More old favorites

I’ve written about my “Old Favorites” playlist before, so this blog post feels like cheating, but I have a really good reason to be blogging about it. For those that don’t know, my “Old Favorites” playlist is an iTunes smart playlist that my friend Matt came up with back before he switched to all streaming all the time. The criteria for a song to make the list is it hads to have been played more than 22 times, but not within the last 3 months.  I frequently ignore it and it gets huge and unwieldy, sometimes coming in at between 300 and 400 songs.  Well, I would like to present this picture as proof that it is not always that way.

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It is down to 10 songs total after a few days of very diligent listening. Frankly, I don’t understand how I went 3 months without listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Boy Problems.”  But by the time I go to bed tonight, that playlist will be empty.  Perhaps it will populate with some new songs in the morning, and I’m sure that I’ll ignore it for another 6 months and then do the same thing all over again.

I’ve had to edit the playlist a lot since I first created it. The original minimum play count was 8, a laughably small number now.  That playlist would easily be a thousand songs with that kind of criteria.  I’ve toyed with making the time since last listen 6 months, but just haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet.  A change like that just delays the inevitable and doesn’t really change the dynamic of the playlist.

What I love about this playlist is how it reminds me of songs that have fallen off my radar. Many of these songs were once residents of another smart playlist “Dan’s Favorites” that you can see in my iTunes sidebar if you look closely.

I don’t know that I’ll ever completely throw over iTunes for Spotify, although I definitely go in phases as the binge listening in iTunes over the last few days demonstrates. And until Spotify adds play counts, it is woefully incomplete. I know that they have that data, they just need to show it to me!

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Mix CD Redux: Dan’s Prozac Mix

It’s no secret that I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for the better part of my life, and over the years, I’ve dealt with it in many different ways. One of the most successful ways I have done so is, not surprisingly, through music. Back in 2000, I made a mix CD that I titled simply “Dan’s Prozac Mix.”  Frankly, I can’t even remember whether or not I was taking Prozac at the time I made this CD, but it hardly matters because the goal was clear – gather up a bunch of songs that would make me feel better. What I ended up with is a motley mix of songs that I haven’t been able to stop listening to this last week.

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A few comments:

  • Billy Joel’s “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)” holds up better than you might think. I feel like he made such a good call to stop making pop albums because by the late 80s, his albums were at the point of diminishing returns. Better to preserve the legacy than sully it with a bunch of late career turds.
  • “She Bangs” is a forgotten gem. It seriously smokes – in many ways a superior song than the better known (and overplayed) “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” It’s too bad that Ricky Martin couldn’t really replicate the success of the first album with Sound Loaded.
  • This CD was made at the height of the Napster era, so many of the remixes were Napster finds. Primary among these is the remix of the Bette Midler song “I’m Beautiful.” Honestly, it succeeded in doing the impossible and made something put out by Bette Midler even gayer than it already was. Have a listen here, but any song that talks about someone’s cosmic fabulosity or how Bette woke up one morning, flossed her teeth and decided “damn! I’m fierce!” is campy enough even before it was remixed for the clubs.
  • Loreena McKennitt seems out of place here, but really, the song, which consists of just the word “la” repeated over and over again, really makes me happy. Hers was one of my favorite concerts I saw last year, if only because it was so long in the coming.
  • I will always love the Barbra Streisand song “Emotion” because it is so 80s it is practically wearing leg warmers. I really wish she would have sung at least a snippet of it at her concert I saw this year, but alas, it was not from a number one album (or from her new album) so it did not make the set list. The whole Emotion album is so hilariously and awesomely dated. One of my all time favorite Streisand albums.
  • And there’s Madonna, with “Music” which had just come out that fall. Simpler times, folks.
  • Jo Dee Messina is so autotuned, it’s pathetic. However, there was no better song to end the CD with than “That’s The Way.” An ode to how things can go wrong, but you have to pick yourself back up again. Seems like the perfect last song to me.

