Thursday, August 14, 2008

Randy Newman playlist

Randy Newman has a new album of pop music out this month, his first in like 9 years or something (I don't feel like looking it up).

For those of you that only know him as the "You Got a Friend in Me" singer from "Toy Story" or a punch line from that one "Family Guy" episode, you are missing one of the most sarcastic, hilarious and satirical singer/songwriters of the last 50 years. His words from the '70s never sounded better, and since I don't have his new CD yet, I'm just gonna go ahead and write about his old shiit. Admittedly, I don't own his entire catalog, and for anyone that actually lived during his heyday this list might seem a little base and obvious, whatever.

1. "Political Science"
Aptly scrapes the war hawks and uber-nationalist blowhards that would have nuked Korea, China, Vietnam, USSR and probably Iraq and Iran too if given the chance.
I want to just c/p the whole lyrics, but I'll pick two stanzas:

"We'll save Australia / Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo / We'll build an All American amusement park there / They got surfin', too / Boom goes London and boom Paris / More room for you and more room for me / And every city the whole world round / Will just be another American town / Oh, how peaceful it will be / We'll set everybody free / You'll wear a Japanese kimono / And there will be Italian shoes for me

2. "Rednecks"
Like any classic Newman song, the irony and sarcasm get so wound around itself by the end of the song that you can't do anything but laugh and smile at the end of the world and its accompanying stupidity. You wouldn't even be able to sing this song without offending some bird-brained soccer mom. I'll let you look up the lyrics or listen to it yourself. Fucking perfect.

3. "Rider in the Rain"
I could be missing something here, but this might be Newman in sincere mode. It's a little country, no piano, just lap-steel guitar, horse trottin' guitar, drums and easy goin' backing vocals.

4. "I Love LA"
On the surface this sounds like a slice of '80s Huey Lewis and the News schlockin' pop. It's been used in countless feel good movies and maybe even a campaign or two. Paying closer attention to the lyrics reveal just how sarcastic the chanted "I love LA / we love it" chorus really is:
"Look at that mountain / Look at those trees / Look at that bum over there, man / He's down on his knees / Look at these women / There ain't nothin' like em nowhere"

5. "Louisiana 1927"
This is Newman with the swelling strings in the background, lush melodies, historical subject matter, not the old grump tinkering away at the keys. He still has that Bourbon
attitude and general distaste for BS.

6. "Mr. President"
Newman's back at the piano, without the strings (until the end) but with a small horn section and a shuffling rhythm section, singing a plea to the President to have "pity for the working man."

7. "You Can Leave Your Hat On"
I crack up every time Newman sings "yes, yes, yes" after telling the woman hes talking to in the song to take off her dress. His mush mouth vocals sound like Fat Albert or Elmer Fud about to get it on. As usual, Newman mixes his absurd humour with some actual heart-felt emotions.

8. "Short People"
Sticks it to the bigots and racists better than any punk band ever could, I don't care that he says the song isn't about anything more than a ridiculous idea.

9. "It's Money that I Love"
"I don't love the mountains
And I don't love the sea
And I don't love Jesus
He never done a thing for me
I ain't pretty like my sister
Or smart like my dad
Or good like my mama

It's Money That I Love

They say that money
Can't buy love in this world
But it'll get you a half-pound of cocaine
And a sixteen-year old girl
And a great big long limousine
On a hot September night
Now that may not be love
But it is all right

Used to worry about the poor
But I don't worry anymore
Used to worry about the black man
Now I don't worry about the black man
Used to worry about the starving children of India
You know what I say about the starving children of India ?
I say, "Oh mama"
It's Money That I Love"

10. "The Great Nations of Europe"
"The Great Nations of Europe had gathered on the shore
they'd conquered what was behind them and now they wanted more
so they looked to the mighty ocean and took to the western sea
The great nations of europe in the 16th century

Hide your wives and daughters, hide the groceries too
The great nations of europe comin through

