Thursday, December 27, 2007

I just wasn't made for these times

My, my, this is an eclectic group of party animals, is it not?

When I first saw a (different, much more stiffly posed) photo on the cover of the TV supplement in this past Sunday's Buffalo News, I thought "who is that stone-faced man standing alongside Francis Ford Coppola, Diana Ross, Martin Scorsese, and Steve Martin?" Then I realized the bearded, bespectacled man was not FFC (he is really pianist-conductor Leon Fleisher, duh) and the stone-faced guy was none other than Brian Wilson. This motley crew was to be honored during the 30th annual "Kennedy Center Honors," so naturally I made a point of watching the broadcast tonight.

For the record, I think Scorsese's brilliant in small-to-medium doses, never really found Martin all that funny, never heard of Fleisher until now, and am one of the few homosexual men of my generation who finds La Ross tremendously overrated. She has her moments, from "Someday We'll Be Together" to her recent career in crime, but she's never really done that much for me as a pop diva, a camp icon, or anything else. I mainly tuned in for Brian. (Here's his official site's page on the event, with plenty of links.)

I'm really, really tempted to trot out that overused William Carlos Williams chestnut about the pure products of America going crazy, because this was one surreal assemblage of talent: the five honorees sitting next to each other and Lord and Lady Bush, Diana blowing kisses every few minutes, Scorsese looking slightly embarrassed, and Brian mostly off in that safe place he goes to when things get scary (which is to say 95% of every day since January 1, 1964). The announcer for the show was Carl Kasell, direct from NPR and my favorite game show. Apparently public radio does not pay its most highly regarded voice that well, because here he was picking up a little extra cash shilling for CBS, reduced throughout the evening to saying things like "The Kennedy Center Honors ... sponsored by: the Bristol-Meyers-Squibb-Sanofi Pharmaceuticals partnership."

Art Garfunkel did the intro to the Wilson segment, and people laughed when the first words out of his mouth were "I love rock and roll," thinking he was being sarcastic--when, as we know, Garfunkel does not do sarcasm. This was followed by a film bio which managed to compress most of the key plot points into 3-4 minutes, paying as little attention to the other Beach Boys as possible. I couldn't help wondering how Brian felt hearing this tidy, relatively perky trip through the most painful events of his life: abusive father, clueless record label, career-crushing depression, yadda yadda yadda. Hey, guys--you left out the brother who died of cancer, the one who drowned, the decades of lawsuits with the cousin, and the cult-leader psychiatrist. What gives?!

But no matter, for it was on to the musical performances, each more surreal than the last:
1. Lyle Lovett performing a truly touching slowed-down version of "In My Room" (the surreal note here was that I had just seen him parody exactly this sort of gala tribute near the end of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story to hilarious effect).
2. Hootie and the Blowfish, all dressed in matching blue Pendleton shirts, doing a cover-band medley of "I Get Around" and "California Girls" that inspired Brian to bounce around a bit in his seat, a move that Diana picked up on and began to exaggerate in her groove-y diva way, which in turn made Brian nervous again. Several elegantly dressed women in the audience leapt to their feet to dance, until, in that time-honored ritual repeated at every dive bar and suburban wedding across this great land since the early 1960s, their male companions grudgingly joined them. Soon the President and First Lady joined in, and for one brief and shining moment, a room full of wealthy, mostly white people was united in arhythmic hopping and bopping, clapping merrily against the beat. Even Leon Fleisher, whom we had just learned 20 minutes earlier has lost the use of his right hand--a tragedy that ended his career as a pianist and nearly destroyed him--was clapping away, visibly wishing he was somewhere else. A Christmas miracle!