But my favorite thing about this CD is its background. Oh and the Brady Bunch font that I used for the title.  There were two other Prozac mixes that I made but like most sequels, they failed to live up to the original. I made a Spotify playlist, but it’s lacking the Dolly Parton and, devastatingly, the Bette Midler song. Here it is anyway.

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Barbarella psychadella

So I got a little bit of Christmas money and because I’m not going to go to many concerts this year (famous last words), I decided to buy a few albums that I’ve had my eye on for a while. Well, and one that was an early morning spur of the moment splurge. It hasn’t arrived yet, but here’s a couple pictures of it.

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Yes, it’s the soundtrack to the 1968 cheese-fest Barbarella. I am not in the habit of buying movie scores on vinyl because I just don’t listen to them that much.  I’m not a movie score kind of guy generally and to consciously sit down and listen to one on vinyl seems weird to me. But I couldn’t pass up this picture disc version. And it was only $20 + shipping, even though some guy on Discogs is trying to sell his for $250. Good luck, dude.

I’ve actually been listening to the soundtrack on Spotify a lot lately – it’s cheesy in that late-60s way that appeals to me. The score is by Charles Fox, who later went on to write the score to 9 to 5. It’s funny, but you can hear echoes of the Barbarella score in the 9 to 5 score. It’s subtle, of course, but it’s there. I think it must be the horns.

Anyway, I watched – or rather, tried to watch – Barbarella many years back. In fact, I even found the post from ELEVEN YEARS AGO. It’s amazing that writing of mine from over a decade ago still lives on the Internet. Anyway, I was not all that kind to Barbarella at the time, but I see that it’s still streaming on Netflix so maybe it’s time I gave it another shot. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more now that I’ve been listening to the music.

Of course, the only part I truly remember is the opening credits and its accompanying theme song, which is frankly the best part of the whole movie. I’ll let you know if the movie has improved with 11 years between viewings.

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From 39 to 50

upward.jpgThis is kind of a quick follow-up post on the first post of 2016, in which I vowed to increase my blogging output. WordPress had sent me an e-mail telling me that I had only made 39 blog entries for the entirety of 2015, and I vowed then and there that I would surpass that amount, if only by one entry, in 2016.

Well, I’m proud to report that I have increased by my blogging output by 28% this year. Not only did I write 40 posts, I ended the year with 50 posts! Now, that’s still a far cry from the glory days of blogging, especially in 2008 when I hit blogging max at 275 posts.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be that into blogging again, but the only way to keep my writing skills up is to work the muscle, so-to-speak.

I’m not going to sit here and say that I am going to blog even more in 2017, but I hope to. With one of my goals being to Internet less, I’m hoping that some of the stuff that I would normally post to Facebook might end up here instead, with at least a couple paragraphs. Does that mean fewer people see it?  Yes, almost undoubtedly. But writing isn’t about getting likes or comments. It’s about, as Madonna would say, expressing yourself. I won’t lie – I like knowing that people are reading and comments are fun and there’s a certain thrill that comes from getting Facebook or Twitter likes, but it’s important to put all that in perspective. I write for me and me alone. If someone happens to find that interesting, well, so much the better.

I’ll probably still write a lot about music. It’s really what sustains me, even if no one else finds it interesting. I’ll try not to write about politics as that makes me feel bad and there are enough people in the world writing about that. I will, however, still continue to fight for what I think is right and defend those that need defending. That you can count on.

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Future plans

2016 is nearly a memory, and as someone on Twitter said, I’m never drinking a bottle of 2016 anything. It’s easy to focus on the bad (mostly because there was a lot of it), but it wasn’t all bad and really, years are just a human construct. When we cross into 2017, celebrities will continue to die, and things may or may not continue to suck. I believe that we have a lot of power over whether or not things suck in our life – sometimes I am not the greatest at remembering that – so here’s a handful of things that I have planned for 2017. Not resolutions per se, but just things I’d like to see happen in the next 12 months.

