Tag: music

Life on Mars

I’ve been enjoying Life on Mars on ABC.  I may have mentioned somewhere that I was puzzled by a few things–like why Sam doesn’t "prove" he’s from the future by making a specific prediction.  But it seems that, for now, the writers are avoiding the issue.  Nevertheless, I enjoy the show.  One thing I really like about the show is the music.  Unlike most shows these days, Life on Mars is not making use of the latest hits by Dido or The Fray (or any other CW-like music).  Instead, because the events take place in 1973, they are using some good classic rock from that time period.  In other words, the music has been great!

I’ve been working on putting together a playlist of the songs that they’ve used so far.  Here’s my list:

  • Everything I Own (Bread)
  • Reeling in the Years (Steely Dan)
  • Life on Mars (David Bowie)
  • Spaceman (Harry Nilsson)
  • Sweet Lucy (The Propositions)
  • We’re an American Band (Grand Funk Railroad)
  • Going to Make a Time Machine (The Majestic Arrows)
  • Tuesday’s Dead (Cat Stevens)
  • Wild in the Streets (Garland Jefferys)
  • I’m Gonna Keep on Loving You (Kool Blues)
  • He Keeps You (Boscoe)
  • Anywhere In Glory (The Mighty Indiana Travelers)
  • Everybody is a Star (Sly & the Family Stone)
  • Black and White (Three Dog Night)
  • Mother and Child Reunion (Paul Simon)
  • Rock and Roll (The Velvet Underground)
  • Bang a Gong (T. Rex)
  • Lucky Lady (Jones Brothers)
  • 20th Century Man (The Kinks)
  • Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (The Hollies)
  • Long Promised Road (Beach Boys)
  • Sweet Cherry Wine (Tommy James and the Shondells)
  • I’m Chief Kamanawanalea (The Turtles)
  • Just a Little Lovin’ (Dusty Springfield) 
  • Reflections of My Life (Marmalade)
  • All the Way to Memphis (Mott the Hoopie)
  • Get Down (Gilbert O’Sullivan)
  • I am a Rock (Simon and Garfunkel)
  • Ground Zero (Chris Cornell)
  • Signs (Five Man Electric Band)
  • Baba O’Reily (The Who)
  • Little Willy (The Sweet)
  • Out of Time (The Rolling Stones)

There you have it.  Now isn’t that a cool play list?

Death Magnetic

I just finished listening to Metallica’s new album, Death Magnetic (thanks to strausmouse  to pointing it out to me), and I have to say that I was rather pleased with it.  It’s no Master of Puppets, but it’s the best thing to come from Metallica since the Black Album (way back in 1991).  It definitely has the old Metallica sound to it, and some of their old energy as well.  I think I need to listen to it a few more times to form a more solid opinion, but I was nervous going in, and I feel good about the album having listened to it once.

How to get ejected from Yankee Stadium

Did anyone else see this story?  This fellow got ejected from Yankee Stadium the other day for trying to use the bathroom during the playing of "God Bless America".  Apparently, the stadium has a little known rule that says that people must stay at their seats while the song is playing.  NYPD claims the guy was drunk and belligerent, but witnesses say he wasn’t.  The ACLU is involved.

I’m a lifelong Yankee fan but that rule is not only ridiculous, it’s moronic.  Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards seem to be the only two baseball stadiums that play "God Bless America" at the 7th inning stretch, instead of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame".  I hate the song.  Set aside the fact that it’s designed to instill one’s heart with patriotic fervor; the writing is terrible.  The entire song is one big cliche.  At Camden Yards, the announcer comes on and says, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and help us honor our nation by singing God Bless America."

Honor our nation with a god-awful song?

I don’t think that most people realize that "God Bless America" is not our national anthem, it’s merely a (bad) song that someone wrote.  The fact that a guy wanted to get up and use the bathroom while the song was playing doesn’t represent unpatriotic behavior.  To treat God Bless America as if it were the Star-Spangled Banner is to dishonor the latter.  And as far as patriotism goes, I’d like to ask those self-righteous NYPD officers:  How many of you know all four verses of the Star Spangled Banner?

