely love it. It perfectly encapsulates the feeling of wanting to solve someone’s life for them but feeling powerless and just dreaming of how you could save them and yourself. The “look at the trees and look at my face and look at a place far away from here” has one of the most heart-wrenching vocals ever, and that sweeping musical lift prior to the return to the 1st verse is flawless. It’s Arcade Fire indie epicness before Arcade Fire even existed, and the music keeps the song from drowning in its depression, matching up with the lyrics but keeping things from getting too downtempo.
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Sound City Players (Stevie Nicks and Dave Grohl) - Landslide
I saw the Sound City Players concert at Hammerstein Ballroom last week, and it was a jumbled mess of a show but when it was on, it was really on. Stevie Nicks killed her entire segment, and this performance of Landslide wasn’t even the highlight (that’d be a ridiculously heavy version of Gold Dust Woman to close the show), but it did make me think.
Landslide is a song that Stevie Nicks has performed literally thousands of times, night after night, from 1975 up until the day she dies probably, and she can still perform it with deep emotion. Often I’ll see a band run through their big hits mechanically and in perfunctory fashion (Alanis Morissette is the worst in the world for this), but Stevie’s still got as strong a connection with this song and imbues it with real power. I’ve seen her sing Landslide a few other times, and it was slightly different in its inflections that night, showing it’s still fresh to her and even after all this time, the song is still a living, changing thing. I had thought that super manipulative Budweiser Clydesdale ad would’ve destroyed Landslide for me for a while (whatever, Stevie needs a new beach house and cabana boy, I guess), but this performance was strong enough that it washed all the extra cultural detritus like that, the Dixie Chicks, and millions of eh covers away and made the song resonant again.
Macho Man elbow-drops your life.
Wario Land 3 (Game Boy Color) Nintendo 2000.
How I felt this morning.
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Not gonna lie, my fondest Valentine’s Day memory is still when my mom let me order the WWF St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view as my present.
I marked out hardcore over Stone Cold getting thrown out of the cage by the Giant. Shut up, I was 11.
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Marry the Night- Lady Gaga
But even after all I put in the last post, I’m still seeing Gaga’s show in a couple weeks, and it’s mainly because this song is perfection. It’s Bruce Springsteen’s lost party-boy anthem run through Whitney Houston and industrial pop filters, and the production gives the song intimacy at the right moments but stadium-filling grandeur the next. I could probably write a soliloquy about the perfection of the effects on “I’m not gonna cry anymore”, which is usually the moment where I lose my shit when I’m listening to this on my drunken stumbles home.
So the ultimate lesson is that one awesome song can cover your ass for a while, but not forever.
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Lady Gaga- Scheiße (live from L.A.)
So what happened to Lady Gaga, guys? I watched this video from her current tour, and it feels like all her charisma and stage presence is completely gone. To be fair, even when I saw her play at Terminal 5 (which holds about 3,000 people), her natural magnetism wasn’t quite at the same level as Madonna or Britney but she compensated with natural singing ability and a strong personality. Here, she doesn’t even sing half the song, and she’s not just skipping the German(ish) bits which would be understandable. And even worse, she gets completely upstaged in spectacular fashion by a green-haired boy in hot pants. From the second that kid got on stage, my focus was on him and his dancing was certainly more impressive than hers was.
Schiße and this performance in general has a bit too much of a “Now is ze time on Sprockets when we dance” vibe but it’s not just that, there’s more of a general malaise settling over Gaga the pop star. I listened to all of Born This Way earlier this week, and it’s still a good record, but it feels painfully out of step with where the rest of pop is at, and not in a crazy, innovative, or artistic way. It’s a very 80’s coked-out bloated mess of a record, and it seems like that’s gotten incorporated into Gaga’s persona, deliberately or not. The speeches have gotten more rambling and desperate sounding, everything’s gotten bigger but not necessarily better (see: giant castle set), and it feels like she’s lost that spark that made her such a fascinating performer from 2008-2011 in all of the excess. She’s still one of the hardest working performers around (the tour schedule alone guarantees that), but the performance is weaker than the sum of its parts because she’s failing to hold my interest.
Every artist goes through ups and downs in quality, even David Bowie put out Tonight and Madonna released Hard Candy, but this reads as something deeper to me. There’s no more mystique left on the character of Lady Gaga, she’s revealed everything she can in a miniscule amount of time and needs to push herself into something different to become fascinating again, but I think the extreme co-dependency of her relationship with her hardcore fanbase will make it hard for her to dramatically change. I hope that a break and coming back with a new album/new message will do the trick, because there’s obviously a lot of talent there, it’s just getting drowned out. I’d love to see her shed this skin and come back as something completely different, but I have my doubts as to whether Gaga could pull it off now or if it would just turn into a Chris Gaines situation.
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That jam session starting around 42:40 is one of the reasons why I still love Tori Amos this much in 2013. You can see halfway in, she really loses herself in the music and something is channeling through her. Her whole posture/demeanor changes from the rest of the interview, where she’s very demure, and suddenly there’s a rock star banging it out on this little keyboard in a tiny studio. Plus I’m always a sucker for her hair (wig?) flips, and Tori manages to be sultry without it feeling gratuitous.
If you have the time, the whole episode of this show is worth watching, and not just for Tori. All the other artists she and Hauschka meet with are talented and interesting, and there are a few other fascinating moments where the audience can see Tori just playing free-form on piano.
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Miley Cyrus- Look What They’ve Done To My Song
I really can’t believe that this performance gave me strong feelings about Miley Cyrus, but it is just that good. Her voice has a bruised soulfulness to it that’s entirely unexpected, and the tenderness in the verses contrasts nicely with the angrier tone that grows as we get to the belting near the end. Those sustained notes on “Look what they’ve done to my soul” are chilling, and the overall depth of Miley’s vocal interpretation here is shocking, with the entire last minute being particularly flawless.
Obviously, there’s also some huge meta-textual stuff going on in terms of song selection here too, and that’s a big part of the appeal for me as well. For a former Disney child star who’s usually auto-tuned to within an inch of her life to come out with a folk song cover bemoaning the destruction of her music, her brain, and her soul and pull it off drives home the song’s meaning more than any other performer could. She’s lived this song, and that’s not something lost on the intended audience. Plus with this cover, it still sounds like there’s some studio vocal effects on there (and obviously a professional camera crew) showing that even now, doing “Backyard Sessions”, something designed to be as authentic as possible, Miley still can’t escape the artifice of show business. And from the resignation in that final drawn-out “soul”, it sounds like she knows it too.
pretty sure 100% certain that if Britney Spears covered this, I’d cry.)
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fun.- One Foot
Every pop song needs its perfect moment, and “but I will die for my own sins, thanks a lot” fits the bill nicely. My issue with fun. usually is that their glam bombast musically doesn’t match up with the tone of the lyrics, and that’s still a problem here but the vocals compensate. I feel a weird connection between the “stumble upon a chapel last night” bit and subsequent verse here and the end of Waste of Paint by Bright Eyes, and if fun wants to get emo, that’s not a bad model to follow. The piano bridge shows the song could’ve managed without being drowned in horns and I’d love to get a stripped-down acoustic version.
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