The Grand Canary Islands first land to which they came
they slaughtered all the canaries there which gave the land its name
there were natives there called guanches, guanches by the score
bullet's, disease the portugese, they weren't there any more

balboa found the pacific and on the trail one day
he met some friendly indians whom he was told were gay
so he had them torn apart by dogs on religious grounds they say
the great nations of europe were quite holy in their way

hide your wives and daughters, hide your sons as well
with the great nations of europe you never can tell

where you and i are standing at the end of a century
europes have sprung up everywhere as even i can see
but there on the horizon is the possiblity
that some bug from out of africa might come for you and me
destroying everything in it's path from sea to shining sea
like the great nations of europe in the 16th century"

11. "You Got a Friend in Me"
Yeah, yeah yeah, fuck off. I like this song.

12. "Sail Away"
Maybe his most well known song.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tim Shriver is a retard

Dear 24-hour news networks and USA Today,

Believe it or not, not everything has to be a controversy. Whenever an advocacy group or individual raises outrage over a comment, film or album, you don't have to write it up as a story. It can be ignored, and it can go away for ever. You don't have to have the self-righteous warrior yelling at other talking heads whoring out their souls for attention, money and book deals. Slimy parasites arguing about what Don Imus said this week (YOU WONT BELIEVE IT OMG! OMG! OMG!) isn't news. It isn't controversial. It's just one group of suits with coded language yelling at another.

Please, please no more coverage of the controversy over "Tropic Thunder." It's a fucking movie. has three front page items about an advocacy group's objection to "Tropic Thunder's" "unfortunate and humiliating portrayal of people with intellectual disabilities." Coalition of National Disability Organizations member and Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver also wants to ban the "R-word." He can't even say it out loud. The word is pronounced "RE-TARD." The word itself has no insidious meaning, dude. It means slow, in fact I find it less offensive than "intellectually disabled," that just smacks of pity.

If Shriver wasn't so busy stabbing our prostates with his P.C. bullshit, maybe he would get the joke. He wants to ban a movie most people in his organization should agree with. The whole film satirizes Hollywood, and the part that especially grinds his gears makes fun of actors that ham it up as retards in movies (Sean Penn in "I Am Sam") for personal glory and awards. This kind of nonsense gives me the Lewis Black shakes.

I just lent even more words to the non-story, but I wouldn't be writing about it if CNN ignored idiotic bullshit like this. Also, this is a blog read by 1.5 people, I don't hold any responsibility for the American people. This piddling public discourse is the kind of shit on the air and in print pushing out anything worth discussing. For every hour discussing "Tropic Thunder" maybe they could be looking at why the "intellectually disabled" take the same state tests as normal children that determine if a school is going to lose funding due to NCLB .

Instead we get: "Tonight at 8p.m., one humourless idiot doesn't understand he is arguing with people that already agree, followed by Nancy Grace."

Christ help us.

Monday, August 11, 2008

End of Summer/Fall music preview (updated)

2008 might not be such a boring year for music after all. Notable self-titled debuts by Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend got the ball rolling and the momentum continued with good releases by the Hold Steady and My Morning Jacket. Even with that, the year hasn't been as strong as 2007. Maybe a few of this fall's new discs can change that.

August 19
Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
I haven't made my mind up about this group yet. They have been getting some buzz from the blogs and music magazines. It sounds a little generic, but they do incorporate a smorgasbord of noises - violins, synth sirens and acoustic guitars. "A Manner to Act RAC mix" is catchy, sounds a lot like Vampire Weekend, but not all the songs do.

You can listen to tracks on their myspace page here:

September 9

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
Okkervil River isn't just another one of the innumerable indie rock bands littering the Austin, Texas landscape. Released last year, "The Stage Names" introduced me to the band and their sneaky-clever lyrics, gloomy lead singer and surprising guitar. They are a happy middle ground between the Arcade Fire's all-of-the-universe-in-a-pop-song-sound and Spoon's economic perfection.

Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain

Ray's sandpaper voice goes great with the conventional acoustic guitar and soul-flavored folk he's been peddling for a while now. I only have one of his discs, "Trouble," but I think I will get this new one, if not just for the strength of that album's title track.