This was simply a dumb-ass move and I don’t see how the Yankees will get anything other than bad publicity from this.

Gonzo’s Nose

Yesterday, after work, Kelly and I headed over to Pentagon Row (right behind the office) to see the 80s cover band Gonzo’s Nose. The band didn’t start until 7 PM, so we first went to Sine, where we sat outside and had a light dinner as the crowd gathered. Then we made our way across the concourse to Lebanese Taverna and met up with a bunch of other friends, including Carmen and John. We sat outside once again and were very close to the stage, perfect seats for the concert.

It was a lot of fun. The band started off with some 90s songs, but eventually played a bunch of 80s songs, and took requests, too. We sat there for the whole concert, listening, singing, drinking and chatting with friends. Pentagon Row was full, but not packed, with lots of families, kids, and people out having a good time. The weather was perfect, too. It was a lot of fun for a Thursday evening–it even felt more like a Friday, except here I am, back at work the next morning.

The band is not at all pretentious and does a good job with their covers. They are clearly out there to have a good time and to see that everyone else does too.

Review: Ear to the Wire

Todd McCombs is a tall, lankly fellow who typically stands a head taller than those around him. He, along with his brother Scott, make up the eclectic rock band, The Shimshaws, who recently released their sophomore album, Ear to the Wire. Just as Todd stands taller than most of his peers, Ear to the Wire stands tall in an otherwise relentless stream of mediocre music that seems to want to do nothing more than imitate the latest trends on American Idol.

Before I go any further, I should probably mention that I’ve know Todd for more than 10 years, and have always been a fan of his music. By day, we both work in the same department at the same company, our offices right next to each other. Outside of work, Todd and his brother Scott’s musical talent and artistry are injected into all of their projects, be it their excellent debut album, Subcutaneous, or the music for a finalist in the 48-hour film festival project. The Shimshaws have a mastery of the pop/rock genre that comes across in each of the dozen tracks on their latest album.

Such mastery is no surprise once you know something about Todd’s musical background. From broad influences from the Beatles and R.E.M. to more recent bands like The Shins, there is a fun, high-energy feel to The Shimshaws music. And while songs from Ear to the Wire and Subcutaneous have had more limited radio play, it has always been my opinion that their work is good enough to earn them a Billboard hit if only The Shimshaws were willing to tour. It is not an unfamiliar scene to Todd, who has performed at D.C.’s famous 930 Club, and at New York’s way station for punk, CBGB‘s. Touring and a little more promotion could turn this excellent local band into something even bigger.

Ear to the Wire contains a stimulating mix of the genre. There is “Ocean CIty”, perhaps the signature song of the album (and the only one for which Todd and Scott produced a music video, which they have made available on YouTube). “Ocean City” is a local song (the title refers to Ocean City, Maryland, a popular summer vacation spot in the metro D.C. area), but at the same time appeals to the broadest possible audience. It’s a song about youth and fun and the beginning of summer. This is all captured in the outstanding and intelligent song-writing, and also in The Shimshaws’ signature guitar bridge just about 2 minutes into the song. With proper marketing and management, it would not surprise me to see “Ocean City” adopted by Ocean City, Maryland for use in promotional tourism commercials.

Perhaps my favorite song of the album is a more mellow, yet more sophisticated song called “Once Again”. The music in this track clearly evokes The Beatles’ influence on the band, while the subject matter, imagery and lyrics are the most mature of the album, reminding me of the intelligent sophistication of songwriters such as Elvis Costello.

If you just like to rock, then “Another Life” is the song for you. Just as their song “I’m On My Way” was the fun-loving, pop/rock song off of their debut album, “Another Life” fits that bill on Ear to the Wire, yet with added maturity. While the Shimshaws are already good at placing aptly timed bridges in their music, this song demonstrates not only the keenness of their musical acumen, but also what good performers they are. It has what I consider to be the best guitar work on the entire album. I can listen to this song over and over again without tiring of it.