This would all have been quite enough, but no:
3. "Ladies and gentlemen, Libera," says Carl Kasell, and out walk 9 boys in white choir robes (very Polyphonic Spree--and boy, wouldn't they have been a cool choice?). The littlest, cutest boy says in his best Oliver Twist voice, "Mr. Wilson, we were born a long, long way from your 'California beaches,' but the sunlight of your music can be felt every day on our streets in South London." Brian looks taken aback by this news flash, then smiles, and the boys sing a churchy choral version of his late-period solo non-hit "Love and Mercy," a wonderful song whose anti-war message surely sails directly over the head of our Commander in Chief (whose fave BB hit is BOUND to be "Kokomo," you just know it). The 9 moppets are joined by approximately 75 more boys; this new batch has clearly hit puberty so they have to stand farther back. All these underage kids chanting somberly about "standing in a bar" is a jarring image, but also lovely in its way. Brian closes his eyes; he and his wife Melinda look like they're going to cry, Diana dabs her eye, and it is quite powerful--until the kids reach the climax of the song, and--can it be? no, it can't! yes, it can!--dozens and dozens of beach balls fall from the ceiling onto the heads of the audience, who begin batting them around as if they are on spring break. Yee-ha!

Kasell takes us to another commercial break, then out comes host Caroline Kennedy, fresh from her recent notoriety as the inspiration of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," to wish us all a good night. (This is a total digression, but does it strike no one else as slightly creepy and restraining-order-y that she was 13 years old when he wrote that song?)

Writers' strike or no writers' strike, TV does not get much better than this, folks.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I wish I could provide as detailed a review of Carlos Diegos's 1984 film Quilombo as this one or this one, but the simple truth is, I kinda napped through long stretches of it as I watched it tonight. I was more awake during the willfully eccentric making-of featurette (which looks like something Godard might make if he was hired to shoot promos for HBO) that I watched first; it not only encapsulates the plot (17th century slaves escape their Portuguese owners and create utopian societies in the wilds of Brazil, eventually leading to armed guerrilla warfare) but spells out the mythology behind various scenes that might otherwise be baffling to those of us not versed in Candomblé. You also get to see Gilberto Gil at work on the soundtrack, which is cool.

That soundtrack appears to be the most controversial aspect of the film in the eyes of many folks who've written about it on IMDB. One such reviewer describes Gil's music as "cheesy pop rhythms best left to the disco or bad cops [sic] dramas." A defender, on the other hand, draws a parallel to the intentionally anachronistic classic rock anthems in A Knight's Tale. Me, I liked it; I'm pretty sure I've got the title song on some compilation or other, and all the music is both catchy and evocative of a certain tone. I also appreciated the chance to learn more about Zumbi, leader of the rebellion, who gets name-checked by all sorts of Brazilian musicians. (I could be way off base with this analogy, but I feel like an outsider to US culture who keeps hearing about this guy "Malcolm X" in all these rap and soul songs, then rents Spike Lee's movie of the same name to find out what the hell they're all talking about.)

Great costumes, nice touches of what my friend Ed Cardoni calls "blatant artifice," intriguingly low-key (and thus quite effective) battle scenes. I drifted a lot, and apparently slept through all the key moments in which various orishas manifest themselves that looked so cool in the featurette, but I didn't feel the urge to rewind and watch them.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Welcome to the rat race

Those of you who have been following this blog since its inception--all three of you--may be wondering what happened to the Brazilian music content, which was one of its original themes.

The short answer is, as predicted in my very first entry here way back in June 2004, the initial obsession waned. I still love the music and culture of Brazil and I still intend to write about it here when it strikes my fancy, but I'm not seeking out new albums and artists quite as compulsively, not doing as much research into it as I once did, not throwing myself into the endeavor with as much passion at the moment.