September 23
Kings of Leon - Only By the Night
In 2007 the brothers Followill continued to smooth out their raunchy southern rock on "Because of the Times" with (gasp!) 7 minute songs and bass lines reminiscent of U2.
The band is starting to write songs about things other than fucking groupies, not fucking groupies or thinking about fucking groupies.
You can hear two tracks off the new disc here:

The sound is becoming a little more conventional with each release. Caleb Followill's previously inaudible squawk/scream sing might actually be based on the English language after all.

Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty
Critics love to comment how the Cold War Kids have some blues in their sound, likely because so much indie rock is so fucking white. But, there's probably more blues in concept than in execution. You can tell these guys like the blues, but this is not a White Stripes or Black Keys garage-blooze band. Honestly, they sound like another bunch of guys who likes Spoon as much as the rest of us, and that's ok. "Loyalty to Loyalty" is the follow up to the debut that featured "Hang Me Out to Dry," one of the better songs of '06.

You can hear "Something is Not Right With Me," the first single off the new album at the band's myspace:

or download the mp3 here:

Old Crow Medicine Show - Tennessee Pusher
Another release by the buckets-of-gloom/fun blue-grass outfit.

October 6
Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
The seventh album from the Brit-pop group.

October 14
Q-Tip - The Renaissance
Former Tribe Called Quest emcee's latest release.

October 28
Deerhunter - Microcastle
Deerhunter is wild. Fans of Animal Collective and Panda Bear need only apply. Cole Alexander of the Black Lips has a guest turn on a track named "Saved by Old Times."

Many of the new tracks are available here:

The songs feel less ambient, more straightforward than 2007's "Cryptograms."

Other fall releases:

Mogwai, Metallica, Gym Class Heroes, Of Montreal, Keane, AC/DC, Ben Folds, Travis, Rise Against, TI, Nelly, T-Pain, The Game, Missy Elliot, Sixpence None the Richer (haha), The Verve, Young Jeezy, Calexico, The Cure, Blessid Union of Souls (haha), Pink, Plain White Ts

White House response to the Georgia/Russia conflict

Note: this is the first political/opinion thing I have ever written, so it might be a little rough around the edges.

Bush and Cheney never cease to amaze me. In responding to Russia’s preemptive strikes on its tiny neighbor Georgia, Bush said Sunday that he "was firm with Vladimir Putin" and that "this violence is unacceptable."

Vice President Dick Cheney said aggression against Georgia "must not go unanswered."

Bush’s noble crusade of quotes against unnecessary war continued in interviews with Bob Costas.

"My administration has been engaged with both sides of this trying to get a ceasefire," Bush told Costas in an interview in Beijing, China, where the president has attended Olympic events.

Now with only months left in his term, Bush is suddenly a great diplomat, a man who puts petty squabbles aside and tries to see things from all perspectives, avoiding war at all costs.

That Bush even believes he has the credibility to criticize any other country’s foreign policy is laughable. The Bush White House lost its credibility and right to tell other countries how to behave when it invaded Iraq under the skinniest of pretenses (most of which have either proven to be wrong or flat out lies). That is the most harmful thing of all about our involvement in Iraq. Our immense military and persuasive power could be put to use to stop conflicts like the one in Georgia, but how are we to expect anyone to take our words seriously when we gave up on the power of diplomacy so quickly.

I don’t support Russia’s aggression. I didn’t support our invasion of Iraq and I’m not trying to directly compare our motives with Russia’s. The problem is when we preemptively invaded Iraq it set a new example for the world to follow – no sovereign nation is safe from preemptive war if the aggressor is powerful enough and shoots out enough propaganda asserting legitimate reasons for invasion.

Here is’s outline of the conflict:

------Violence has continued to rage between Russia and the western ally since Thursday, when Georgia launched an operation to crack down on separatists in South Ossetia (a region within Georgia) territory. Russia said it wanted to protect its peacekeepers already in South Ossetia following ceasefires in years past. But Georgia called it a full-on invasion.