Other songs on the album demonstrate the range of Todd and Scott’s talents: the impressive vocals on “Ordinary Days”; the soft, acoustic sounds of “Acadia”; the montage-like feel of “Closer”. All of these songs combine to give Ear to the Wire the feel of a solid pop/rock album produced by a band who knows what they are doing, and can do it very well. The production quality is profession from the music and lyrics to the cover art and liner notes of the album. When I listen to Ear to the Wire, I can’t help but think that this would be the perfect set of songs to perform live, and it is to my great dismay that The Shimshaws simply no longer have the time for live performances. (Though I am doing my best to encourage Todd to get back on the road.)

Ear to the Wire is an outstanding album, put out by a talented set of siblings. I would strongly urge you to go out and get a copy. And if you like it, pick up their debut album, Subcutaneous. Both albums are available on iTunes and CD Baby. Or see The Shimshaws’ website for more information:



The new R.E.M. album, Accelerate was released today and I had pre-ordered it through iTunes. I downloaded it this morning and have listened to the album through once so far. It’s definitely got more energy than their last 4 or 5 albums and there are several songs that are real standouts, but I was not totally blown away by it and I think I need to listen to it a few more times before I can give my full opinion of the record.

Dave Matthews in June

Kelly and I, along with some of her friends, are going to see Dave Matthews in concert at the Nissan Pavilion on June 28! Not counting all the times I saw composer John Williams in concert at the Hollywood Bowl, this will be the–let’s see–one, two, three, four, fifth concert that I’ve been to see. Not fifth Dave Matthews concert, mind you, fifth total.

Compared with people like strausmouse (with whom I saw my first concert) and stubiebrother, who has seen Pearl Jam about 44 times, to say nothing of other shows he’s been to, I suppose 5 is pretty meager.

But who’s counting, right?

Juno soundtrack

As I mentioned earlier, I saw Juno on Saturday and thought it was a good movie. I was particularly fond of the soundtrack. Today, I took a look at the soundtrack on the iTunes store and discovered one of those strange, small-world coincidences that we sometimes come across. The lead song on the soundtrack is “All I Want Is You”. The song played during the animation sequence at the beginning of the movie. It’s a good song, catchy, worked well in the movie, and it just so happens to be written and performed by none other than my landlord, Barry Louis Polisar.

Chalk another one up for the “small world” theory.

My favorite Christmas song

Reading Connie Willis’ novella, “All Seated On the Ground” yesterday got me thinking about my favorite Christmas song. This is a case of a clear winner for me.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is my favorite.

The song was written by Walter Kent and James Gannon was first recorded back in October 1943. Bing Crosby made it famous.

Holiday songs are fun, but many of them are somewhat trivial too. That’s okay, because they’re supposed to be that way. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is flavored with some maudlin reality and echoes the sentiment of many, many people of the time in which it was first popular. There is a hint of sadness at “…if only in my dreams” that adds something special to the song I think. While it originally applied to servicemen, today, the sentiment fits anyone who can’t make it home for Christmas.

Incidentally, my second favorite Christmas song is unequivocally “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, written by Dr. Seuss. I break up just thinking about the lyrics.

Paranoid IM interpretation

A funny thing happened* to me last night. I was already in bed, so I didn’t get the message til this morning, but kruppenheimer sent me a text message that said, “Yamo be there!” I had no idea what it meant, but judging by the time she sent it, I assumed it was something derogatory about the Yankees.

Turns out that kruppenheimer was listening to the totally 80s cheeseball song of the same name by Michael McDonald. Thinking it was funny, and perhaps not suspecting that I’d be in bed by, say, 10 PM, she decided to text me about it. Mystery solved.

But for a while there, I was a little paranoid.

*This post was inspired, almost verbatim, by kruppenheimer‘s email message this morning. In fact, I pretty much just cut and paste.