And yet: when I learn about something like this--

--a conceptual art project by Finnish-born, German-based Kristofer Paetau, in which five transsexual models in Rio wear "fake Chanel fashion accessories made out of taxidermised rats: a rat-bra, a rat-slip, a rat-handbag, a rat-handkerchief, and a pair of high heel rat-shoes"--well, attention must be paid. (I have Warren Ellis's always-provocative blog to thank for learning about the piece.)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bringing it all back home

In my ongoing effort to revitalize this long-neglected blog, I've been slowly but surely restoring the ginormous links list I had built up before Blogger 2.0 came along and wiped the whole slate clean. At the rate I'm going, it's going to take me months to finish. But in the meantime, while updating the list, I've come across some interesting stuff, like:

1. Loronix, a mindboggling blog (mindbloggling?) archiving over 1500--that's FIFTEEN HUNDRED--hard-to-find-in-Brazil/impossible-to-find-in-the-States albums, ranging from obscure stuff you might seriously want to hear (Ivan Lins, Elizeth Cardoso, Gal Costa, and what appears to be some of Joao Gilberto's long-out-of-print early recordings) to obscure stuff like this--

--an album the Loronix-master describes as "instrumental rock renditions of Brazilian and international well-known Christmas songs. Very dancing and tiny session with only 26 minutes running time. Do not wait for Christmas time, you will have a lot of fun with Feliz Natal, they make me laugh out loud with the arrangements created for these tunes." Needless to say, I downloaded it immediately.

2. Loronix also led me to Bossa Brasileira, a blog devoted to detailed mini-essays (in Portuguese) about vast multitudes of Brazilian musicians, many from the pre- and early-bossa nova eras. While I can't read the text, I can still groove on the gorgeous album art and vintage photos, and the wealth of ultra-obscure video footage, including this chestnut, in which Perry Goddam Como sings an English translation/easy listening version of “Manhã de Carnaval” from "The Black Orpheus" [sic] with its composer, Luiz Bonfa, on guitar.

Extra-musical highlights:
Como's best line, "Louie, I don't speak Brazilian, but ..." (followed by an incredibly condescending attempt at ESL)
and Bonfa's scripted comeback, "Your English is worse than mine."

3. Speaking of awesome album art, I've started a new section of links devoted to cool sites like LP Cover Lover, where you can find oodles of images like this:

to cite an example which manages to combine my obsession with Brazilian music, my admiration of graphic design, and my fondness for wetsuits as fetish apparel. It's win-win-win! Note: the albums on the site are by no means all from Brazil, which explains why it is also able to offer us another seasonally appropriate LP:

If Christmas looked anything like this at my home, I think I'd move, pronto.

4. Still speaking of albums and art but not necessarily album art, the website of The Wire tipped me off to the cleverly named Graphic Design on the Radio (not to be confused with a certain buzz band I enjoy in small doses). Here you will find audio interviews with Neville Brody and several other designers whose names are not as familiar to me, in which they face the challenge of discussing entirely visual work via streaming audio, punctuated by bits of their favorite rekkerds. I haven't actually listened to any of these yet,but if I waited to do that I would never ever post anything here, ever ever.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ring my bell

I know, I know, normally I write here about music I'm obsessed with, and this subject absolutely does not qualify, but I'm gonna post it anyway. Given my recent track record as a blogger, you should be grateful that I'm writing anything.

Very interesting NPR story tonight on the popularity of rapper T-Pain as an, ahem, "ringtone artist." (Whoops, I've just opened the door to everyone googling "T-Pain+ringtones." Welcome, one and all--you will not find what you are looking for here, I assure you, but feel free to stick around and discuss Autechre, the Beach Boys, and bossa nova with us.) There is a related story here.

What I found most interesting about the piece was the analogy to Bing Crosby, who became a hit on early recordings because his crooning sounded good on Victrolas. The theory is that Mr. Pain's voice (as the Times surely calls him) has the same effect on the tiny speakers of cell phones. It's probably the only time Der Bingle and T-P have been mentioned in the same sentence.

As for the specific quality of his voice that's causing all the attention, it's the product of a vocoder, we are told--as if he's the first guy who ever sang through one of those devices. So much for Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton, Madonna, Cher ... Anybody wanna try "Rocky Mountain Way" on a phone?

Me, I'm sticking with my simple little flutelike sound, short and sweet and reminds me of H. R. Pufnstuf. No strippers involved.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Year in Music: 2007 edition

Moving right along.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: I was tempted to give this to In Rainbows, just because, but instead there shall be a tie. One winner is incredibly unhip and the mere mention of his name will cost me valuable credibility points among the cognoscenti, but those will be regained by the revelation of the other winner. Just watch:

Paul Simon, Surprise.