And while Russia has accused Georgia of a genocidal plot to cleanse the region of ethnic Ossetians loyal to Russia, Georgia accuses Russia of executing a long-planned war with the aim of taking control of the region -- including a key pipeline that carries Asian oil to Black Sea ports.--------

If nothing in the above paragraphs rings any bells, I’m done anyway.

picture courtesy of

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A little jam

My sister came up with the piano part, and I improvised a solo/beginning of a melody on top. We were interrupted by our dad, but we will record a complete version eventually. I was starting to build to a faster section, I need to go back and memorize what i played. The sound is a little wanky/over-dramatic for my tastes, but it's still pretty damn smooth.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

itunes on shuffle

One of my favorite AV Club features is "Random Rules," where they take a musicians or entertainers' ipods and hit the shuffle button. It's then up to the (occasionally horrified/sometimes relieved) subject to discuss the track. So here is my random shuffle on itunes. I didn't cheat, I promise. Currently I have 8656 songs on my itunes, so this is a total crapshoot. I have a bunch of beloved albums sitting over in Ruckus that can't be included in the shuffle for obvious reasons.

Keller Williams - Lightening
I haven't really listened to Keller Williams since high school. He tours around on the jam band circuit. I do still enjoy his goofy blugrass/folk. It makes me want to go camping. "Lightening" has a banjo and upright bass get-and-up-and-go shuffle, with Keller's typically easy going vocals.

The Presidents Of The United States Of America - Puffy Little Shoes
Haha, dammit. I haven't really listened to the Presidents since grade school, but they will always hold a special place in my heart. This is off their second album. I only really listened to their first one, but I'm a completist, and if I have one of their albums, I have to have them all. I wish "Dune Buggy," "Feather Pluckin" or any of the other tracks from their first disc that sound tracked my days on the playground would have popped up.

Thelonious Monk - In Walked Bud
I won't pretend to know more than I do. This has some dude singing on it. I usually like Monk's solo piano stuff the best. The singing is a little grating until he starts scatting, but as usual, Monk's piano puts you in a different place than before.

Eric Clapton - Milkcow Calf's Blues
This is from his disc of all Robert Johnson covers. Their really isn't anything left to say about Eric Clapton or Johnson. I really liked this CD in high school, before I liked my blues a little grimy and scuzzier, but I will say "Me and Mr. Johnson" is a bazillion times better than "Ridin' With the King" and "Back Home," two of Clapton's other recent pieces of work. "Back Home" is one of the laziest, most over-produced piles of pseudo-blues ever burned to CD.

Eels - Good Old Days
This is from "Shootenanny," one of the most underrated Eels albums. Its a shot of condensed Eels to the arm, recorded after a few zigs and zags into sunny-on-the-surface pop and growling alterna rock. It's pretty safe, but "Good Old Days" is a perfectly fine track.

MC5 - Kick out the Jams
Kick out the jams, motherfuckers. MC5 is one of those punk-on-accident, before-their-time bands. They were introduced to me by Rage Against the Machine, I think. Everyone does, or should know this song, so this will stop here.

Sublime - Rivers of Babylon
This is turning into Ed's high school mix. Moving on. Wait, I do remember learning how to play this on guitar and being really "stoked."

Green Day - Minority
See above.

Gourds - Gin and Juice
This is that Snoop Dog cover that seemingly everyone on the Internet has mislabeled as Phish.

Blind Melon - Holy Man
I dunno.

Nirvana - Pennyroil Tea
This has always been my least favorite Nirvana song. My least favorite on "Unplugged," my least favorite on "In Utero," this is the demo version from their rarities box set "With the Lights Out."

Tom Waits - Metropolitan Glide
This is Tom Waits in growl mode, over some dissonant screams and plucked guitars, and his "boom-boom-bat" beat yelled into the mic. From the album "Real Gone."

