sand is overrated

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

female singer/songwriters month : thao

there seems to be a good amount of positive buzz surrounding thao nguyen these days, and it's great to see another asian representin. her third release finds her without the surname, but with the get down stay down behind her and a heaping spoonful of reasons why she deserves all the attention. we brave bee stings and all is simply irresistible, from the faux precociousness of the title to the preponderance of mouthwatering hooks provided by the get down stay down. there is an incredibly charming playfulness to thao's voice that deceives the gravity of her lyrics, making for an altogether fascinating combination of joy and sorrow, innocence and carnal knowledge. remember this one at the end of the year, because it will surely make an appearance on a lot of best-of lists.

thao : "beat (health, life, and fire)"
from the lp we brave bee stings and all (kill rockstars, 2008)
official site

Saturday, February 23, 2008

female singer/songwriters month : priscilla ahn

priscilla ahn is someone i fell in love with last year, having seen her open for alexi murdoch last february. a year later, her debut album on blue note records is apparently finished, mastered, complete, and ready for a release sometime this spring. having nearly worn out her self-titled ep over the course of the past 12 months, this release and its new songs will be a welcome sound to these ears.

careful readers may have noticed that there was a reason why i chose to consecutively feature meiko, ingrid michaelson, and priscilla ahn--all three are veterans of the hotel cafe and are taking part in the hotel cafe tour that is currently criss-crossing the country before concluding in los angeles at the music box at henry fonda on april 12th. if they're coming to a venue near you, that's definitely a show to go see. check tickets dates and tickets here.

priscilla ahn : "dream"
from the ep priscilla ahn (filter private label, 2006)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

female singer/songwriters month : ingrid michaelson

back to beautiful, talented female songwriters...ingrid michaelson is someone i was admittedly too snobbish to initially check out, given that the only exposure i had to her was the use of her song "the way i am" in a commercial for old navy. recently, her latest cd, girls and boys, showed up on emusic and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give the girl a spin and a chance. my instant reaction: wow, what a fool i had been to initially dismiss her. the album starts off with "die alone", a song that would have undoubtedly made my 2007 year-end list if i had actually heard it last year. the bruising guitar riff that drives the song belies the sentiment within, somehow managing expressions of vulnerability delivered in a nearly combative way. her voice recalls regina spektor both in tenor and style, and the album unfolds over the course of a combination of piano- and guitar-driven tracks. for what it's worth, i actually think "the way i am" is one of the weaker songs on the album, so if that's your only exposure to ingrid michaelson and you love that track, chances are pretty good you'll the love the rest of it.

ingrid michaelson : "die alone"
from the lp girls and boys (cabin 24, 2007) emusic

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

jake shimabukuro, one of the best ever

last night, jake shimabukuro played on late night with conan o'brien, and afterwards conan said twice that jake's performance of "while my guitar gently weeps" was one of his favorites over all of the years that he's been doing the show.

jake shimabukuro
: "grandma's groove"
from the lp gently weeps (hitchhike records, 2006)

that's a pretty freakin' sweet compliment for a japanese-american ukulele virtuoso from hawai'i, especially considering the musical chops that conan displayed while the writer's guild was on strike...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

if i could hold them in my hand, i'd make them understand

as a child of the late 80's and early 90's, there were two television shows that i truly believe played a significant part in making me the person i am today--the wonder years and my so-called life. each defined growing up for me, first the wonder years in my adolescent years and then my so-called life in my teenage years. each were finely detailed depictions of adolescence and maturation, capturing the exquisite details of how wonderful--and how excruciating--the process could be.

each show also defined how powerful music could be in the context of life, and each introduced me to music that i may have never heard anywhere else. i went through a stretch of childhood where i listened exclusively to classic rock, probably mostly due to the music i heard in the wonder years; and my so-called life came around just as i was beginning to immerse myself in alternative rock. so many scenes from these shows were made unforgettable by the music that soundtracked them, and i attribute much of my desire to soundtrack my own life to the weekly realizations i would have while watching these shows of how the right song could identify and clarify experiences and emotions.

my so-called life lasted only one short season before a lack of viewership spelled its demise. but thankfully, full episodes now air on, with a new episode every friday and remaining online for two weeks. airing now is "self-esteem", an episode with one of the most memorable tv moments of my youth--jordan catalano grabbing angela chase's hand, set to the tune of buffalo tom's "late at night". the episode and especially the closing scene perfectly captures the complexities of teenage relationships and the eternal conflict between love (or maybe it's just sex) and wanting to look cool. it sounds so cheesy put like that, but it was undeniably a watershed moment for a young, still-impressionable 16 year-old like me, and if you saw it you probably know what scene i am talking about.

buffalo tom
: "late at night"
from the lp [big red letter day] (beggars uk, 1993)
watch "self-esteem" from my so-called life through february 29th at
buy my so-called life on dvd

Thursday, February 14, 2008

female singer/songwriters month : meiko

next up is meiko, a local (los angeles) singer/songwriter by way of rural georgia. as a japanese guy myself, i took particular interest in meiko just from her name, and was interested to learn that she is one-quarter japanese. (although i was also a little disappointed that she pronounces it "mee-ko" instead of "may-ko". but she did adopt the name to get in touch with her heritage, so good on her!). meiko made her name at the hotel cafe in los angeles and was soon noticed by the likes of paste magazine's josh jackson and kcrw's nic harcourt. with a voice and folksy style that sometimes recalls acoustic beth orton, and with a penchant for lovely melodies and affecting lyrics, it is easy to hear why these two highly influential people are touting meiko as an artist to watch.