As a soft rock lover from my youth, I was a huge Simon & Garfunkel fan, and followed both their solo careers longer than most right-thinking people did, but they both lost me sometime in the early 1980s. Graceland, which is the one Paul Simon album it's probably cool to like, did nothing for me, and the ones after that left me cold, too. Until this year, when 60something Paul joined forces with 60something Brian Eno. The end result is just kind of great, if you ask me: beautiful production, moving and funny lyrics, catchy melodies. I listened to it over and over again when I first got it early in 2007, and think I will do so again, very soon.

Jens Lekman, Night Falls Over Kortedala.

Much of what I just said about Surprise's strengths applies to this album, too, only its creator is almost 40 years younger. I'm a bit conflicted about giving this Album of the Year status because I've only been listening to it for the last 3 weeks or so, but it's so incredibly good that I'm gonna go with my gut. The guy does sound a great deal like Stephen Merritt, Jonathan Richman, and my main man Don Lennon, but he's also some kind of wild production genius--no album by any of those fine individuals sounds anywhere near this sonically complicated. I'd love to hear all the stuff he samples in its original form, because I don't recognize any of it, and because I suspect that he has transformed it all so thoroughly as to be unrecognizable. It's also hard to tell what comes from somewhere/someone else and what he generated himself, with or without other musicians. His voice (like Simon's, actually) is a bit limited, but he does a great job writing for it. It may take some getting used to. I suspect this is one of those love-it-or-hate-it affairs. Chalk me up as a lover. "Shirin" is easily the most beautiful song ever written about an Iraqi hairdresser operating an illegal salon in her apartment.

The Flight of the Conchords, Songs from the First Season (or whatever it's called)
Matt Pond, PA, Last Light

CONCERT OF THE YEAR: Lucinda Williams at Artpark (Lewiston, NY). At first I was drawing a blank; this was not a stellar year for live shows, at least not those that I managed to catch. But then I remembered what a magical evening this was: great set list, cool new songs, best of the 3 times I've seen her since the mid-80s. Duet with opener Charlie Louvin was icing on the cake.

Runners-up: Before I remembered Lucinda, I was thinking of giving this one to 3 shows I saw in about 2 weeks, 2 by Ani DiFranco and 1 by Andrew Bird, all at Ani's new venue, Babeville, which immediately made my list as Best Concert Venue in Buffalo. But I felt kind of weird about that since I have had a work connection (tenuous in Bird's case) to both artists and it felt like nepotism or something similar. But hell, they were all great shows.

ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Think I'm going with a tie here. The new car in our household has a 6-CD player, and I've been enjoying cooking up retrospectives and supersets and such, and the best one by far thus far consisted of six recordings by, you guessed it, Mr. Paul Simon. It's not just the new album (see above); I also got several CD reissues of his earlier works that came out a few years ago, each with 2-3 bonus tracks (usually demo versions of key songs, sometimes with very different lyrics or arrangements) that really do hold up. The second best superset came from Radiohead, and while I don't think they've singlehandedly sparked a revolution or anything, that was a pretty damn cool stunt they pulled with their latest album, and the album itself is even cooler.

Runners-up: See "Album of the Year" runners-up.

SONG OF THE YEAR: Amy Winehouse, "Rehab". I know, I know, she is currently on the fast track to becoming the new Lindsay Lohan, better known for actual stints in rehab than for her art, but that is still one damn catchy song. Sort of reminds me of Ray Charles releasing songs like "Busted" when he was busted and "Let's Go Get Stoned" when that was something he tended to do quite a bit. I'm not super-crazy about the entire album, but as singles go, that one is a doozy.

Runner-up: Because this blog is called "Can't Get It Out of My Head," attention must be paid to the many times that Feist's "1-2-3-4" got stuck in my brain, thanks in part to that ubiquitous Apple/iTunes commercial and thanks in larger part to the song itself. I'd give the video "Video of the Year" if I had such a category, which I don't, because videos don't exist anymore, as we all know. The whole Feist album is terrific, btw.