Otis Redding - I Can't Turn You Loose
I think I must have the Stax sound stamped into my DNA from watching the Blues Brothers so many times as a little kid.
Some of Jake and Elwood's backing band were originally in Booker T and the MGs, the Stax house band, famous for their one instrumental hit "Green Onions." More importantly, they are the band you hear in all the old Redding and Sam and Dave tracks, among others. A couple years ago I just felt a need to listen to old Memphis soul from out of nowhere. The impulse has probably been gaining momentum ever since the first time I watched the Blues Brothers on WGN at my grand parents' house.
Otis Redding has the best voice of all time, great for soul, but he also could have been a show stopping rock and roll singer, he could shout it like James Brown, croon and seduce or just knock you down. Go listen to his version of "Change Gonna Come" and I dare you not to think of fireworks, baseball diamonds, summer, life's fucked up turns, life's good moments, sad moments, the world getting better/worse, everything...

Smashing Pumpkins - Love
Apparently I own a lot of '90s music. This is from "Melancholy and the..." great night time driving music. There's really not a bad song on the album.

Kongar-ol Ondar & Paul "Earthquake" Pena - Ondarnyng Ayany (Ondar's Medley)
This is a bizarre CD my Uncle recommended. Its a western blues guitarist playing with this Chinese guy that sings in some mountainous, droning style that is traditional for the region. Ondar creates all these different tones that almost sound like a bag pipe.

Nick Drake - River man
His voice is fucking devastating, so sad yet reassuring, so thoughtful but wandering. This is off "Way to Blue."

Radiohead - House of Cards
This is my favorite track off "In Rainbows." Cleanish guitar, swirling, echoing backing vocals and clear lyrics from Thom.

Pearl Jam - All Those Yesterdays
From back in the day, but this song still gets regular spins. Also another simple song on the guitar that was fun to learn. I always put "All Those Yesterdays" on my Pearl Jam mixes. It's a nice down tempo break, with some surprising low-key horns thrown into the chorus.

Pink Floyd - Learning to Fly
I fucking hate this song.

Belle and Sebastian - Roy Walker
I don't really know this song, so I'll blog some initial thoughts as it plays. Apparently it's up-beat, harmonies sound like Uncle John's Band or any other Grateful Dead song well-known enough to put on a greatest hits disc. But then it goes all bat shit crazy with whistles and circus noises, harmonica and a electric guitar. Ima go back and listen to this one again soon.

Wyclef John - Wish You Were Here
I used to put this song on a lot of mixes. It samples the Pink Floyd tune of the same name. At first Wyclef sings it like a straight cover over a hip-hop beat, but then he rhymes and all that rip-roaring hip hop music takes over and trunks rattle, etc.

Blink 182 - Waggy

Lupe Fiasco - Real Recognize Real
This is off his debut, which is great. The odds were good a Lupe songs would appear on this list. Last year a friend of mine was generous enough to give me a thumb drive full of every Lupe mix tape alive. Lupe might be the only mainstream emcee I care about anymore, 'cept Kanye.

Eels - The Other Shoe
Eels have released a lot of fucking music.

Pearl Jam - Help Help
I get it , I get it, itunes shuffle sucks. 35 gigs of music and I keep getting the same fucking bands.

Cat Power - Lived in Bars
This is from "The Greatest." I always liked the beginning of this album, her smoky voice, easy going, southern instrumentation, etc. But I'd usually get bored by about track six. This is only track three, so I know it pretty well - starts slow, lingers around a while, then with a minute left it picks up the pace unexpectedly. Nice.

Grateful Dead - Dark Star
Well, the most popular Dead cover band is named after this track, moving on.

The Black Keys - Strange Times
This is the first single their newest album. "Strange Times" has the production sound of their older self-produced stuff, Danger Mouse's touch isn't anywhere to be found here. This is better than 80 % of the other rock and roll out there today, but not up to par with past Keys' releases. I liked the Keys grimy and fuzzy and deep fried and all that. Oh well.

Pearl Jam - Soon Forget
WTF? Honestly. itunes' shuffle is fucking horrible. Maybe they are trying to tell me to quit.

OK, I'm quitting. This was actually a little bit of a let down. I did my part, itunes shuffle kind of fucked up their end of the bargain. It didn't play anything I've bought within the last year or two, and didn't discover anything truly embarrassing. Oh well.