1 – Lose weight.
Isn’t this on everyone’s list? I started the year at 242 pounds – my heaviest weight ever, and I’m poised to end the year at around the same. This, despite losing 20 pounds earlier this year. It’s funny to look at my FitBit weight tracker. You can see the exact moment that my depression and anxiety took over and I decided I had no fucks to give about my weight. I feel like I would be happy with an early goal of having a BMI of less than 30, which puts me into the merely overweight category vs. the obese category I’m in now. I only need to get to 233 pounds to get a BMI of 29.9.  My secondary goal is to weight less than 100kg (220 pounds.)  That’s kind of a psychological goal and a pretty random one at that, and I know that I won’t get there overnight. Ultimately, by this time next year, I’d like to be 200 pounds, but that requires me to lose 47 pounds in the next 365 days and frankly, that seems very overwhelming and impossible, which is why I have set those two intermediate goals.

2 – Read more, internet less
I set a goal on Goodreads to read 25 books this year. I will probably hit 24 which isn’t too shabby, but I know I spend a lot of time mindlessly loading web pages when I could be reading or frankly, even getting story from watching TV.  There was a Reddit post the other day that asked people that quit Facebook what their tipping point was. While I don’t think I could ever quit social media (how many people dramatically say they’re “quitting Facebook” only to re-emerge 48 hours later?), I know I could cut back on it. Frankly, it’d probably be better for my mental health which hasn’t been the greatest this year. I have lots of books in my to-be-read pile, so I really have no excuse other than my own laziness and desire to just sit at the computer waiting for something to happen. I‘m going to set a goal of reading 30 books this  year just to motivate myself a little bit more when I find myself reloading the same pages over and over and over again.

3 – Worry less about stuff I can’t control
This has been something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember, but with a corrupt manchild about to become the president, I’m going to have to REALLY get good at it. I know the strategies, I just have to put them into play. For starters, I’m going to focus exclusively on things that are in my sphere of control. Everything else is just wasted energy. It might seem selfish, but I’m going to work harder at putting my own interests first because I have that balance all out of whack. I pour way too much of myself into other people and then have nothing left for me, which leaves me with nothing for other people. I am an empathetic person who plugs into the emotions of others quite a bit, and I have to be more cognizant about just how much I’m plugging into it. Radical self-acceptance and self-care is going to carry me through.

4 – Learn a new skill
I don’t know what it will be yet, but I think it’s going to be knitting. Not the manliest of skills, but I want to learn how to make socks. Now, I realize that I have to learn the basics before I ever get to the complexity of socks, but you gotta start somewhere. Fortunately, Heidi knows how so she could get me started.  I’ve also always wanted to learn to play the guitar, but I don’t know that I ever will. I’ve been saying it for as long as I can remember and I have never done it. I don’t even know how to tune a guitar (although I’m sure there’s a YouTube video that could show me.) So we’ll see.  Maybe my Instagram will be filled with knitted creations or I’ll become that guy at a camp out that can almost play the guitar. Wait, who am I kidding, I’m never going to go on a camp out!

I think that’s it for now.  I’ll feel free to add and remove things from this list, but really, all these things on this list are things I need to do. At least I don’t have to add “drink less” to this list because I already barely drink as it is (the holidays have proven to be a notable exception to this, but back on the wagon starting today.)

 

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Dan’s 20 Favorite Songs of 2016: The Second 10

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RCVR (featuring Debbie Gibson) / Big Black Delta
I know next to nothing about Big Black Delta, but boy do I know plenty about the featured vocalist, Debbie Gibson. I met her this summer at Des Moines Pride and she signed my Out of the Blue vinyl (which, admittedly, I only acquired a couple years ago, but I had the tape back in the day!)  She seemed genuinely happy when I told her I liked this song. Perhaps the best (and only) use of the word “incommunicado” in a song this year.