That's all, folks. See you in November 2008!

The Year in Music: 2006 edition

You will have noticed by now that I am neither very prolific nor very prompt when it comes to this whole blogging business. Take, for instance, the Ehmke(e) Awards, an annual ritual of mine for the last, god, at least 15 Thanksgivings. (This 2004 entry tells you all you need to know about the basic concept.) I never quite got around to announcing the 2006 winners, and now it's already time to reveal the class of 2007. I made some notes a year ago about who won what, and I even had pictures to accompany some of them, but now I don't know where the notes are and I don't want to take the time to find the photos, a process which would only remind me about a whole bunch of other posts I never posted here during my various extended absences.

So in the interest of moving on to 2007, I'm giving you the 2006 winners off the top of my head. Maybe I'll remember the missing ones later, or find those damn JPEGs, but if I were you I wouldn't hold my breath.

SONG OF THE YEAR: Believe me, this shocks me way more than it's going to shock you, but the award went to ...
Justin Timberlake (and, really, Timbaland) for "SexyBack". As proof that I made the right choice, I can still stand to listen to this thing a year later, now that it is a staple on the wedding-reception circuit. Thanks to the lo-fi vocal mix and the deliberately abrasive effects throughout, I'm pretty sure it's one of the weirdest-sounding songs to be a smash hit in a long time (although a lot of hiphop has been sounding pretty weird for a while now). Neko Case was runner-up for "Margaret vs. Pauline," which was stuck in my head for a long time, along with a lot of other lovely stuff from the Fox Confessor album.

CONCERT OF THE YEAR: This was very easy to pick. Pet Shop Boys at Hummingbird Centre, Toronto. I'd never seen them live, and it was one of the most brilliant shows/performance pieces I've ever seen, starting with the multiple faux PSBoys who began the show, then that incredible stage (an enormous and enormously malleable light cube), those dayglo outfits, the wonderful backup singers/dancers, and the set list. I'd catch them again in a heartbeat--and I have a feeling that, while the songs would be pretty much the same, the staging would be quite different.

Here's a video from a different stop on the same "Sodom and Gomorrah Show" tour, promoting a new concert DVD I just learned about. It looks fairly representative, in a super-condensed form, of what unfolded onstage in Toronto:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Uh oh, I don't remember. Maybe I'll find the notes and add this later.

ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Drawing another blank.

This is what I get for waiting 365 days to post. But fear not: the gap between 2006 and 2007 will be much shorter. Behold!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Merry go, merry go, merry-go-round

Just watched Derailroaded, a 2005 documentary about Larry "Wild Man" Fischer. I'd never heard of the movie until the Sundance Channel aired it a few months ago, though I was vaguely familiar with Fischer, mainly from his association with Frank Zappa (a musician I have never really seen the appeal of, no matter how much I feel I should) back in the late 1960s. As the film reveals, they had a pretty major falling out the night Larry threw a bottle that landed very near the head of young Moon Unit Zappa, which almost ended the life of the future "Valley Girl" singer.

All the movers and shakers of the "outsider music" scene make appearances, with the curatorial/sane perspective provided by Irwin Chusid, Dr. Demento, Barnes & Barnes (I had completely forgotten that my childhood surrogate Billy Mumy was half of the "Fish Heads" duo), Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, and Weird Al Yankovic, while there are also brief glimpses of Daniel Johnston and Wesley Willis. (No word from the Legendary Stardust Cowboy.)

