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Audience participation

audienceOK, so November is fast approaching and, as has been my tradition, I’m going to try to write a post a day, or at least 30 posts in 30 days. Last year I had fun with blogging about a different song every day. Some of them were well known, others not so much. Some of the posts delved deep into my psyche, others were pretty superficial. I decided this year that I’m going to do the same thing, but with a twist:

I need your help picking the songs.

Now the deal is you have to pick songs that you think I might actually be able to write about.  Suggesting a Rammstein or Slipknot song or some song I can’t write two words about will probably end up with it getting replaced by Tiffany’s “I Saw Him Standing There” or something like that. Most of my blog audience is made up of friends and family, so you all know me pretty well, so pick something appropriate.

In exchange, I promise to write at least a few paragraphs on each song. Come December 1st, I’ll publish a Spotify playlist with every song on it.

So get cracking! You can either comment here, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook, or if you see me in your real life, tell me face to face. And buying me a coffee may or may not help your cause.

Here’s last year’s playlist, for those of you that might have missed it.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Music

 

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Am I dreaming?

My tweet about my singles post from the other day now has the honor of having been retweeted by THE Taylor Dayne.  Yet another brush with celebrity on Twitter, which I swear is the reason that Twitter was invented.

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Taylor Dayne DreamingThat I picked up the “Prove Your Love” 45 this week proved to be interesting timing as Taylor Dayne has a new single out – 26 years after she first hit the big time with “Tell It To My Heart.”  I have to admit that I have not really followed Taylor Dayne’s career very closely over the years. The last full-on Taylor Dayne album that I purchased was Soul Dancing way back in 1993 and honestly, I didn’t like it nearly as much as I had the previous two albums. There were a handful of songs that appealed to me, but I think that production values were changing and what made her first two albums so good was the cheesy 80s production.  After Soul Dancing fell a bit flat – even the kick-off single, a cover of Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love”, missed the Top 10 – she spent a lot of time in the intervening 20 years releasing dance singles and becoming a heavily sought after performer at Pride events. And to this, I say good for her because many of her contemporaries would be lucky to get that kind of gig. I would totally go to a Taylor Dayne concert.

The vast majoirty of her material is available on Spotify now, as is her brand spanking new single “Dreaming.” It’s pretty classic Taylor Dayne, very much in the vein of her 80s hits while feeling current as well. It also sports a rather “Cherish”-like video, minus the mer-people. Naturally, I’m kind of infatuated with it.

There’s some argument that if grunge had not been in full force when Dayne released Soul Dancing, her career trajectory would have continued upward. But I have to say, based on her Twitter and Instragram, I’d say she’s pretty satisfied with her life. She has kids, has tried her hand at acting and is still recording. I just hope that she doesn’t get upset when the biggest cheers are for songs that were released 25 years ago. Somehow, I kinda doubt she does.

Still, for my money, my favorite Taylor Dayne song that should have been a hit is still “Original Sin.” Can you imagine a whole album of Taylor Dayne produced by Jim Steinman? A match made in heaven.

Completely unrelated to this post, I did dream last night that I had lung cancer. As Taylor Dayne would say, say it ain’t so!

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Music

 

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A bag of singles

I took today off work. It was supposed to be my day off from the weekend, but then I ended up not working the weekend and since they were already planning on me not being there I figured why not just burn some PTO and stay home? Time at home is always good, right? The flip side to this is that I’m kind of in a funk that I can’t shake off (although I think a nap would do me some good.)  Heidi and I were out running a few errands this morning and we drove past Vinyl Cafe and she said “you should go to Vinyl Cafe today!” I pretty much want to go look at records every day, but I was just there about a week ago and didn’t really find anything very thrilling.  Their stock doesn’t turn over that fast so I see a lot of the same stuff over and over again.

But I went anyway. And while they had a few new additions, nothing screamed “buy me!” I even looked through the clearance bins pretty thoroughly today. Nothing. Although one could have a complete Pointer Sisters discography from just the clearance section.

What I did do that I had never done before was look through their 45s. They are a mess – all jammed into long drawers, many of them without sleeves and most of the ones with sleeves are generic record label sleeves and not the pretty color picture sleeves that I like.  The thing about singles is the packaging gets damaged pretty easily since it’s just a paper sleeve and not cardboard. I’m not as picky with those as I am albums because you just can’t really afford to be. Nothing is in very good shape.

Mixed in amongst all the flotsam and jetsam, I did manage to find a few goodies. See below:

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I couldn’t remember if I had “Causing A Commotion” or not, but I picked it up anyway. Turns out I did, but the one I got today was a promo version that is different from the one I already owned. I was super excited to find the Stevie Nicks single as I had never even seen it before, but I got it home and it is somehow warped (although I cannot see the warp) and is unplayable. Sadness. The Taylor Dayne & Cyndi Lauper ones were mostly because I liked the covers, although I really loved “Prove Your Love” back in the day, probably even more than “Tell It To My Heart.”