seeing as how it's valentine's day, "how lucky we are" seemed the perfect song to post today, with its sweet sentiment and romantic notions. i'm also excited because meiko is playing a show at the gypsy den tomorrow, and hoping some of those romantic notions are contagious...

meiko : "how lucky we are"
from the lp meiko (self-released, 2007)
one day we'll get outta this shitty apartment
one day is all it takes for things to turn around now
all i know is i got you and you got me, babe

and when that morning comes
i'll make coffee and you'll read the paper
we'll talk about our plans
and i'll keep saying how lucky we are

one day we'll get in the car and drive anywhere we wanna go
and then we'll stay in a five-star, mini bar, luxury hotel room
cause all i know is i got you and you got me, babe

and when that morning comes
i'll make coffee and you'll read the paper
we'll talk about our plans
and i'll keep saying how lucky we are

how lucky we are

one day we'll turn on the tv and we won't see nothing 'bout war
and when that morning comes
i'll make coffee and you'll read the paper
we'll talk about our plans
and i'll keep saying how lucky we are

how lucky, how lucky we are

Monday, February 11, 2008

female singer/songwriters month : cat power

either there's an unusual number of beautiful, talented female singer/songwriters at the moment or i'm just only now starting to pay attention. over the next several posts i'll be spotlighting some of the ones who have particularly caught my ear.

first up is an obvious choice--chan marshall, better known as cat power. her new record of mostly covers means the spotlight is mostly on the singer part of singer/songwriter, but make no bones about it--the singer part is plenty. chan marshall has a voice that, to put it simply, makes me happy. there is a warmth and a fullness to it that makes me think of a commercial for coffee, though with none of the associated cheesy dialogue and bitter aftertaste. and that is not to discount the songwriter in chan marshall either--although most of these songs are covers, she signs her name to every song on the record and makes this personal mixtape sound like a cat power original. so take off your shoes, turn the lights down low, and enjoy every ounce of the bold, rich flavor that is chan marshall.

cat power : "metal heart"
from the lp jukebox (matador, 2008)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

sun melting the fake smile away, i think you know--i'll be okay

after the little aside that was super tuesday, back to a man called e and his band called eels.

after losing his sister and mother in rapid succession, electro-shock blues served as therapy for e, as evidenced by the revelatory closing line of the album: "maybe it's time to live". after so much despair and hurt, the album ends on a positive note, and it was apparent that e was going to be okay, at least for the short term. but how could you really ever know how someone is going to come out the other side after shoveling such massive amounts of shit? the answer, of course, is you don't. and so for me there was a curiosity surrounding the follow-up to electro-shock blues--is he really okay?

the answer came quickly, as i'm sure e intended it to be, in the last stanza of the very first song, "grace kelly blues":
but me, i'm feeling pretty good as of now
i'm not so sure when i got here, or how
sun melting the fake smile away
i think, you know, i'll be okay
does it get any more powerful than that?

eels : "grace kelly blues"
from the lp daisies of the galaxy (dreamworks, 2000)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

m. ward wants me to vote for barack obama so vote for barack obama i will!

the polls are now closed on super tuesday, and what a super tuesday it's been. with a democrat race that seems way too close to call and with so many more prizes yet to come, the political climate is more exciting and promising than it's ever been in my (short) life. it seems to me that the democratic party will be well-off with whoever emerges with the nomination, but it will be intensely interesting to see how the next few months play out. if you're still on the fence about barack obama, go see charles at heartache for hard work for an as-always thoughtful, well-informed discussion on the merits that lie beneath the charisma.

by the way, i'm only partially kidding on that post title. despite my self-proclaimed man-crush on mr. ward, i didn't really need his endorsement to convince me to vote for obama. but then again, knowing that my favorite artist supports him as well makes me feel confident that i'm on the right track.

m. ward
: "radio campaign"
from the lp transistor radio (merge, 2005)

Monday, February 04, 2008

you think i got it all going my way, then why am i such a fucking mess?

in 1998, e and his band eels released electro-shock blues, one of the saddest and most devastating albums likely ever recorded. an album weighted down by unrelenting tragedy, it was a brutally honest reflection of a series of catastrophes--his father's death from a heart attack, his sister's suicide, and his mother's death from cancer--that suddenly left e as the last surviving member of his family. while the common man would turn to therapy, e turned to music, and a catharsis was recorded. the emotional tide begins at its lowest point ("my life is shit and piss" he sings from his sister's perspective in "elizabeth on the bathroom floor") and wallows in self-pity for the better part of eight songs ("yesterday was suckin' and tomorrow's lookin' bad, who knew today was the only thing i had?" in "hospital food"). but slowly the tide begins to rise, steadily and with purpose, before delivering two final knockout blows to sadness and depression ("see this watch she gave me? well it still ticks away" in "the medication is wearing off", and "i was thinkin' bout how everyone is dying, and maybe it's time to live" in "p.s. you rock my world"). it's a stunning conclusion to this intensely personal, unforgettably emotional story, that could likely only be penned by a man who has experienced it first-hand. and it's a big reason why electro-shock blues, despite its misery and heartache, is one of my all-time favorite albums.

eels : "3 speed"
from the lp electro-shock blues (dreamworks, 1998)

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

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