There's no way to resist comparing the film and its subject to The Devil and Daniel Johnston, which I wrote about here. Both depict men suffering with mental illness and obsessed with pop music who are embraced--some would say exploited--by "real" hipster musicians who help them release albums and send them on a bumpy road to cult stardom before their charm wears off and they become extremely difficult to deal with. Both men veer from moments of club-circuit notoriety to periods of near-total breakdown. You're never quite sure whether to laugh at or cry over what you see onscreen (well, sometimes it's easy to know), and you're forced to think about the huge gulf between observing these eccentric people from afar and actually having them in your life, calling you several times through the night every day for seven weeks until you have to change your phone number. There's even a Brian Wilson-inspired moment in each film; in Derailroaded, it's Fischer's awkward, moving cover of "In My Room," a song whose dark subtext he clearly understands. By coincidence--or one of Larry's wild conspiracies--both films came out in 2005, so it's hard to say one is ripping off the other. They're more like variations on the same theme.

I feel uncomfortable ranking them, but I must say that Devil strikes me as the stronger film, just as there seems to be more depth to Johnston's music and visual art than Fischer's. (On the other hand, the latter's "Merry-go-round" song is pretty damn catchy.) Both are worth your time, if you're interested in issues of creativity and mental illness, or in the music industry's ability to make a spectacle out of pretty much anything, no matter how tempting it might be to look away.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Rainbow Connection

Try to forget, whydoncha, that it has been a mere 10 months since my last post here. Believe it or not, I've been trying all spring and summer to find some appropriate occasion to relaunch this blog, reasoning that once I start this thing up again, it will be that much easier to return to it, and while there have been plenty of possibilities--concerts, album purchases, holidays, going-out-of-business sales, and so on--none of them have managed to stick. So I'm choosing The Day After the Release of the Latest Radiohead Album. Sure, a lesser blogger might adopt something as pedestrian as the actual release date, and plenty of 'em did, but you expect more from me by now, and I accept the challenge. Now that everyone else has moved on to something else, I am here to weigh in on this whole crazy phenomenon:

1. First and foremost, I really like the album, based on two and three-quarters listens. I like it a lot.
2. I would be excited about a new Radiohead album even if it were just coming out as a plain old CD in the plain old way. When Hail to the Thief came out, I was right there at my favorite store at midnight, a 45-year-old in a sea of 20somethings.
3. Even so, this whole pay-what-you-want approach is just pretty damn brilliant. I love the questions it raises about art and commerce, for starters. A performance group I am part of strives to provoke similar discussions when we charge "your hourly wage" for our shows--but then we are reaching about 30 people a night, not several million. This is one case where the bigger the canvas, the more interesting the artwork.
4. A friend of mine who is not a Radiohead fan but does know a thing or two about the music industry views the pay-what-you-want experiment as purely a marketing gimmick that has nothing to do with art. I beg to differ: it may well be a publicity stunt (and an effective one at that), but it also works as a conceptual art piece, and is wholly of a piece with the band's M.O., not only in terms of business (I am reminded of the time they toured with their own big-top tent as a portable venue rather than deal with traditional arenas), but also the thematic content of their music (lotsa lyrics about the fate of the individual in a soulless corporatized environment; recurring juxtaposition of samples and electronic beats/noises with Thom Yorke's achingly human voice).
5. Another friend and I found it amusing that neither of us knew the titles of any of the songs yet, so we had to say things like, "I like track 4 a lot" and "Yeah, tracks 1 and 2 are so bombastic that track 3 really comes as a change of pace."
6. Lots of folks who don't really follow music have been hearing about this album via tech podcasts, business publications, news stories, and the like. I've been wondering what the hell they're going to make of such weird noise when they seek it out.
7. To all those netnerds who downloaded the album for free, then bitched about the low bitrate: this is how you say thanks when somebody gives you a present?
8. Then there's the snarkier-than-thou attitude that sneers at the whole idea of everybody listening to the album and then posting "insta-reviews" to their blogs, but I kinda like that part. As a guy with zero interest in Harry Potter, I've been missing out on the chance to experience the same pop culture artifact at the exact same time as everybody else. (I've always been intrigued by stories about the day that Sgt. Pepper came out and was played on a whole bunch of radio stations around the world in its entirety.) And I'm digging the notion that everybody--professional critics, self-appointed critics, megafans, casual listeners--was on a level playing field on Day One.
9. Fun bonus feature: Check out this handy track-by-track collection of videos documenting concert performances of the new songs.
10. Did I mention I like the album a lot?