Cheap Thrills / Sia
The second of two songs on this list that I really should be sick of by now, but for some reason, I’m not. I think it’s the rhyme of “bills” and “thrills” along with the smooth and lyrically clever verses that keep me coming back for more even though I should have hit saturation with this in August.

U-Turn / Tegan & Sara
Far and away my favorite song off of Tegan & Sara’s Love You To Death album, it grabbed me from the get go. Actually, I liked the album more than I did their previous effort, Heartthrob, which was definitely a minority opinion amongst my musically obsessed friends. Still, I really loved it and “U-Turn” is hands down my favorite song on the album.

Used To Love You / Gwen Stefani
If Stefani’s album This Is What The Truth Feels Like is the ultimate divorce album, “Used To Love You” is the ultimate divorce song. Having never been through a divorce, I can only imagine that the sentiments expressed in the song are exactly what many divorced couples feel.

I’ve Been Everywhere (Live at the Grand Old Opry) / Kacey Musgraves
This is technically a cheat because Musgraves performed this at the Grand Old Opry in 2015, but she also did an impromptu performance of it when I saw her live in May of this year. I made an mp3 rip of the YouTube audio and it has been in heavy rotation all year, so it seemed wrong to leave this ode to everyplace in America off the list because of a technicality.

What’s It Gonna Be / Shura
Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” is probably my favorite song of the year, if not, it was definitely my favorite song of the summer. She’s also the only artist with two songs on this year’s top 20. It was accompanied by a perfect music video that was straight out of 80s John Hughes films with a modern day twist at the end. It left me with all the feels. Oh what the hell, let’s just watch it.

We Of Me / Suzanne Vega
I wasn’t really expecting a new Suzanne Vega album this year, and it was a bit off her beaten track. Over the years, I have really grown to love Vega’s music and she remains one of the few people left on my “must-see-live” bucket list. “We Of Me” is probably the most Suzanne Vega song on the album and I can’t help but think it’s about a polyamorous relationship. (Full disclosure: it might be, because I have no idea what she’s referring to in the song.)

Girl Next Door / Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark writes smart country music which means she barely gets played on the radio. The album that “Girl Next Door” comes from is up for a Grammy though, so all is not lost. Clark sings about how she is not a Barbie doll frying up her man’s bacon, nor is she Marcia Brady. As the bad girl that the guys seem to want but never want to marry, she weaves a believable narrative set to a driving country beat.

Faint Of Heart / The Strike
I know nothing about The Strike, other than “Faint Of Heart” could have been popular 30 years ago when I was in high school. I think Heidi sent this song to me, or it might have been on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, but regardless, it was a late summer/early fall favorite that beat out some other better known artists for a spot on this list (see: Dolly Parton who had a full album of tracks that could have made this list.)

Where Is The Heartache / Bright Light Bright Light
Perrenial favorite Bright Light Bright Light (aka Rod Thomas) rounds out this year’s list with a track from his fantastic Choreography album – an album whose cover was a not-so-subtle nod to bi-pride. Chock full of guest stars like Elton John, Jake Shears and Ana Matronic, it was this simple and straightforward melancholy dance track that grabbed my attention. Because after all, as Diane Birch says, what’s a disco song but a sad song set to a dance beat?

Here’s a Spotify playlist that contains all the tracks except for “I’ve Been Everywhere.” If you’d like a CD copy, hit me up.

 

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Dan’s 20 Favorite Songs of 2016: The First 10

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As MAD Magazine might say, here we go again with another ridiculous list of Dan’s 20 favorite songs of the year. Can we just all agree that 2016 really blew chunks? How many people did we lose, how many tragic things happened and that’s not even mentioning the presidential election! Fortunately, the music was pretty kickass this year by and large.  Anyway, I figured now’s as good a time as any to start with the first 10 songs of my 20 favorite songs of the year. Reminder: These are in no particular order other than the order that they will be on my year-end CD, of which many of you will be recipients.  So as Kylie would say, let’s get to it.

