Wednesday Review: Fleet Foxes

fleet-foxesIn search of some new music recently, I was given a tip by an old high school acquaintance to check out the Fleet Foxes.  At first I wasn’t sure what I’d gotten myself into.  The first track on their debut self-titled album starts out with something that sounds like its out of an Appalaichian gospel service circa 1946.   Pitchy and nasaly, yes, but not without its charms.  However, you can only take that for so long, and certainly not a whole album’s worth.  Fortunately, that high and lonesome intro–apparently about a red squirrel–didn’t last too long and was a misleading precursor to what is a fantastic record.  It took me a few listens to figure this out, but now that I have Fleet Foxes have found themselves a willing follower.

I’ve read reviews that have described them as the Beach Boys of winter who sound nothing like the Beach Boys, or a baroque Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  By their own account their songs are, “baroque harmonic pop jams.”  If I had to put it into words (which I do since this is my blog) I’d say that if The Byrds had been a band of roving minstrels during the Renaissance, they probably would’ve sounded something like Fleet Foxes.  Their influences are broad, from the aforementioned 60’s super groups to folk music, both foreign and domestic, to monastic choirs.  The vocals on just about every song have the echoy sound of being recorded in a cavernous cathedral.  This could be annoying after a while, but it works for Fleet Foxes, giving them a dreamy, almost melancholy sound.  They aren’t your standard guitar-guitar-bass-drums instrumentalists either.  While those are all present, they also weave in a heavy dose of organ, piano, tamporine, and a few other more exotic instruments.

They are fairly new to the music scene, releasing their first album and an EP in 2008.  Both are absolutely worth checking out.  They may not be for everybody, as it isn’t your typical radio-friendly vanilla pop.  But if you’re looking for a more mature sound, with high marks for musicianship, songwriting, and sing-alongibility check out Fleet Foxes.  I’ve put four of my favorite songs in the Box at the top of the left hand sidebar.

La Musica! (Part Deux)

ipodI’m going to try to be a little ambitious this week and pound out a post everyday.  I’ve got a few ideas I’m anxious to get out from between my ears before they vanish, so we’ll see how it goes.  The trials of life may preclude me from being as successful as I want to be, but you have to try, right?  Well, unless you’re Yoda and then it’s all or nothing.  But what does he know anyway, he’s green.  Before diving into today’s post in earnest here’s a quick tentative preview of what I want to do this week:

Today:  A few of the songs I’m currently enjoying repeatedly

Tuesday:  An update on my continuing pursuit of a career in law enforcement

Wednesday:  A music review

Thursday:  What anti-religion types don’t seem to get about America

Friday:  Another music post

I’ll probably take the weekend off, if that’s OK with you?  On to today’s material…

If you’re looking for the latest hits or a super secret new indie band, you’ve come to the wrong place.  For some unexplained reason whenever I hear a new song–almost always, but especially if it’s an artist I’m not familiar with–I immediately dismiss it as crap.  I have no idea why and about 50% of the time I end up changing my mind.  But what this inevitably does is leave me far behind the leading edge of the new music scene.  I think it has to do with some latent iconoclast streak that lies dormant most of the time, but for some reason is roused by the latest tuneage.  So more often than not I’m really into music that most other people were really into last year or last decade or even last millennia (Yeah, I know the 1000’s only ended eight years ago, but I’m going for drama here, don’t ruin it for me).  The following list of songs (available for your listening pleasure in the Box at the top of the left hand sidebar) I’m currently into right now should make this phenomenon painfully obvious, with one exception.  We’ll start with the exception.

Weird Al Yankovic – Whatever You Like:  You’d think after 25 years the parody act would be wearing thin, but that just speaks to Al’s genius as a spoofmaster.  He has wisely changed with the times, skewering a fair share of the latest hippity-hop hits.  His latest takes aim at T.I.’s Whatever You Like and is a promise to his lady friend that even though “Our economy is in the toilet” she can have whatever she likes.  Even White Castle.  Any song that can seamlessly work “assistant manager at Kinkos” and “top ramen” into the lyrics is OK in my book.