OK, now that I've broken my silence, I'll do my best to get back into the virtual swing of things. Plenty to say, in due time, about what I've been up to when I haven't been up to blogging here, what I'm listening to, and all that jazz. For now, digging that album.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Radio radio

I've been a huge fan of Pandora for close to two years now; actually my obession with it tends to wax and wane, but it's always there when I want it. If you've never checked it out yourself, give it a try--practically guaranteed to change your music-listening life--and if you're already hooked, you might want to investigate this list of 15 ways to get more out of Pandora. (Mac alert: many of these are PC-only, but the comments section of the post contains plenty of Mac-friendly variations.)

I found this item from LifeHacker, a long-established site I just recently discovered. I thik of it as a kind of "Hints from Heloise" for the tech generation. Today, for instance, there's a tip on wrapping headphones so they don't get tangled (although many commenters seem to prefer this method). Here's a quick link to LifeHacker's music-related tips.

Back to Pandora for a sec: as a soft-rock afficonado, one of my favorite stations out of 14 I've created is a salute to quiet pop mostly from the mid60s through the mid70s, but with a few more recent choices (since Pandora is built not around chronology or genre but the actual sound of a song). It's anchored to two bands: the Association and the Free Design. I call it ...

... Free Association.

While the Association and I go way back to my childhood (when my older sister somehow convinced me that "Windy" was about an owl), the Free Design (those current hipster darlings who emerged from Western New York in the late 60s) is much newer to me, and the station is a great way of working through their fairly large discography one song at a time.

In addition to the two namesake groups, this one plays songs by artists I already knew I liked (Badfinger, Wings, Andy Kim, Art Garfunkel and his sometime pal Paul, the Zombies, the Carpenters, Spanky & Our Gang, Todd Rundgren, Jim Croce, the Beach Boys, America, Steely Dan, and even the Velvet Undergound and Brian Eno) plus some I know but kinda cringe about (the New Christy Minstrels, Pure Prairie League, Showaddywaddy, the Anita Kerr Singers). But the real thrill is the growing list of acts I've never heard of till now. Some are solo performers old and new (Bob Dileo, Richard Swift, Pat Shannon, Sandy Salisbury, Jf Robitaille, Samantha Juste, Stan Rogers) and some are recent bands I've heard a teensy bit about (Ollabelle, Maritime). And then there's a steady stream of groups whose very names evoke a long-gone era I can't get enough of(Friends, Jon & Robin, Owl & the Pussycat, the Ivy League, Titus Groan, the Millenium, the Roosters, the Brokedown, Lady & Bird, Scene, Fancey, the Castaways, Gandalf). It's like a trip down somebody else's memory lane, and I dig it, man.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Another year over, and a new one just begun

1. If the blog as a whole looks kinda naked right now (depending on when you're seeing this), that's because I decided tonight was the night to do something I've been putting off for months, namely switching to the new version of Blogger, which apparently entails, among other things, losing certain features you've spent years developing (like my list of a hundred or so music-related links) and spending hours creating new ones (like tags for all posts past and future).

2. Speaking of losing your work, it's kind of a late Christmas miracle that I'm not screaming and hurling objects through the air at this very minute, because I just spent the last, oh, 2 hours composing a lengthy post divulging the winners of the 2006 Ehmke(e) Awards--another task I've put off for the last month--only to have my browser crash before I could save a draft, thus wiping out the whole thing. I guess I'm either in a state of shock or too tired to care at the moment.

Perhaps this was an omen, and the world is truly not meant to know what some guy in Tonawanda, NY thought was the Song of the Year.

Oh well. It'll have to wait for another night now. instead, I'll wish you all a happy new year, and try to forget the staggering waste of time I've just experienced on the last night before a truly overpacked January kicks into high gear. (Oh, sure, I could resolve to turn over a new leaf and post here on a regular basis, but we both know me better than that by now, don't we?)