The whole adventure came in at less than $5, so that’s a win in my book.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2014 in Music

 

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Alabama moon

I’m kinda of the opinion that we’re not really far enough away from the 90s to truly do 90s nostalgia right. That certainly doesn’t keep us from trying, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The trouble for me with 90s nostalgia is that it’s divided straight up down the middle. 1990-1995 were my college years proper defined by and large by the experience of getting an undergraduate degree (pharmacy was a 5 year program at the time). Between 1996 and 1999, it was kind of a free for all and one of the most undefined times of my life, held together only by Heidi’s and my relationship. I frequently say that I kind of lost my 20s to being depressed and anxious, which would imply that it was a complete waste, but as more time passes, I’m able to see the folly of that time. I did have a life, it just may not have been the one I thought I should be having. But my therapist tells me that the word “should” is toxic and is rarely, if ever, about what we want and is more about others want for us.

Amanda_Marshall_coverAnyway, all that preamble is mostly just the long way of saying that I’m listening to one of my most memory filled mid-90s albums this morning – Amanda Marshall’s eponymous debut album. Released in 1996, it would have never even appeared on my radar had it not been for my long-time friend Jeff who bought it and sang its praises. Largely forgotten in 2014, she enjoyed massive success in her native Canada and some mild success here in the U.S, primarily from the single “Birmingham.” Much like Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home”, the protagonist of the song is a victim of domestic abuse, but instead of burning down the house Talking Heads-style, Amanda packs her bags and drives away, trying to figure out what the future holds.

‘Cause there’s another chance and someday soon
Shining like the Alabama moon
She’s looking for her promised land
Out beyond the lights of Birmingham

It also had a pretty great music video to go along with it.


I love how Marshall’s voice can be both subdued and then come on like lion’s roar. I’m also pretty sure that she benefited from Sheryl Crow’s widespread popularity at the time.

So many songs on the album hold so many mid-to-late 90s memories. “Fall From Grace” was the working title of one of Heidi’s first manuscripts. “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” eventually got recorded by LeAnn Rimes which I’m sure filled Marshall’s pockets at least a little bit. And years after I played Marshall’s version into the ground, I discovered that Anne Murray recorded “Trust Me (This is Love).”

Sadly, Marshall has mostly disappeared from the music world – sounds like due to legal troubles with former management. Her second album was a dud, but the 3rd album was pretty decent.  Her Wikipedia page says that a new album is due in 2013, and since that’s come and gone with no album, who knows if we’ll ever have new music from her again. But even if there isn’t, we’ll always have the debut and “Birmingham” which takes me back to my mid 20s like few other albums do.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Music

 

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Smash hit

smash_hit_app_iconWith the thousands of apps in the App Store, you’d think it’d be easy to find a fun game that you can waste your time on. And if you’re me thinking that, you would be wrong.

I don’t know if it’s me, or the games, or a combination of the two, but I can never make a game stick. I play it for a few days and then, I’m all Vampire Willow bored now. I don’t like things that are too hard (i.e. Angry Birds) because I despise doing the same thing over and over again only to never win. Candy Crush hung on for a long time until it was clear that clearing one impossible level only led you to another impossible level. I don’t mind turn-based games, but finding people to play with is sometimes hard. It’s kind of funny that the only game I play with any regularity on my phone is Dice With Buddies. It’s low commitment and low stress and ever since they’ve added achievements to the game, there’s an added level of fun beyond just blindly rolling dice.  I’m not really a Clash of Clans or world-building kind of guy – at least not on my phone because it’s just too damn little.

That said, I stumbled across Smash Hit and it got my attention. How to describe Smash Hit? Well, you’re basically throwing marbles at crystal structures as you travel gently through some other-worldly type of dimension. Yes, it is kind of fun, and yes, it could get old, but what I like about it is the pace. Endless runners like Temple Run, Pitfall and Robot Unicorn Attack are fun, but so often, they go so fast that I can never get very good at them. Smash Hit is just right for my 40-something mobile gaming brain.

 

Trust me, the person playing the game in the trailer is MUCH better than me.

Maybe I’m just getting old or maybe my reflexes aren’t what they used to be. I think my father always said something similar about his reflexes when he played Wolfenstein 3D with against my brother back in the early 90s.  And here I thought he was just making excuses.

Smash Hit is free in the App Store, but it costs a measly $1.99 to upgrade to premium, which allows you to restart from checkpoints, change the difficulty, and keep track of your stats.  I’d say it’s worth your time and your 2 bucks. It may be made by Mediocre, but the game is anything but.

EDIT: I’m thinking that what this game REALLY needs is a Phantasm mod.

phantasm_ball

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2014 in games

 

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Summer’s soundtrack

DSC_8879I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks but it just hasn’t happened for a variety of reasons. So today, after sleeping until nearly 10AM in the best sleeping weather we’ve had in months, I figured I better get a post about the songs of my summer done before the ship sails.  It’s been a pretty good summer for music in my estimation, and that’s keeping with my general assessment that 2014 is a much better year for the type of music I like than was 2013. It’s not quite to 2012 levels, but hey, I’ll take it.  Expect to see at least a couple of these on my year-end list.