The Rolling Stones – Street Fighting Man:  How the intro to this song has not been used in a film as the background music to a group of snazzily dressed tough guys walking towards the camera in slow motion is a mystery to me.  I know what I must now do with my life.

Henry Mancini – Moon River:  This might seem like a bit of a sissy pick, but after listing a song called Street Fighting Man I get some leeway.  This is definitely my dads influence.  Growing up my dad always had Mancini records and I loved listening to the themes to the Pink Panther and Peter Gunn.  Mancini is probably one of my favorite composers.  I love the feel and style of the late 1950’s and the 1960’s and Mancini’s music is the quintessential orchestral soundtrack to go with it, lonesome harmonica and all.  Moon River is melancholy, yet hopeful.  It makes me feel sad and happy all at the same time.  Ok, moving on.

David Bowie – Space Oddity:  This song is either music genius or currently enshrined in the Cheese Hall of Fame.  Or maybe both.  I haven’t decided yet.  Even though it came out five years before I was even born I’d only heard snippets of it here and there and never the original.  That is until recently.  I’ll admit that in the last two weeks I’ve probably listened to it between 20 and 30 times.  Sometimes three or four times in a row.  I’m not really sure why.  Jen just thinks it’s creepy, and while I will freely admit that David Bowie is one of the top five creepiest people on earth, the song is actually not creepy at all.  In fact, it’s the opposite of creepy.  It’s kind of affirming in a weird way.  Well, I like it anyway.

Looking Glass – Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl):  I have a dream.  Someday I will sing this song at a karaoke bar.  Someday. (Hopefully it goes better than this.)  Yes, this is a guilty pleasure song that has no business being on anyone’s list of anything.  I don’t know if it’s the organ, the catchy tune, the sea faring theme, or the inexplicable lyrics (is the North of Spain known for the finest silver?).  Whatever it is, I love it.  Incidentally, as a young teen my dad played bass in a band called the Looking Glass.  Unfortunately he receives no royalties from Brandy.

Seriously? Abba?

With the election just a little over a week away, its time to get down to brass tacks and really examine the important issues that seperate the two presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama:  what’s on their iPod and what are their favorite movies.

A month or so ago the Film Chat blog linked to and commented on an article written by Roger Ebert which sought to find out what sort of films the White House hopefulls enjoy.  Peter Chattaway, Film Chat‘s proprietor, made an interesting point about how McCain’s choices seemed eccentric and more personal, while Obama chose well known and well respected films tha almost make his picks seem “poll-tested.”

Just yesterday Right Wing Film Geek posted about the candidates’ music choices and got the same vibe:  McCain’s choices appear to be more honest, while Obama’s seem to be a convenient list spanning genre classics to the latest hip tunes.  A little too hip perhaps.

What does it all mean?  Well, nothing really.  But I do find it a little interesting that Obama’s selections seem to go hand and hand with his slick, manufactured image and McCain’s seem to reflect his penchant for (to beat a dead horse, if I may) maverickness.  I mean, no one would admit to loving Abba unless they really actually liked Abba.

At any rate, check out both posts if for no other reason than a little election tid-bit on the lighter side for a change.

Wednesday Review: Barenaked for the Holidays (music)

bnl.jpgNo Christmas season is complete without a plethora of music.  Whether it’s the classics of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole or the newer interpretations from Manheim Steamroller or the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the music makes it.  As much as I love Bing’s White Christmas and the other familiar holiday hits, I’m always looking for new selections to add to the playlist.  One of my new favorites is the Barenaked Ladies’ Barenaked for the Holidays (don’t worry mom, the Barenaked Ladies are in fact fully clothed men, though they are from Canada).

I discovered this one about three years ago and immediately put it into heavy rotation.  It’s an excellent mix of reinterpreted classics and several very good originals.  They even tossed in a few of Hanukah songs to round things out.  A few of my favorite selections:

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings (feat. Sarah McLachlan) – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is one of my favorite Christmas songs and I have many different twists on it in my own collection, but I think this one may be my favorite.  It’s kind of a jazzy, acoustic rendition, and very hip and “with it”, as all the kids are saying these days.  A definite winner.