Absolutely / Ra Ra Riot
Every year, I cull this list from a list I keep all year long of songs that get my attention. “Absolutely” was added to that list on January 2, 2016. At the time, it seemed like anything was possibly in 2016. Little did we realize that the anything that was possible was not anything we would want. Still, I love that “Absolutely” survived almost the entire year to land on the year-end list.

Can’t Stop The Feeling / Justin Timberlake
By rights, I should be so burned out of this song from radio overplay at work. Somehow, I remain charmed by it all these months later. I’ll admit that I resisted this song at first, but eventually succumbed to its wily charms. I would have never predicted that out of all the boy bands of the late 90s/early 00s, Justin Timberlake would be the one that went on to bigger and better things – one of those things apparently being to just dance, dance, dance.

Love Like That / Mayer Hawthorne
On “Love Like That”, Mayer Hawthorne takes a scoop of Hall & Oates and a helping of Steely Dan and comes up with a winner. A highlight from his good-but-not-great Man About Town album, I knew the second I heard this song that I would be writing about it on the year-end list come December.

Friend Ship / The Candle Thieves
There wasn’t even supposed to be another Candle Thieves album after 2014’s All’s Well That Ends Well, but I’m really glad that there was. Those of you that know me well know that “Friend Ship” was a song that I was going to naturally gravitate toward. It came out during a time when I was cultivating a new friendship and I couldn’t help but notice how well the lyrics summarized how I feel about friendship. “Let’s just be friends ’cause I want nothing more/But if you want to stick around, then climb on board.”

Something Tamed Something Wild / Mary Chapin Carpenter
There was a lot riding on Chapin’s new album. I had been lukewarm to her last couple albums. Her live show that I saw in 2015, while good, underwhelmed me because of its emphasis on slow songs – even slowing down barn burners like “Passionate Kisses.” But the instant I heard “Something Tamed Something Wild” I knew that it was going to be ok. A nice little mid tempo track that is in the vein of classic Chapin, it became my most played track of the year according to last.fm.

Nothing’s Real / Shura
The first of two appearances by English singer Shura, “Nothing’s Real” kicks off her album of the same name with a bang. The song was written about a panic attack that she had, and she sings about her heartbeat inside a TV screen (EKG) and how she needs medicine, only to be told that “nothing’s real.” I’d argue that the feelings in a panic attack are real but not true, but this is a fun list of songs, not a heavy post about how feelings aren’t facts.

Higher / Carly Rae Jepsen
Arriving with almost no fanfare at the end of summer, Carly Rae Jepsen’s EP, Emotion Side B, is as close as you can get to an aural antidepressant. Frankly, it’s probably more effective than most of the ones you can buy at the pharmacy. “Higher” was my favorite track of the bunch, a joyous over-the-top song about how a relationship “takes [her] higher than the rest, everybody else is second best.”

Brand New / Ben Rector
I discovered Ben Rector because he showed up on the BandsInTown app as having a show close to me. He was playing in Des Moines at a general admission venue and I thought what the hell, I’ll give him a listen. I downloaded his album almost immediately, based solely on the strength of “Brand New.” I’ve tried his other albums on for size and none of them have resonated with me like this one, and especially “Brand New.” I toyed with going to see him when he was in Des Moines, but didn’t. I kind of regret it now.

waves (Remix) / Miguel feat. Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves didn’t even have an official release this year (not counting her Christmas album) and she puts in not one but two appearances on my list. Miguel’s original version of “waves” is ok, but add in a female country voice and suddenly, I’m much more interested. My daughter thought that Miguel and Kacey Musgraves were odd bedfellows, but it really seems to work.

This Wheel’s On Fire / Kylie Minogue
The gayest thing in music this year was Kylie Minogue recording the theme to the Absolutely Fabulous movie. Having never watched the TV show, I wasn’t sure what to make of this track, but like most of Kylie’s music, it wormed its way into my head and never left. At first I thought I might not include it in this year’s list, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I couldn’t exclude it.

11-20 coming later this week, followed by my CD cover reveal and full Spotify playlist!

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