There Are No Miracles / Bright Light Bright Light
It wouldn’t be a music list of mine if it didn’t include something by Rod Thomas aka Bright Light Bright Light. From his sophomore album, Life Is Easy, “There Are No Miracles” appealed to me right off the bat. An impossible-to-resist Madonna “Get Together” vibe and self-empowering lyrics proves to be a magical combination.

Fancy (feat. Reba McEntire) / Iggy Azalea
I can kind of take or leave the original “Fancy” with Charli XCX, and when someone mashed up Iggy’s “Fancy” with Reba McEntire’s “Fancy”, it quickly became the definitive version for me.  I mostly am in awe at how well the two songs fit together, almost as if that was how it was supposed to be.


A Little More / Eric Hutchison

I enjoyed Eric Hutchison’s first album Sounds Like This, but was very lukewarm to his follow-up, only buying a couple songs from it. His latest album, Pure Fiction, is an improvement and I’ve enjoyed playing “A Little More” in the car with the windows down. When Hutchison gets it right, his music is very hard to resist.

You Don’t Know What To Do / Mariah Carey
The only reason I even give a shit about this song is because of Bright Light Bright Light. When he was interviewed by my friend Steve Sears for Instinct magazine, he mentioned “You Don’t Know What To Do” as being his song of the summer. Well, I had to check it out. It is, without a doubt, the best Mariah song in years even if she did screw it up with a stupid rapper. Hopefully someday there’ll be a version with the rapper excised.

My Silver Lining / First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold is my favorite album of the year so far. It surprises me because there’s not a single dance beat to be found. There’s something about Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg and their take on Americana that I can’t get enough of. “My Silver Lining” was the first thing I heard of theirs back in February or March. I kind of forgot about it but by the time the album got released in June, I was already in the process of rediscovering it. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

I Walk Alone (Dan Slater Mix) / Cher
Earlier in the summer, Cher unexpectedly dropped a huge set of remixes for her song “I Walk Alone.” Although technically from last year, the remixes came out this year so I’m including the best of the bunch on this list, although all 9 (!!) of them more or less work. Cher knows how to work this kind of shit, and these remixes turned on “ok” song into a thing of greatness.

Set Me Free / Leela James
Every time I see the cover of James’ album, I’m all “Oprah released an album?” The album’s a bit of mixed bag, but I do love “Set Me Free” which marries some old-school soul with a dash of Lauryn Hill.

Fine / Kylie Minogue
I’m still trying to figure out what I think of Kiss Me Once, Kylie’s 12th studio album that was released earlier this year. It’s not as good as Aphrodite and better than Body Language. It’s a little bit like Hard Candy by being less than the sum of its parts – I like all the individual songs enough, but when I think about the album, I feel a vague disappointment. That aside, “Fine” is far and away my favorite track from Kiss Me Once. It’s joyous Kylie and one of the few songs on the album that would be worthy of Aphrodite.

Restart / Sam Smith
Oh, how I’ve resisted Sam Smith. I think it’s the uber-earnestness of “Stay With Me” that turned me off initially. His music is a lot like Adele’s in that I recognize it as being quality music, but damn, it’s just so much WORK. That said, apparently when he kicks the tempo up a bit, then I sit up and take notice.

The Trailer Song / Kacey Musgraves
I’m glad that Kacey Musgraves is getting some notice finally. She’s made appearances on my year-end best-of list for the last two years, and I’m sure that 2014 will be no different with “The Trailer Song.” Somehow both current and retro, it’s Musgraves at her best and proves that she is the real deal. Just wish she had not cancelled her Ames concert last October!

And as usual, here’s a Spotify playlist of all the songs – save the Reba/Iggy version of “Fancy” as it’s not officially released. I put the regular version of “Fancy” on there just so that it was represented.

 

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2014 in Music

 

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Straddling the seasons

MI0003718298Every now and again, I hear a song in the summer that makes me think of fall or winter.  Occasionally it’s vice versa, but mostly, it ends up being a song that has a chill running through it that really makes me pine for the crisp, cool days of October.  But the rarest bird of them all is the song that evokes the end of summer and the beginning of fall – a song that straddles the season, so-to-speak.  Well, I think I’ve found one in The Secret Sisters’ “Rattle My Bones.”

I discovered “Rattle My Bones” on an Americana Spotify playlist – one that also featured First Aid Kit, a fact that made me laugh considering First Aid Kit is made up of two Swedish sisters.  I don’t know much about them, but I was instantly drawn to the hooky chorus and the two part female harmony.  It has a fun summer vibe, but as is true with most Americana type music, it has a bit of a chill to it as well. They also filmed a cute video for the song which is a rarity nowadays.

I bought “Rattle My Bones” tonight and have been giving their album a try on Spotify to see if it sticks.  So far so good, although not all of it is for me.  Another standout is “Iuka” as in Iuka, Mississippi.  And here I thought it was going to be a cover of a Suzanne Vega song.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Music

 

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