 

Elf’s Lament (feat. Michael Buble) – What if the elves unionized and went on strike?  Well apparently that’s what they’re considering.  Tired of being pushed around by the “Fat Man” for all these years, the pointy-eared toysmiths have had enough!  It’s a very catchy tune about an elf’s quest for fair wages and benefits.

 

Christmas Pics – A lyrical snapshot of Every Family USA (or maybe in Barenaked Ladies’ case Every Family Canada) during the holidays.  Lines like “brother we don’t agree, about the government or where to put the tree” and “turkey is done, we use our mitts, when is mom gonna get that hearing aid fixed” are like musical Polaroid’s of conversations we’ve all heard or been a part of when all the family is gathered under one roof.

 

Some of the songs on the album (there’s that word again), like I Saw Three Ships, sound like they were recorded in someone’s living room and have a cool sing-a-long feel to them, which almost all Christmas songs should have.  Except for O Holy Night, that’s definitely a soloist’s song.  There are also several instrumental interludes that are consist of just a drum machine and keyboard.  It’s like the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack does Christmas.  You’d think stuff like this would be kinda cheesy and lame, but Barenaked Ladies are (or should it be “is”?  Are they plural or is the band singular?) so talented they all come off really well.  Since it is Barenaked Ladies there is of course some off the wall stuff, like Deck the Stills which is to the tune of Deck the Halls but the only lyrics are Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young repeated over and over again.  Weird, wild stuff.

 All told, Barenaked for the Holidays is a solid addition to anyone’s Christmas (or Hanukkah) music library.

Christmas Time Is Here

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I love Christmas time.  I love the lights, the tree, the movies, the get togethers, the hordes of cookies and candy around the house and office, I love it all.  Even the shopping, as long as its done online.  As I have probably mentioned in previous years, I come from a long line of Christmas aficionados so I suppose this affection for the season is inbred.  So, in that spirit and being that a week from today is Christmas Day, I am going to attempt (operative word) to post a Christmasy post everyday this week. 

It should be obvious by now to the Regulars that I have a wide ranging catalog of festive music, some bad, but mostly good.  These are a few of my fave Christmas instrumentals, which are of course available for your listening pleasure in the Box in the left hand sidebar:

Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time Is Here:  This is off of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, which as a whole is one of my favorite Christmas albums (when was the last time you heard someone use the word album?).  Who would have thought a kids cartoon Christmas special would have such a sophisticated soundtrack.  Its great for turning off all the lights except the ones on the tree and just relaxing to the cool West Coast jazz of Vince Guaraldi and his two compadres.  And for the record, A Charlie Brown Christmas is the best Christmas special ever.

Barenaked Ladies – Carol of the Bells – A smooth electric organ version of this classic.  The Barenaked Ladies Christmas CD is also one of my faves.  More on that tomorrow.

Al Caiola – Holiday On Skis – The perfect song for a Christmas video montage.  Campy and awesome.  I found this on the Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails disc.

Manheim Steamroller – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – It isn’t Christmas without the Steamroller and this is one of their best in this bloggers humble opinion.  Maybe it should be called God Rocks Ye Merry Gentlemen!

Manheim Steamroller – Hallelujah – 18th century oratorio meets 1980’s synthesizer.  Does it get any better than that?  I submit to you that it does not.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night – You’ve gotta wonder how the genesis of TSO went.  A bunch of dudes from over the hill 80’s big hair bands get together to form a light metal supergroup that plays only Christmas music.  You can’t make this stuff up.  And the result?  We rock you a merry Christmas!

So there you go.  Enjoy the music and if you’ve got any favorites of your own shoot me a comment.  I’m always looking for more to add to the library.

RIP Dan Fogelberg

I jumped on my computer to check my email just now and was greeted with some upsetting news.  Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, the bard that brought us the aforeblogged Same Old Lang Syne, has passed away.  Apparently he had been battling prostate cancer for some time.  Though I’ve mocked that song incessintly for being melodramatic and sappy, and intend to continue doing so, it really is a shame.  Honor his memory by watching this video someone made for that song.  Tis the season afterall.